Opinion: Seventh-graders share their concerns

By Eileen Wiard
Posted 2/27/20

What are young people concerned about in Taos?

With the help of Isobel O'Hare, coordinator of the SOMOS Youth Mentorship program, I've made three visits to a local charter school, Taos Integrated School of the Arts, and spoken with five seventh-graders whose teacher, Sally Greywolf, thought they would be interested in working with me.

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Opinion: Seventh-graders share their concerns

Posted

What are young people concerned about in Taos?

With the help of Isobel O'Hare, coordinator of the SOMOS Youth Mentorship program, I've made three visits to a local charter school, Taos Integrated School of the Arts, and spoken with five seventh-graders whose teacher, Sally Greywolf, thought they would be interested in working with me.

Elsie Clayton, Violet Foley, Hayden Greywolf, Noah Joseph and Madeleine Sooy spent a few hours brainstorming possible topics and focused on their two top concerns - global warming and school shootings. What follows is a summary of the conversation in their own words.

Why these two topics?

"On average, shootings take place every day in our country," said Elsie. "Mass shootings happen about once a week."

"Yeah, it's old news and people aren't paying attention because there are so many," said Violet.

"Same thing with global warning. A little while ago the headline was the rainforests burning in the Amazon but now it's Australia. People just move on to the next big news and forget about what happened just a couple weeks ago and is still happening," said Hayden.

Madeleine felt that people just don't want to hear any more bad news. "It's like they want to just live their life, and believe there's nothing they can do about it anyway."

Elsie agreed, saying, "They don't want to be depressed, so they say, 'I'm not going to listen to anymore of this.' But the problem isn't going anywhere. It's still happening."

Noah felt these things need to be addressed more. "It's like the media doesn't want to startle the public or something. But now it's being normalized."

Madeleine was concerned that no one wanted to hear from youth, saying, "We don't want kids to be endangered, but some people are more worried that we're trying to take their guns away."

Elsie felt that people dismiss what young people have to say. "They don't want to listen to us. They think we're spoiled brats, addicted to our cellphones."

Violet jumped in, "But that's why we know things, from our cellphones!"

Hayden was more pointed in his criticism. "They should be listening to the kids, not the politicians. We're the ones that have to deal with these things, like climate change and school shootings. We don't have a bias. We don't own the companies that are polluting the planet."

Violet stressed that this generation doesn't have the advantage of thinking the effects of global warming are things that may happen in the distant future. "It's happening now, and we're the ones who are going to have to live with the consequences."

Elsie jumped in, "I got a notification of a school shooting happening nearby on my cellphone not that long ago."

"Some people say, 'School shootings can't happen in our small town.' But my brother is in high school, and they've had four or five lockdowns already. Nothing actually happened those times, but it's scary and it could happen here in Taos," said Hayden.

Noah believes that more coverage on these issues would help people realize they have to do something now. "What people see on the news is nowhere near what needs to be shown. Before school shootings started, no one could even imagine them happening, but look what we've got now."

Madeleine said, "People seem to care more about fashion news, pop culture and celebrities."

Violet continued, "And some people say there's nothing they can do, but maybe go vegan. And yes, one individual going vegan is not enough to make the changes we need to make, but there is strength in numbers."

Hayden: "They hope other people will make a change, but right now, not enough people are doing enough to make a difference. There's this mindset that what's happening is not that bad; it's not urgent; 'I'll do it when other people start.' I feel we need a push in the right direction. But President Trump is telling us climate change is not real. And politicians aren't doing anything. I think it's about money. Corporations who make money by keeping things the way they are."

Elsie: "Trump spent trillions of money on the military. Imagine what we could do with that kind of money?"

Yes, imagine that.

Eileen Wiard is a writer, musician and resident of Ranchos de Taos. Decades ago in Boston, she taught middle schoolers and loves working with this age group. ekwiard@gmail.com

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