Wednesday, April 20, 2011

AFSC @ Washington Highschool

Recently the King Center started an after school program at Booker T. Washington high school, which is the school Martin Luther King Jr graduated from.

Several weeks ago the King Center invited us to be a part of their after school program and we graciously excepted. Our assignment was to organize a workshop on Bullying, Peer pressure, and how to respond to both. These issues are of course a part of everyday life for most high schoolers.

We knew that we wanted to avoid the standard," Bullies are cowards" type talk that basically can come across as simply criminalizing the student body. Bullying on the school yard can and should be connected to the larger systems of violence and oppression plague of global society. If history and modern foreign policy teaches us that whoever has the most wealth and weapons is right then why is it shocking when this dynamic plays out on the school yard?

Students at the workshop basically boiled bullying down to this: The humiliation of others to build yourself up. Sadly we've seen this behavior almost everyday at the Georgia capitol during this legislative session. Whether it's low income students seeing their public school defunded so that corporations can keep record tax breaks or undocumented Latino's being forced to watch Georgia transform into an apartheid state so that right wing politicians can appease their base(at the cost of Georgia economy). These are all connections that youth were able to establish.

What is it about our culture that seems to foster competition and conquest, over cooperation and community?

It's appropriate to point out that Martin Luther King was well known for establishing the links between systems of violence and oppression, so it was exciting to be a part of the discussion at the King Centers after school program at MLK's old school.

After much discussion students were asked to split up into three groups and create anti-bullying public service announcements for their peers. Students came up with some pretty good ideas.

We're really glad that we got to play a role in starting some of the conversations today, and we can only hope that some of them will continue as weeks pass. Big thanks to the King Center for allowing us to be a part of their after school program.

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

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