Scenes from a student strike in New York City for Palestine

I was working at my desk this morning when I got a text from my daughter, who is sixteen years old and a student at Brooklyn Tech. She wanted to know if I would go with her to a strike for Palestine organized by and for New York City high school students. Having dragged her to so many demonstrations when she was much younger, I was thrilled to be asked to join her here.

We met and at 3:00 PM the students gathered at 52 Chambers Street, where the New York City Department of Education is located. I was impressed by some of the increasingly familiar elements that distinguish this generation of demonstrators from the previous ones – the extraordinary diversity of the students, the variety of boroughs from which they came, the initiative of the students (from every corner of the protest , another student started a chant when the crowd became quiet), and the leading role of female students.

But what struck me most about the protest was how often I heard the phrase “the truth.” In the more than thirty years that I have been left-wing, I have never heard so much about ‘the truth’. The speakers and singers repeatedly invoked the phrase.

The media claims that we live in a country whose citizens and residents believe in something called “truth” instead of the truth, that reality no longer matters to people, that young people have spoiled the truth and that the facts are adjacent to each other. But judging by these students, that seems like the opposite of, well, the truth. They were absolutely passionate about the subject and seemed to me almost old-fashioned in their belief in the truth, in their belief that the truth would set them free.

One of the other key words of the protest was ‘scholasticide’ – the destruction of education and knowledge. This is clearly a huge problem in Gaza right now, where schools and universities are being wiped out by the Israeli state, and students and teachers are being murdered day after day. Some of the most eloquent speakers at the protest, with minimal exaggeration or rhetoric, linked the destruction to what is happening in New York City public schools and colleges, where budget cuts, budget cuts and the persecution of pro-Palestinian teachers have undermined the state of the country worse. education in this city. They invoked the words of Frederick Douglass, one of the most prescient American theorists on the relationship between the denial of knowledge and the subjugation of a people, to understand why they, these students, were protesting Israel’s destruction of Gaza in the presence of the Israeli authorities. New York City Department of Education.

We hear a lot of talk and speculation about why young people in America are so passionate about the subject of Palestine. From the students I listened to today, the connection is clear. They see in Gaza the destruction of heritage, the destruction of knowledge, the attack on educational institutions. Far from a world away, it seems like the world is in front of them. There has been an attack on the obligation of each generation to pass on to the next generation the intellectual legacy passed down to it, and whether the locus of that attack is Gaza or the New York City school system, the problem is systemic . For people who are coming of age now, it is also personal.

On the other hand . . . At one point during the meeting, while I was doing a long video recording, hovering over the crowd and the signs, a very sweet-looking student standing next to me—he couldn’t have been more than fifteen—said, “You De camera is not on, sir.’ He turned to his friend and said, “My dad does that all the time.”

Whatever we don’t teach them, in other words, they still teach us – in more ways than one.

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