Next steps for student organizing

I have long since been an advocate for sustainable schools in Chicago. Having family who have worked and are still working as CPS teachers, the compassion for this fight is familiar, for every night I am reminded of the unnecessary pressure CPS and others inflict on teachers, students, and communities. However, it wasn�t until this year I decided to take a more active role in student organizing. While the role has not come without its adversity, the challenge has allowed me to foster my own growth. As I realize being a high school senior and departing to the west coast for college, my short lived role as a high school student organizer will be coming to an end very soon.

Students who have been organizing mass, downtown rallies should localize the fight to their individual schools, demanding that aldermen and state legislators speak for them as well, according to student organizer Matthew Mata.With the announcement of budget reductions to Chicago Public Schools last week, due to be implemented by month�s end, it is time again for student voice and power to rise up- but differently this time. Nearly every month, since this school year started, there have been student walkouts, study-ins, read-ins, rallies, and boycotts. These demonstrations have both been individualized for specific schools as well as being amplified to unite schools from across the city.

I believe the next necessary step for students to make their voices heard and fight for their education is individualizing the fight starting at their school and then expanding it to their neighborhood.

Before you label this piece as hypocritical, for just weeks and months ago I helped organize rallies that brought together students from schools across the city as a unified front, you must understand it was before the doomsday cuts transpired. In no way am I saying I now oppose such mass demonstrations downtown, but students at each school must now realize the next steps to evoke change.

The next steps and goal must be how, we as students, organize collectively to prevent such atrocities from striking our schools again. The rallies held weeks and months ago were targeted to general stakeholders in the Chicago public schools system. Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are willing to continue this fight must now take a step back and analyze who are the stakeholders we often times look past because their roles are not as publicized. Protests must affect the decision makers who either contributed to the exacerbation of the financial crisis of CPS or can stimulate both short-term and long-term alleviation, so that the deterioration of quality traditional schools can no longer exist.

The fear with the current protest in the coming months is that they will not hold the necessary folks accountable and the wrong voices will be hyper amplified. While ensuring student voice is heard is vital in this fight, displaying attributes and actions of knowledge to solve this fight is just as important. It is important to not organize solely on emotions, but instead judgement. These are questions you must ask yourself before creating an event.

With that, the reason why the argument of organizing for the masses and the need for a larger turnout in order to be heard cannot be used, is because it relays this sentiment of unwillingness to garner strong support within your school and fear of failure. Determination and compassion for equitable education should be the leading virtues of what drives student organizing. Not the need to see your face on the news and Twitter or lack of believing in your efforts making a difference. As long as you appropriately disrupt the status quo, your voice is heard.

Our power isn�t just in numbers, but using the education we are fighting for as our advantage. By showing politicians and stakeholders that influence policy that we know solutions beyond �what you are doing is wrong because it affects predominately already disenfranchised students the most.� While yes this is true, student organizers must relate and show correlation with the inextricably linked struggles our society faces today.

In the coming months, especially with the impact of these midyear cuts affecting each school differently, a more amplified student force would involve educating and relating information to students as to how, why, and what can be done to avoid and fix the solution. Then, reach out to various schools in your schools� neighborhood to unite and protest unified with an agreed upon demand. Sometimes students forget the most at risk stakeholders our alderman and state representatives, for they should be speaking and acting upon your request.

While I understand showing the emotional pain students, parents, schools, and communities are facing should be enough to influence CPS, the state, and city hall, the sad reality is it's not enough; for them. Throughout my time being a student journalist it has become evident to me, that no matter what you have to be a part of the political game to win. That is why as students, future organization (talking within the next few weeks and years) must be more strategic. This involves us going beyond the talking points of emotion and the obvious, but instead having all: physical, emotional, and statistical backing for your argument. Optimism is on your side.


February 15, 2016 at 10:51 AM

By: Krystal Harris

Remarks on the article

This was a phenomenal piece of writing ! I support these ideas all the way, and applaud the effort !

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