On Striking High School Students

On Monday, I’m going to Washington DC for the first time since the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or March to Keep Fear Alive. The reason? The Chicago Cubs (my team) are in DC playing the Washington Nationals (my local team), and then I’m going to stick around in town for A Capitol Fourth, the concert/fireworks show that PBS puts on every year in celebration of the birth on July 4, 1776 of Admiral Horatio Hornblower, RN.

Seriously, though. It’s going to be bloody hot, but it’s also going to be bloody fun. And Teddy Roosevelt will be going for his 400th consecutive loss in the Nationals Presidents Race on the fourth.

The Rally for Sanity was not my first brush with activism.

That came in high school.

It was my senior year. And during my senior year, there were grumbling that the teachers union in West Virginia was going to go out on strike. At the span of twenty-one years, I can’t tell you why they were going to go out on strike. I do remember that teachers in West Virginia were not legally allowed go on strike.

Ah, thank the New York Times. According to this vintage article, “the main issue is salaries. The union, the West Virginia Education Association, which represents 16,000 of the state’s 22,000 public school teachers, says average teacher pay was $21,904, ahead of only Mississippi, before a 5 percent raise last month.”

The strike lasted eleven days. I remember that it was a gorgeous two weeks off from school in early March.

The day before the teachers in Barbour County went out on strike, the students at Philip Barbour High School went on strike.

It was totally impromptu. We walked out of the school building, walked past the football field, and then took over the parking lot across the street at the bowling alley.

The logic of the student strike was, as I remember it, that a protracted teachers strike would really mess up things like graduation plans. What if we had to make up the time into late June? There were kids in my graduating class that were joining the military right out of high school. Time was valuable in the way that it is in the young.

The principal, Doug Schiefelbein, came out to speak to us striking students. I somehow became the spokesperson for the mob. Mr. Schiefelbein managed to convince most of us that students going on strike would do absolutely no good, but there was a contingent — I was not among them — who decided not to return to classes that day, and instead they marched six miles up US 119-250 to the Philippi Courthouse. That night, they made the local news on the television station out of Clarksburg.

I thought I still had the special issue of the Colt’s Tale, the school newspaper, that was published that day. The Colt’s Tale, by the way, was a bit of a joke; it never managed any sort of regular schedule, it never had a regular staff, it just happened to be printed whenever it reached a certain critical mass.

The student walkout of 1990. That was my first brush with activism. I was so different then; I was a Bush Republican. I’m not sure at all how that happened… :h2g2:

ETA: Scratch what I wrote in the first paragraph. I totally blanked on the fact that I was in DC for Shamrock Fest, a Celtic Rock festival the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day. How could I have forgotten Shamrock Fest? Shamrock Fest was awesome! :)

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