Revolution #196, March 28, 2010
Bringing Revolution Talk Into Some High Schools: Windows to the World and Opening up Pathways To Imagine How the World Can be Different
In the last period, we have had the opportunity to bring the Revolution talk by Bob Avakian into high school classrooms. It was an eye-opening experience for many of the high school students and teachers who were part of it. As for myself—I gained a deeper appreciation for the multi-layeredness of reality and pathways for a new kind of thinking to emerge when people see and hear Bob Avakian up close like this. I want to share with the readers of Revolution some of what went on.
I brought the Issue #183 of Revolution which had a headline of “From the Hellholes of Incarceration to a Future of Emancipation” into a literacy class. I focused in on the centerfold of this issue which had an excerpt entitled “A Better World Is Possible” from the film of the talk by Bob Avakian: Revolution:Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About. (Session 2, Chapter 4) This was a small grouping of students, which made it possible to have a lot of time for discussion. The showing of the video where both auditory and visual learners could access the information is especially effective. At the same time, each had their own print copy of this section of the “Revolution” talk in front of them and another copy of it on the over-head projector. As the talk rolled on the screen and throughout the discussion– they were drawn into it and stayed focused. I mention this because if you’ve ever been in a high school classroom--maintaining attention span is a challenge. After watching the film, we turned to the center fold and read out loud sections of it. As we read, several points provoked deeper discussion. One student, Marlon, spoke with passion from his own experience to testify to some of the points. Marlon is a 15-year-old who has been in the foster care system since very young and has been living in the dangerous zone of drive-by shootings and stabbings in the hood from day one of his life. When we got to the section where Bob Avakian tells the story of prisons in California, Marlon puts his finger on that paragraph and says that this is “dead on it.” Then, he proceeded to elaborate on this point in detail by recounting the lived experience of his uncle who was right there at Corcoran SHU when this Roman gladiator killing set up by the prison officials took place. He said that this was some scandalous shit that he would never forget.
Another student commented on the section where Bob Avakian speaks to the irony of someone saying that “I’m regulating my corner.” He (the student) spoke to the insanity of this turf war shit amongst the youth and how an old man was beat to death not far from the school. But then, this is the way it is and unless you figure out how to be the top dog of that turf... you can’t survive. But what kind of “survival” is that? Someone else said that we just gotta stay out of trouble. Marlon said that he sees things can change because it has happened in the past. He talked about what some relatives who had been through the Black Liberation struggle during the 60's told him about those good old days.
There was a jet-propelling moment (from the past to the future) when we got to the section of ‘we have already reached that time in human history where things do not have to be this way.’ This was very thought provoking to them. Things got concrete when someone pulled out their cell phone and showed off all the diverse ways that things can get communicated these days when it was just the home phone in the old days. But what is standing in the way of society advancing? But then, why are there children in Haiti who can’t even buy the things that they themselves produce? We also talked about all the knowledge that has been garnered throughout human history. But then, why is there a certain section of society locked out of access to both old and new discoveries in all spheres of life? It came out that none of the students had been to visit the science museum in this area. They were challenged by Bob Avakian’s assertion that all this can change and that the masses of people are capable of much better things than this. (meaning being pawns in turf war competition) Marlon looked up and said : “Who me? Change all that? Well maybe, if it’s with a whole lot of other people thinking the same way.”
Several days later, one of the students raised a question about how the question of crime is going to be handled in this future society. He said that he can’t imagine that everyone is just going to do good all the time. Aren’t there going to still be people who are not going to want to work for the common good and rip things off of other people? What do you do about that? More to delve into off of this. Marlon proposed that we have more sessions like this and call it Avatar Fridays since the last day of the week is when we can kick back a bit and have a snack and just talk about futuristic things or things that are not in the prescribed “curriculum.”
On another occasion more recently,we showed the section of the Revolution talk on the topic of Capitalism (Disc 2, chapter 1) to a total of 225 students from 8 classes and 4 teachers. More than half of these classes were students. We used this section of the talk to frame and inform the content of a power point presentation that some of us made based on the article entitled “Why So Many People Died in the Earthquake… And Why the U.S. Can Do No Good in Haiti” by Li Onesto. As the week proceeded, we learned the difference it made to rely on that section of the talk to guide our approach. The more that we consciously centered things around the talk, the more the level of discussion was raised to grapple with the nature of capitalism and why the solution can only be the most radical revolution. And there was more grappling with the need to build a movement for revolution as a crucial bridge to that future. There was a host of questions around whether the US was really offering “aid” to Haiti and why is Haiti so poor. In one instance, the talk provoked some lively controversy as a student stridently argued for the great wonders of capitalism: it provides jobs for people, gets production done so that we have the things that we need to live on and the wonderful things that we have now is because of capitalism. Other students jumped in with comments about how they could see the destructiveness of capitalism, but couldn’t things just be equalized so that everyone has a share of the wealth? Another student said that capitalism is good for a certain group of people, but what about the muffled cries of little children that the video talks about? Offshoots of this discussion went on in the next few days. The guy who was defending capitalism said that he still wasn’t convinced that capitalism is so bad, but one thing that he is more sure of now is that the US does do this nasty shit to people all over the world. Others said that they see more clearly how capitalism developed and what is at the heart of it. They had assumed from textbook knowledge that capitalism is something that always existed and there’s no other way to live than according to its operating procedures. They weren’t so sure at all about revolutionary transformation and how that’s going to take place. There’s a lot more to explore as we get into the talk. In more than one session, we heard moans of disappointment (Oh, gee we want to see more) when we turned off the talk to start the discussion. We invited students to come back to the classrooms at lunch time to see the rest of the talk. At the end of the sessions—posters, stickers and palm cards promoting the talk were handed out. Some students took stacks of them. The stickers were especially popular. Several students started decorating themselves on jackets and hats. We heard later from a student that stickers appeared all over a bus stop. Walking through the computer lab several days later, I saw students hovering around the computer as one of them pointed out the website and told them to check out something real. And for the teachers who are pummeled with the ranting of “raise those test scores” and “teach to the test”, there was a moment where minds could stretch and wander a bit in the search for the truth and unlock critical thinking. One thing that I want to say here is that it made SO much difference for these students to SEE and HEAR Bob Avakian up close like this. On one level, the ideas that he conveyed tickled their brains in positive ways like no one else has, but also there is the way that he spoke with deep emotion and conviction which touched their souls.
There is certainly a lot more to understand and stir the pot with as we seek to push forward with a energy, creativity and imagination to contribute towards achieving the three objectives of the campaign which can make all the difference in the world.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.