Revolution #60, September 10, 2006


Connecting Bob Avakian’s Talks with High School Students

The following is a correspondence from a reader:

We’ve been communicating with a history/government teacher at an L.A. area high school, and we told him about Bob Avakian’s new talks. He said that the talks sounded very interesting and he wanted to know more about Avakian’s work (he’s been reading the Memoir). He was especially intrigued by “Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.” He thought that his students would benefit from hearing the talks, so he asked us to come in to do some classroom presentations.

We spoke to three of his history/government classes—two 12th grade classes and one 9th grade class. We did a brief intro drawn from the Revolution editorial about the new talks and played a 7-minute clip from the first talk (“Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today…And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution”)—where he talks about how elections in the U.S. is like a complicated “audition” where candidates try to get approval from a panel of “judges.” (The teacher had been covering elections and voting and wanted us to do something with that theme.) Then the students broke into discussion groups of 2-4. We went to the different groups to listen in and talk with students. After that we had a larger classroom discussions.

While the clip was playing some students were trailing off a bit and others were vigorously taking notes. Many of us have listened to these talks multiple times, but we were a little worried that maybe it was a little jolting to jump in there for the first time for some of these students.

Well, some students got some aspects of it and others a little less—but in the groups the students were discussing what parts they had understood and trying to explain it to others and came up with questions or comments off their discussions. They were wrangling with the material.

In one group the students were trying to understand who the panel of judges is, and a whole lot of wrangling and discussion sprung from that. They were saying that it was corporations or special interest groups or that the people who vote. One student said that he didn’t think it was the voters because they don’t get to decide what they are voting on. Another student said that she thought the system is the panel and the candidates are the representatives that the system is going to decide will represent and look out for what benefits the system. Another student asked why a candidate hasn’t thought about being sneaky and pretending that they are for the system to get elected and then change things up and actually do things that benefit the people and the environment, like end homelessness and poverty. So I asked if they thought the right to eat was something that people should have. They all said of course. Then I asked them, what would happen if people tried to implement this? They all said that people would be arrested for shoplifting and put in jail. That got them going, and they started talking about all the important things that are never up for a vote, like the war in Iraq—all the people got to do was vote for who was going to carry it out. For some, this was the first time that they were looking critically at the electoral process.

In another class a group of Filipino students were trying to figure out that part where Bob Avakian quotes Lenin, saying that people will continue to be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit until they see the interests of one class or another behind everything. By this time the teacher was also circulating around the room getting into discussions with the groups. A young Black woman said that there are larger interests going on—that there’s a system that runs things and they’re behind everything because they have to make sure that things go in a way that benefits them. Another student said that maybe the system could change if there were different faces in the government. The young Black woman said that the system and the government are not the same—that the government are the representatives of the system, but that a system is how things are run, like a capitalist system.

One student, a big Megadeth fan, said that he sees so much injustice and that the system is against us but didn’t see the possibility of change. The teacher jumped in and said that each individual must become conscious first and then talk to their friends and people around them about what injustice is and come up with ways to do something about it. He asked the student if he had changed his thinking in the duration of the class—the student said yes. The teacher then said, now imagine you going to your circle of friends and them going out to their circle of friends.

These are just a few of the conversations we had with people. Each class had all kinds of questions about communism, change, democracy, capitalism/imperialism, what’s happening in Lebanon. Towards the end of each class it really got going with the students going back and forth asking each other questions and trying to answer each other’s questions and asking us what we thought.

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