Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Diverse Forum Wrestles With How To Fix America's "Broken" Political System

Max Turgeon /

Speakers at The Connecticut Forum earlier this month. Karl Rove, who is speaking, is shown on the large screen.

By Max Turgeon
Junior Reporter
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Presenting panelists of different political views, The Connecticut Forum recently provided an interesting exchange of ideas about what ails America’s political system and how to fix it.
The program, “Debating our Broken Political System,” featured columnist Charles Blow of The New York Times, award-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Karl Rove, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.
It was a brilliant evening, with many theories and ideas thrown around by these experts. Almost all topics were covered.
WNPR radio host John Dankosky, did an excellent job as moderator, treating everyone fairly and keeping things moving. He asked tough, yet fair questions.
Though all three panelists agreed that the political system was broken, Rove also said the system mostly works. If people think it is broken, Rove said, they should get involved.
I found those to be wise words from Rove, the person on the panel I was most familiar with.
Rove said getting dirty money out of politics will solve a lot of problems. He went on to explain how we need more transparency in campaign donations.
Goodwin, who was in between the conservative Rove, and Blow, a liberal, played her role in the middle very well. Goodwin said most of the problems in our government are caused by miscommunications, mainly between Democrats and Republicans.
She said the system is broken because there is a lack of communication in government by the two major parties.
That could not be more true.
Blow has a very liberal approach to fixing the system, yet he had more than his fair share of good ideas.
Blow said Republicans have caused many issues by instituting voter ID laws, which, as you might guess, upset Rove.
Goodwin said she agreed with Rove, but that we should still be aware of minority voting rights.
I think voter ID laws have helped fight voter fraud, but we need to be careful they don’t discourage citizens from voting.
Rove brought up a good point in asking why citizens don’t have federal IDs. We have state-issued drivers’ licenses, but no standard federal ID, like many other countries.
Goodwin talked about how we have to get our youth involved, a subject I am very sensitive to as a 15-year-old.
She said she hoped that the youth in the audience could lead the effort to get big money out of politics.
Blow talked about how society discourages youth from getting involved. He says kids look at school with unhappiness, a sentiment I can confirm.
Blow said it isn’t that young people don’t care, just that they don’t believe the adults.
Rove commented on how the Common Core educational standards are hurting our schools, something I agree with.
The line of the night though, was when Blow said that people are more interested in ammunition than information.
Negative campaign ads are a prime example of Blow’s statement. Most of these ads lack facts, and are only personal attacks on their opponents, which just hurts our system. He added that there is a lack of trust and respect between fellow politicians.
Blow said he thought the campaign season should be shortened, but the panel couldn’t come up with a solution that would do it.
I learned a lot from all three individuals as they each had something different to offer. Although Rove received his fair share of boos here in blue state Connecticut, they were all great sports.
As a country, we are better off for having tough discussions like these. It is the only way to improve our broken – yes broken – political system.
An important theme that echoed throughout the evening was that youth need to get involved and lead the charge toward making our government work better.
Teachers could make a difference here by encouraging students to get involved in the political system, not ignore it because of its flaws.
Young people are the future leaders of this country and the nation is better off if they are informed from an early age.
Americans want to see their country succeed. That’s something Democrats and Republicans can surely agree on.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Malala Represents All Who Fight Injustice

