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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, April 27, 2003
    Kid Power
     
    On the Greenbelt blog yesterday I wrote on the same topic as here - the Iona Easter Experience. But used a different story:
      Last Good Friday a group of eight- to twelve-year-olds gathered behind a hillock as pilgrims on the annual Iona Easter Experience went walkabout, doing stations of the cross around the island. The children were performing one of the stations - typically provocative (for Iona), typically pertinent. As the pilgrims approached, they moved to the top of the hill and, holding high their home-made banners proclaiming 'Not in my name', they began chanting, "Don't kill Jesus, don't kill Jesus".
    That 'station' was especially pertinent after the surge of political protest which has arisen among young people during the current crisis. Kid Power, an article in the current Guardian Weekend, explores this, and goes way beyond the "they're just skiving school" slurs popular in the week war broke out and thousands of schoolchildren took to the streets.

    They did it under their own steam, though no doubt fired up by the wider protests involving such a cross-section of society at that time. The current wave of children's collective action bears many similarities with past youth protests, says Liverpool University's Michael Lavalette, who specialises in the study of popular protest:
      "They all happened in a particular context of general unrest across the country. In 1889, 1911, during the 1970s and again in the mid-1980s, over short periods of two to three weeks large numbers of children walked out of their schools." In 1911, for example, at the time of the Great Unrest, a wave of school strikes affected some 60 towns and cities across the country. The children walked out in protest at the brutal corporal punishment then meted out by their teachers, and called for free access to education for all. "Children were affected by the rebellious spirit of the age. Many had seen their parents out on strike. They were extremely well organised and quickly established a national set of grievances and demands."
    Today, pupils of Primrose School in Leeds don't have much access to politics, through 'normal' channels, but,
      "We'd like to have a say about our school and this area." says Jacob. "We'd like parks with no druggies in them. More stuff for little kids to do. There's so much wasteland round here that they could use. We need police to protect play areas and stop people stealing mobile phones. They should have cleaner streets and stop cars going so fast."
    What comes out of the article for me is the ability of young people organise themselves, promote their own agenda, do their own thinking. It's difficult to write about this as an adult without slipping into something like patronisation, but having taken this all in, this afternoon, I consciously drove my car more slowly, thinking of the youngsters around.