Monday, July 09, 2007

I just changed someone's mind
I didn't think I would, either. I work with a lot of Simi Valley, a pretty conservative area. From time to time, one of them will challenge my political views so blatantly that I have to respond. They'll latch on to their parents' (read: rightie) talking points and not bother to see any other side.

This happened during the last presidential election when one of my brightest kids, and most socially liberal, decided to vote for Bush because he "owed it to the soldiers to see the war through". No matter what logic, what facts, what arguments I offered up, he was so closed off that I had to agree to disagree.

Today one of "my kids" posted a MySpace bulletin blasting Cindy Sheehan, obviously a chain message that's going around. I challenged her on it, and as gently as I could (I felt like screaming), explained what Cindy was about and why she's done what shes' done.

She softened. I messaged once more, including a quote from Sheehan. She backtracked and even chastised herself a little. She is now going to the library to research how Bush got us into this war. She wants to understand.

It's called being reasonable and open-minded. That's more than I can say for some adults I know.


At 5:25 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Why can't everyone be like that? What a cool kid.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Robert said...

SImi Valley represent!

I'm interested in what your experience is with kids in Simi since I live there. Granted, my kids are small but I'd like to know what they can expect to encounter as they grow up in this little city.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger ohdave said...

I've worked with teenagers all my life. Most of them are willing to listen to reason and fact-based, patient argument.

I remember not long after 9/11, a colleague of mine made mention to the students that they didn't even know what the Isreali-Palestinian conflict was. (The students had been talking about the Palestinians celebrating after 9/11 and wondering why they would do that.) They came to my class afterwards (it was a senior AP English class so they tended to have the same classes together throughout the day) a little embarrassed and asked me what it was all about. They knew the other teacher was right, they really didn't know anything about it, but they said, "How are we supposed to know? We never get past WWII in history class and the news always talks about Israel and Palestine without explaining why they hate each other.

As it turned out I had recently read Michael Ignatieff's book on ethnic conflicts around the world. So I drew a map as best I could on the board. "After WWII, the Allies decided to create a homeland for the Jews...."

Fifty minutes later, the bell rang, and students were still asking me questions.

They are hungry, ravenous in fact, for someone to tell them the truth about the world they live in.

And good for you GottaLaff that you spoke to her without being condescending or argumentative. That shuts them down right away. Teenagers pick up on tone pretty quickly.

At 6:57 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Overall the kids I work with are sweet, receptive kids. However, I've noticed a disturbing trend over the past 4-5 years. I mean other than (in some circles) the usual drug use, drinking, smoking. They lack the depth, patience, and insight of the kids I worked with 5-10 years ago. I'm guessing that, due to iPods, cell phones, computers, they expect and want things "right now", and don't often grasp or even recognize real emotion and what's behind it, because that takes time and real effort. Some of this is a parent/kid issue, I'm guessing. I try as hard as I can to create some awareness. I am very close to them, and since I'm in the theatre department, being in touch with feelings is pretty important. Btw, I'm over at Santa Susana Magnet, Academy, School of the Arts, whatever they call it now. Know it?

You little brainiac you, thanks. I don't get the same curiosity you do about things that take longer than 5 minutes to cover. See above. Sad. And so frustrating. They do respect what I have to say, for the most part, and I go way out of my way to educate them about acting, writing, comedy, improv, and life in general, but I'm not a credentialed "teacher". And the kids are mostly ravenous for Starbucks and Burger King, moreso than knowledge.

This is so long it should have been a whole post.

At 7:32 PM, Blogger addy said...

Damn you two! I just moved out of Simi Valley to Washington state a year and a half ago. I worked for the Democratic Party as a volunteer during the Kerry campaign with some really great people. I wish I had met you guys back then, it would have been great to know you.
p.s. many of our neighbors in this very conservative city were hush hush democrats and supporters of Kerry. You could feel the relief when they found out their neighbor was of like mind. Go Simi Democrats!!!

At 7:40 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

I wish I'd known you too, although I don't live in Simi. I live in Westlake Village, a half hour away.

It's not much better there.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger addy said...

I worked at the Verizon over in Westlake Village for about a year doing tech support. What a beautiful city. I didn't meet any of the natives, most of my workmates were from Pasedena, Hawthorne etc...But I agree about the politics. From what I've seen it's a pretty conservative area.

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Georgette Orwell said...

Congratulations. Every mind opened helps, and gives me a (teeny tiny) bit of hope for the world.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Addy, you worked about 2 seconds from where I live. Drats. Think of the fun we could have had.

Georgette O, thanks. I feel the same way. Incrementally, we'll get there.

I hope.

At 9:20 PM, Blogger addy said...

Gottalaff, well if you are ever up this way let me know. It's a gorgeous place and a lot cooler!

At 9:23 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Addy, I LOVE Washington!

Ivar's clam chowder, yum.

Air you can breathe, even better.

At 10:16 PM, Blogger addy said...

The air is good, except on burn days. Out here in rural Washington people burn old leaves and dead tree branches etc.. you'd be amazed how bad the air quality gets. But, that's a complaint not worth the bother. Altogether this is one of those places we are amazed to be lucky enough to live in. We still pinch ourselves after two years running of major fires burning around us in Simi. Simi is a great place too, in many ways, but this the a wonderful place to raise a kid and enjoy nature. Say hi to the new Simi mall for me though, sorry I didn't get to enjoy it!

At 10:19 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Don't worry, Addy, you didn't miss much. T.O. is still wins the Mall-o'-The-Area prize.



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