By Nadia Rogovsky
Junior Reporter
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai – a Pakistani activist for education – is an inspiration to people all over the world.
I like to think that Malala does not only stand in representation of the women of Pakistan, she also stands in representation of all the women who are fighting or have ever fought against discrimination and injustice.
As a 15-year-old girl, the fact that a girl just two years older than me can make such a difference is astonishing. She is just as inspirational as other characters such as the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the American Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks, the German Jewish diarist Anne Frank and many others.
I'm sure Malala will be remembered many years from now.
I had never seen Malala’s face until a few weeks ago. I had heard of her, but never seen her. When her picture appeared on the cover of a local newspaper, I couldn't help but smile.
Malala Yousafzai, in a photo posted on the Malala Fund Facebook page.
She holds so much power and determination in her gaze that it just blows you away. She is so beautiful and strong – who she is, is what gives her such beauty. 
But I also remind myself that she is not the only one suffering.
To save Malala, we, as citizens of the world, have to save every single human being whose rights are being violated.
The French, in their declaration of human rights, wrote, "Every single member of the society must have their rights respected as to be a society respectful of human rights."
The world cannot simply ignore the bad things happening. We must let go of our selfishness and begin to fight for human rights.
In an interview with Glamour magazine after surviving an assassination attempt by Taliban terrorists, Malala discussed how she dealt with fears that she could be targeted.
She said she told herself, "Malala, you must be brave. You must not be afraid of anyone. You are only trying to get an education – you are not committing a crime.”
So be it. Be brave and stand up for those whose voices have been taken.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cuban Youth Share Their Dreams And A Desire To Know More About The World

Maria Luiza Lago /
A bus station in Havana, Cuba.

By Maria Luiza Lago
HAVANA, Cuba – Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to have your TV channels controlled, to have limited or no access to computers or the internet, or not to be free to speak your mind in public.
I wanted to know what that was like, so on a trip to Cuba, I interviewed some young people around Havana about their lives and dreams.
I met 15-year-old Aylem Isabel Obrégon Bolaño at the beach in a small town near Havana called Varadero.
She told me that the Internet exists in Cuba, but it’s very expensive, so not a lot of people have access to it.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Aylem Isabel Obrégon Bolaño
plays the laúd, a type of guitar,
and wants to be successful
with her music.
She has never left Cuba, Bolaño said, and was in Varadero to celebrate her birthday. She plays an instrument called the Laúd, which is a plectrum-plucked chordophone from Spain, similar to a guitar.
Bolaño studies in Havana at the Escuela Nacional de Arte, a national arts school and said she dreams of being successful with her music.
At the bus station in Havana, I met a lot of young people.
I found 16-year-old Roberto Mantilla, who is taking college preparatory classes. He told me he wants to be a doctor.
Maria Luiza Lago/
Roberto Mantilla
wants to be a doctor.
Mantilla likes to go the beach with his friends to practice sports and doesn’t intend to leave Cuba. He said he didn’t have a clue of what he wanted in the future, and was a little bit shy to speak.
Antonio Viscoy, 18, was even more timid when I tried to interview him. He kept looking at my notebook, which contained my prepared questions. He just answered “yes” or “no” to most of them, in a low voice.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Antonio Viscoy said he didn't
have any dreams but expects 
to be happy.
Viscoy is at university studying to be a Spanish teacher. He said he thinks it is good to be a Cuban teenager, but didn’t specify why.
He feels he has everything he needs here in Cuba, Viscoy said. I tried to ask him why, but he just said, “Because I think so.”
Viscoy expects to be a happy man in the future. When I asked about his dreams, he said he didn’t have one.
The next person I spoke with was a 13 year-old boy, Jimmy Curos Vinent. He studies at Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba – the national ballet school in Cuba – and is in 7th grade.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Jimmy Curos Vinent, 13, wants
to be a professional dancer.
Vinent dances classic ballet and since he was eight years old, has dreamed of being a professional dancer, just like the Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, who has won dozens of awards in his career.
He has good opportunities for the future, Vinent said. He said his school helps him not just to learn, but to be a better person, to get to know other cultures and their stories.
Alejandro Sevile, 23, was the first person to tell me that is “a little hard” to be a Cuban teenager. He said he misses freedom.
Sevile used to study mechanic engineering, but he quit to work as a bartender.  He was a little shy and on his way to work when we spoke.
When I asked Sevile if he had any dreams, he hesitated for a moment. He said he had many, but the one he revealed to me was his desire to know other countries.
One of the young people I met, 19-year-old Iracema, wouldn’t tell me her last name.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Alejandro Sevile wants to learn
about other countries.
She’s finished with her studies, Iracema said, and works in an Identification Institution, similar to a notary’s office.
She said she likes being a Cuban teenager, that she feels really safe.
But Iracema pointed out that Cuban schools should have more computers, especially in chemistry and physics classes. When she was a student, she said, writing by hand was the only option.
As for Iracema’s dreams, she said she wants to travel around the world, mostly to Europe.
As I spoke with these Cuban youth, I realized most of them were shy, and I felt that most of them were afraid of answering my questions.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Iracema, who wouldn't give her
last name, wants to travel
around the world, especially
to Europe.

