What I Learned from My Second Journalism Class

I have an instant distrust of anyone who calls their time in high school their ‘glory days’. My time in high school was when I was the dumbest, hated myself the most and took care of myself the least. I don’t consider any of that glorious.

But there was one moment in high school that I was particularly proud of.

I was onto my second journalism teacher. Because I loved, respected and learned so very much from him, I’ll call him Captain. Also because Dead Poet’s Society is a fantastic freaking movie.

Now, let me give you a little back ground. I was in school during the clusterfuck that was No Child Left Behind. Every teacher reading this just broke something. Surprise, students didn’t like it either. Mostly it meant boring assemblies and crappy busywork. It meant a focus on just one path, college, excluding things like technical schools and just hopping right into the work force as ‘lesser options’. It meant that talented students who worked hard, like me, were held back so that other students could keep up. It meant money taken from things like art and music to go into ‘college preparation’.

I didn’t like it.

But then, I realized something. I could say something about it, and I could do it in print!

I decided that my own complaining, IE an editorial, wasn’t going to make my point. So I opted for writing a feature piece. I wanted to find out what people thought of the programs. The response was overwhelming. The piece ended up being quote after quote from students, talking about how much they thought this was a waste of time. I tried, oh so very hard, to find someone who liked it so that I could show the ‘other side’. You know, be ‘fair and balance’. I found no one who had anything good to say about it.

Captain had to run my story by the principal, who was less than thrilled. So much so that he threatened to fire Captain if he didn’t print my story with a note saying that it ‘was not balanced’. One of the other reporters had to write a story praising the program the issue after. She was not thrilled, and had just one student comment. I’ll never forget it, it was, “I’m sure it must help someone.”

The story got out, and students I’d quoted rallied to my defense. Even better, teachers found me, and quietly told me I’d done a good job. It was the first time I’d gotten such a great response from something I’d written.

Nothing was changed, we still wasted money and time on a system that didn’t work. In the end, students and teachers are powerless when it comes to what some politicians who went to private schools think is best for public schools. I lost this fight, and I kind of feel like my whole generation did.

If there is a lesson, and I’m not sure there is one, it’s that sometimes you can win and lose at the same time. I was right, and everyone knew I was right, but it didn’t matter. At the same time, no one got in trouble so I guess you can call it a wash.

And yet I am proud. Why? Because it was the first time I remember feeling like something was bullshit, and saying something about it. And when I didn’t win, I kept calling bullshit anyway. And if I want you to take anything away from this month devoted to journalism, it’s this.

Keep pointing out the wrongs in this world. Even in fiction, even if no one listens, even if you’re the only one. Call bullshit when it needs called.


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