Saturday, June 11, 2011

When did I become an activist?

Some months ago I was on the local news.  I went to a parent informational meeting the local school corporation.  It must have been a slow news week. 

At the meeting, there was a powerpoint presentation and two roving television cameras.  I assumed the tv cameras would film the other community members. 

I said my piece, about keeping the arts (and sports) in schools.  Also that I hoped all cuts would be on the table, that there were no sacred cows that couldn't be cut (administration, teachers, etc.)

The next morning, the first thing the lady who sits next to me said was "Aerin, saw you on tv last night".  And my response was "What did I say?"  I know things are taken out of context and spliced for sound bites.  Fortunately, my co-workers (more than one) said I sounded articulate, which I was grateful for.

Everything they aired did not embarrass me, and I am proud to stand behind.  My name was listed on one station, and a snippet of me talking (without my name) was on the other. Only one or two other community members (despite the tens who spoke) were filmed.

It reminded me, however, how public expressing one's opinion can be.  And how someone may always be paying attention - whether or not that's expected.  Your friends, co-workers, random acquaintances, employers or former employers are all the audience. 

The other night I attended another school meeting, this time with the state board of education.  I listened as community member after community member (including the state representatives) eloquently expressed their point of view.  Professionals, students, former students, teachers spoke of the challenges facing urban parents and families.  They pointed out the success of school/business partnerships. 

I prepared as well.  I didn't have a formal three minute speech prepared and rehearsed, as others did.  And I had come prepared, dressed in an interview suit, wearing heels and make up- to potentially be on tv.

Yet this was the fourth in a series of meetings. Not the beginning or the end, and therefore not as newsworthy.  Evidently there was a nearby reality show star in trouble.  There are other stories that are more current, which gain traction.  Not a school district's woes, the problems of poverty and the parents who show up to defend and explain why things are the way they are.  Explanations that cannot be reduced to sound bites or even three minute presentations.

I find I'm relieved.  I'm relieved not to be on the news again, or to have to explain my political views to my co-workers.  I was not as prepared as I would have liked to be, in order to make my three minutes as effective as possible.

How can I explain my prespective in three minutes - and convince someone whose mind is already made up?  Who sees the community as entrenched and corrupt - no matter what we say.  They see us as the Irish were seen in nineteenth century New York politics, or how Chicago politicians are still viewed.

I'm not trying to decry traditional media.  They are simply doing their job.  In this culture of slogans,140 characters quips and cut throat politics - how can we make our voices heard? How can we tell a different story - particularly about issues that have no simple or easy answers. 

And for that matter, how did I become an educational activist?  I think I've always been one, but perhaps now even more so.


Freckle Face Girl said...

What a great cause! It is a good thing that you are being heard, eventually it all helps.

Aerin said...

And....I was in the newspaper a few days after. Seriously?? I don't understand it. It was just a quote from me (not online, fortunately) and my name and picture.

I'm sure there are lots of reasons for it - it's just odd, to my mind.

Stella said...

Yay Activism! I love it!