None of them had left their country, but they said they didn’t feel isolated. They don’t want to move away from Cuba, they said, but they do want to travel and know the world a little bit better.
I wondered how they could say that they’re not missing anything in Cuba since they haven’t ever left the country or enjoyed some other liberties that young people in other places have.
It’s hard to miss something you don’t know about or have, and even more difficult for them to understand how young people live in other countries.
While these young people seem isolated to me, I think they’ll achieve their dreams, if they work hard. What I don’t know if they’ll ever know freedom like I do.
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Visiting Cuba: A Step Back In Time

Maria Luiza Lago /
Cars from the 1950s and 1960s are a common sight in Havana, Cuba.

By Maria Luiza Lago
Youth Journalism International
HAVANA, Cuba – When I first arrived in Havana, Cuba, I had a cultural shock – it seemed like I took a plane in 2014 and landed in 1950.
Havana has cars from the ‘50s and old telephones and houses, though some are still in good shape.  Stores have no computers to administer the sales – most of the stores I visited wrote receipts by hand. Wi-fi signals are rare. When I could get one, like at the hotel where I stayed, it was very expensive.
At first I wondered how people lived in such a manner and how they got used to it. But I realized that most Cubans are happy. I saw none of them complaining or being crusty with me or other tourists.

Maria Luiza Lago /
Cubans waiting for a bus.

At the same time, I saw lots of mothers with their children and other people asking for money, caramel or anything we had.
Maria Luiza Lago /
The airport gift shop selection
of souvenirs.
When we gave new things to them, they were very grateful and excited about it. Kids were astonished to get a small amount of bubblegum, chocolate, notebooks or erasers, which I saw being sold in the airport as souvenirs.
It wasn’t only the kids, but adults, too. My dad gave a man some old t-shirts and he hugged my father tightly, saying “thank you very much!”
The same happened every time we gave new things to other Cubans, a surprised and very grateful reaction.

Maria Luiza Lago /
Tourists meeting Cubans on the street sometimes give them small gifts. The people often are happy to get them and occasionally ask for something specific, but others were not interested in receiving anything at all.

But not everyone accepted our gifts. Some of the kids, and even some teenagers I spoke to, didn’t want anything from us.
Cubans are very welcoming with tourists, always smiling and trying to help with whatever we needed. This was not only people who worked in the hotel, but regular citizens on the street, too.
I realized the comfort we had at our hotel wasn’t the same for Cubans in their homes. I only had to step out of the hotel to see that. There’s no luxury – everything is very humble. 
Maria Luiza Lago /
These Cuban homes are in bad shape.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Some Cuban homes, like these, are in good repair.

