Fed-up Americans across the nation have joined hands in protest since mid-September. Starting in New York City, Occupy movements have swept the world, attracting support from thousands. Among these participants are Brookline High School students, who have been part of the occupation of Boston’s Financial District since Sept. 30.
Although their grievances may vary, frustrated students band together in protest at the Occupy movement. According to junior Ariel Robinson, a member of the Occupy movement, this characterizes the nature of the movement itself.
“Nobody at these movements has the same causes; they are people with different problems who are coming together,” said Robinson. “It could be job loss, taxes or anything.”
Robinson specifically wants to see the movement change aspects of America’s educational system.
“Personally, I think there are a lot of messed up burdens placed on students to look good for colleges,” said Robinson. “That takes away from people doing what they want to do, like art, free-writing or music.”
Robinson believes that the current gathering support for the Occupy movement is strong enough to institute the educational reforms he desires.
“Think about it: we’re making history,” Robinson said. “It might not change anything immediately, but people are going to look back at these Occupy movements and realize that they were big. This is how democratic change comes about.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, this generation of students and graduates face a collective $1 trillion in debt and sparse career opportunities. Meanwhile, corporations are laying off thousands of workers. In this economy, students’ futures don’t look bright and this has driven many of them to demand change, including senior Kate Hilts.
“I think that it is pretty sad that our public education system is in the state that it is,” said Hilts, who has been trying to raise awareness about the Occupy movement in School Within a School. “It doesn’t make any sense to me that the best secondary schools in terms of college education are obviously private schools.”
Hilts doesn’t see the sense in only allowing the upper portion of society to have mobility in education. “Even though colleges themselves are trying to give out scholarships and financial aid, that isn’t going to solve the problem,” Hilts said. “We need to reassess the system as a whole.”
While Robinson and Hilts joined the Occupy movement to fight for education reform, sophomore Sam Payne has different motives.
Payne has been involved in the Occupy movement since day one. While in New York City, he read in a magazine that peaceful protesters were going to gather at the Charging Bull statue near Wall St. and take a stand against corporate corruption at noon on Sept. 17.
“I thought it sounded great, and I wanted to talk to some people because honestly, most people aren’t aware of these issues,” Payne said.
Since the Occupy movement sprung up in Boston, Payne has been going every weekend, often bringing food for the other protesters.
“I’m trying to do something productive for the cause,” said Payne.
Payne, like many other participants of Occupy Boston, believes that America’s economic system is set up for failure.
“Corporations can give as much money as they want to politicians and pretty much just buy out the government,” Payne said. “Politicians are speaking more on the behalf of the corporations than that of the people.”
Although students have different motives for joining the cause, social studies teacher Roger Grande believes students are generally interested in the Occupy movement because of inequity.
“At the core of the movement is this belief in equality,” said Grande. “We are not as equal as we should be in the United States.”
Grande wishes that he could be more involved in Occupy Boston but has been unable to as he has been taking care of his newborn baby. He respects those who are participating.
“There is this temptation to see the world as about them, and it’s hard for them to go beyond themselves,” Grande said. “However, some students have really developed a consciousness about the world and about their place in the world.”
Grande, like Hilts, believes that this movement will raise awareness about unequal opportunities in the United States.
“It is inspiring to be aware of our privilege and use that for the purpose of making a change,” Grande said.
Others, including senior James Thompson, believe that the different reasons for joining Occupy Boston cause a lack of focus in the movement.
“It is just uncoordinated, unorganized anger towards a not very substantive target,” Thompson said.
“If you look at their demands, they’re not really striving towards anything concrete,” said Thompson. “It’s like we’re the 99 percent with 99 different goals. You can’t fail if you have nothing to win.”
Sabine Shaughnessy and Jackie Merrill can be contacted at [email protected]