International Women's Day is almost upon us. My wife, a long time feminist, engages with planning IWD activities each year. She mostly works with Women's International League for Peace and Freedom - WILPF - aligning activities with the schools, university and other groups.
Part of their planning this year were essay contests. They would award first, second and third place cash prizes for essays about women, education and culture. They opened the competition to university, high school and middle school students. First, second and third place winners would be selected from each of those school groups. First prize for each is $100.
Well, first the university and the women studies department wasn't very enthusiastic about it. They already had so much going on for IWD.
The planning group cut the college student part. The competition would be for high school and middle school students.
The flyers and entry forms were created and distributed weeks ago, after communications with the school principals. Last night, my wife learned that not one student has entered.
I was staggered. Among all those students there isn't a budding writer, someone with opinions about IWD, women, education and culture? No future writer, journalist, political science junkie, feminist, or politician? Nobody who wanted to express their opinion in words?
I don't know what it says about the contest and students. My wife then let me know the principals also told her that if there wasn't a response, it was probably because the teachers hadn't told the students.
Why would the teachers not tell the students?
Because of the teachers' workloads or worries about the student workloads.
Wow, really? A 1,000 word essay would add too much workload?
There it is again, that culture of no that we're cultivating in America. Everything is too much, too hard, too expensive, too difficult. My God, really? A 1,000 word essay is too much?
Yes, there is too much of something here. Shame on those teachers, having so little faith in the students that they teach. Shame on them for not letting the students decide for themself if this is too much.
Has education really changed that much? I remember teachers approaching me to specifically know of such opportunities in art and essay contests. It was often a terrifying moment to hear a teacher call my name and ask, "Can you come up here so I can talk to you?" or "Stay after class for a few minutes, please." I always wondered, "Oh, no, what did I do?" My brain would strip gears attempting to think fast enough to unravel what trouble I caused that the teacher wanted to speak to me.
Eventually, I learned to trust them, after I graduated.
So I'm sad and frustrated that no students are expressing an interest in submitting an essay and that it might be that the teachers haven't told them about it because it might be too much. I hope that what's happening here in Ashland isn't indicative of the rest of America.
That really would be too much.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com