I also didn’t see many Cubans staying in hotels, most of the people were foreign tourists.
Maria Luiza Lago /
The hotel Meliã Habana offers luxuries most
Cubans don't have.
When Cubans ride in cars, they have a lot of company. Vehicles are full of people and it’s rare to see a car with only one person. Gasoline is really expensive, and most of the people can’t afford it, so they embrace the chance to ride all at once.
It’s not the same for tourists. There’s a taxi for one person, which is a waste when you see a car packed with six or seven people in it.
All these contradictions made me think about how Cubans see tourists and wonder whether behind their helpful and friendly smiles, they wonder a little why visitors to their country have privileges that they don’t.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Missing Nigerian Girls Not Forgotten; Students Renew Calls For Their Rescue

Festus Iyorah /
Nigerian girls hold signs with 179 to remember the 179 days the kidnapped girls from Chibok have been held by terrorists who abducted them in April. These children attended a talk with former Nigerian Education Minister Obiageli Ezekwesilieze at in Ibadan.
By Festus Iyorah
IBADAN, Oyo State, Nigeria – Though the visibility of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign has declined, girls here haven’t forgotten nearly hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists last April.
“I feel sad that girls like us are still missing and I want government to fight with Boko Haram and bring back our girls,” said 10-year-old Oluwatofunmi Oluwashina, a student at All Saints College in Ibadan.

Fourteen-year-old Esther Adeyemo, who also attends All Saints College, said she tries to imagine what it must be like for the kidnapped girls, stolen by Boko Haram Islamic extremists in a night raid on their boarding school in Borno, a state in northeastern Nigeria.

Festus Iyorah /
Oluwatofunmi Oluwashina
“I feel very sorry for them,” said Adeyemo. “Sometimes I look myself being in that situation in pains, missing out with my friends, family and I realize that they are going through pains and they are experiencing what they should not experience in their early stage of life.”
Several of the girls interviewed put the burden on the Nigerian government to find and rescue the kidnapped girls.
Adeyemo said the government should stop playing politics with the girls’ lives and save them.
All Saints College student Anjolaoluwa Akinbola, 14, said the government officials should work toward finding the girls because if it were their daughter, they would find a way.
Festus Iyorah /
Esther Adeyemo
“I feel very sad that the girls are not yet back after 179 days,” said Akinbola, adding that their parents “must have been waiting for them to come back, but it’s sad that they are not yet back.”
But Jesuloluwa Akintobi, 17, who is studying political science at Osun State University, did not blame the government.
“We should not only cast blame on people, we should blame ourselves first because most of us are nonchalant about the missing of these girls,” said Akintobi. “It’s unthinkable that people have forgotten them, even the campaign on social media have reduced.”
Festus Iyorah /
Anjolaoluwa Akinbola
She added that Nigerians and people around the globe should help reignite the campaign. When the government officials feel the heat of the campaign, Akintobi said, they will tackle the issue seriously.
Still, Akintobi is frustrated that the girls remain missing.
“It’s unimaginable that the girls left their homes with hope and expectations that they will return to their parent before they were kidnapped by those deadly criminals,” Akintobi said. “They have been exposed to different crisis 179 days ago especially their personal hygiene. You know that girls needs to clean themselves daily – how are they coping? Do the criminals take care of the girls? These are the crisis they are subjected to and I pray that they will come back safely.”
Festus Iyorah /
Obiageli Ezekwesilieze
The four girls attended a presentation Friday by Obiageli Ezekwesilieze, the former Nigerian Education Minister.
In her remarks, Ezekwesilieze called on individuals and groups alike to speak as one voice to bring back the abducted Chibok girls taken hostage by 179 days earlier. Since then, more than 50 of the girls have escaped to safety but the rest remain missing.
“For the past six months, 219 girls have been held hostage by brutal killers and these girls have been voiceless because they come from a poor segment of the society,” Ezekwesilieze said, “and that’s the reason why you and I need to give them a voice and bring back our girls now and alive.”
Ezekwesilieze, who is also the former vice president of the World Bank’s Africa division, said the Chibok girls are a symbol of society – whether it cares or doesn’t about the freedom and fundamental human rights of the captive girls.
Festus Iyorah /
Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu
The government, Ezekwesilieze said the government should make the pivotal decisions that will bring the girls back.
The global outrage over the kidnapping spurred a massive social media campaign using the hashtag BringBackOurGirls.  
But in Nigeria, the campaign has dwindled over time as people seem less concerned about the girls’ disappearance.
Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, coordinator for BringBackOurGirls in Ibadan, said the campaign is not dead.
“We have our members in Lagos and Abuja who are the ones taking care of the 57 girls who escaped from their abductors,” said Anyanwu-Akeredolu, adding that while it is awful that some people are not part of the campaign, they’re not giving up and won’t until the girls are back, alive and safe.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Colorado Student Protests Follow Example Set By American Heroes Like Rosa Parks

