This post is a suggestion from August Brunsman, the awesome and adorable Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance. Don't forget to donate and suggest topics for me here!
I tended in high school to generally be a pretty terrible person. I was dealing with lots of shit, most down to my brain being cut open twice (that's a whole other story. Maybe later...), but I just was not very nice. Had there been an SSA in my awful bourgie Cincinnati suburbs white peoplesville school, I may not have been so terrible.
See, a few weeks ago, Kate Donovan of the Northwestern SSA, JT Eberhard of Clan Badass, Arthur Wawrzyczek who is DAFT's vice president, and I made our way an hour northwest of Chicago to a place called Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville for an activism fair being put on by a teacher there named Bruce Taylor, who is the advisor for their branch of the Youth Labor Committee (!!). This was my first sign that this school was magic.
See, as most of us know (or are currently going through), high school sucks. It's a place where artifice rules, where if you don't win the popularity lottery, your life will be miserable. Some of us fought against this, and managed to survive it (in my case, thanks to lots of books, old movies, and my father's scotch). However, from all appearances, Dundee-Crown has none of that. When we got there and set up the SSA table, I was blown away first of all by how diverse the school is. Being in Chicago's suburbs, which are notoriously whitewashed and soul-crushing, I expected that to be the case here, but, though I have no demographic information to back this up, it looked to me like, gender and race wise, there was damned near equal representation. Also, I expected the kids to view the activism fair as a chore, something Mean Mr. Taylor (who by the way every year for this gets Noam Chomsky on the line for a conference call with students. I know, right?) was making them do. But no: attracted to our table by the magic and singing skills of JT, who was trading magic tricks if the students would wear SSA swag, knew their shit. They were down with politics, economics, all that good shit.
Which leads me to my final point about D-C's awesomeness: within the first hour we were there, two students came up to the table and asked what we were all about. After hearing from us and asking more questions, they asked immediately if they could form a high school group at Dundee-Crown. We obviously said yes, JT gave them his card, and told them to e-mail him when they got a faculty advisor.
Three hours later, they were back with a prospective faculty advisor.
Fuck yeah, right?
Many other awesome things happened that day, but it was this that still stands out in my mind as the best part of the day. Not because I was representing the SSA, but because it took these students THREE HOURS to find a faculty member when it seems at most other schools JT deals with the students are forced to fight against the administration tooth and nail to just start a group.
Dundee-Crown is DEFINITELY out of the ordinary, in that it is a warm, nurturing public school; I'm pretty sure still it's the only one. It's the kind of environment where an SSA affiliate can thrive, in an atmosphere of open intellectual discourse. For the schools who try to pick fights with JT, though, I think that the SSA can be a huge influence on making those schools better places for students and faculty alike. In a time of life that emphasizes sticking with the herd, not acting out, and generally forming you into nice little productive automatons, a group dedicated to free thought might be the most radical outlet possible.
Forward the Secular Student Alliance. Liberate ALL the high schools!