By Kate Marin
Junior Reporter
LITTLETON, Colorado, U.S.A. – On the mid-September day the protests began in the Jeffco schools, a friend came up to me and said, “I heard the high schoolers are having a walkout to protest the board changing the curriculum. I heard they’re changing it to show America in a better light.”
I asked her where she got her information and told her she probably had a bad source. I said there’s no way we elected a school board who would do anything like that.
Obviously I was wrong, but I wonder, if a middle school student like me can see that what is going on is wrong, then who the heck did we elect for the board?  
The school board majority (President Ken Witt, 1st Vice President Julie Williams, and Secretary John Newkirk) proposed a measure that will allow them to create their own curriculum review committee, even though Jeffco already has one that actually has experience in education – which the board majority does not.
The first items up for review: elementary school sex education and Advanced Placement U.S. History, a college level class.
The serious movement towards changing these units hints at a partisan agenda. Our current curriculum review team should be the people reviewing what we learn.
We are human, we make mistakes, and I think the most important thing is that we teach future generations about the mistakes that we made.
Those who don't cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” wrote the philosopher and cultural critic George Santayana.
Can you imagine going to college and being the person who doesn’t really know about slavery, Hiroshima, or the women’s rights movement? Our board has watched schools shut down due to teacher “sick outs,” has seen entire classrooms empty due to student “walk outs,” and seen middle school students dressed in black, all to protest what the board is doing.
So far the biggest counter argument to the protests the school board could come up with is that the students don’t even know what they’re doing. They claim that we are being manipulated by the teachers’ union and have no idea what we are protesting. They claim these things even though the teachers (in or out of the union) are completely forbidden to talk about these current events with their students.
We have the freedom to protest and make our voices heard as citizens of the United States of America, yet board member Williams has gone so far as to say she wants to raise good citizens, not rebels.
Some of the greatest and most important social changes were caused by peaceful rebellion.
Where would we be without the protests of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, or Susan B. Anthony? These are some of the people who could be erased from our history course if changes are made to the curriculum.
The board claims one of their biggest problems with the protests is that the kids are missing out on learning.  I wonder if the school board majority thinks kids are still really learning if our classes are being censored.
Some of the most important things you learn are in high school. School board members should understand by now that Jeffco students don’t want the censored and edited version. We want the truth.

The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement courses and testing as well as the SAT test, weighed in on the issue with the following:
Statement in Support of Students
26 September 2014
The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member’s request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course. The board member claims that some historical content in the course “encouraged or condoned civil disorder, social strife, or disregard for the law.”
These students recognize that the social order can – and sometimes must – be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history – from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course.
The College Board will always listen to principled concerns based on evidence – and in fact has announced a public-review process for the AP U.S. History course framework. But in light of current events, an important policy reminder is in order:
College faculty and AP teachers collaborate to develop, deliver, and evaluate AP courses and exams. Their partnership ensures that these courses align with the content and rigor of college-level learning, while still providing teachers with the flexibility to examine topics of local interest in greater depth.
To offer a course labeled “AP” or “Advanced Placement,” a school must agree to meet the expectations set for such courses by the more than 3,300 colleges and universities across the globe that use AP Exam scores for credit, placement, or consideration in the admission process.
As vital context for the courageous voices of the students in Colorado, the AP community, our member institutions and the American people can rest assured: If a school or district censors essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the “AP” designation.
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