Hollow Protest Against School Violence

Student activists talk a good game against school violence. But what are they saying?

By Joel Mathis
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 85 | Posted Jan. 19, 2010

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Monday's protest against school violence offered the usual bits of political theater.

Photo by Joel Mathis

Monday, I went looking for some good old-fashioned righteous anger at Philadelphia School District headquarters. It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a celebration of peaceful activism, and hundreds of students were gathering to rally against school violence. Everyday low-level warfare in Philly schools goes mostly ignored, but recent assaults on Asian students at South Philadelphia High School put a spotlight on the problem that Superintendent Arlene Ackerman was finding hard to avoid. A little cage-rattling seemed in order.

Instead, I discovered something frustrating and disconcerting: We live in a weird, media-driven age in which even junior-high school students will spin you, stay relentlessly on-message and repeat meaningless slogans until your head swims in a haze of doublespeak. And they do it quite well.

The trouble started when I arrived early at the rally, led by the Philadelphia Student Union. I walked straight to the man apparently in charge—an adult holding a bullhorn. He steered me instead to PSU member Shania Morris, a pert, professional and prepped eighth-grader at Huey Elementary School in West Philadelphia. The rally, she told me, would launch a campaign against “all forms of school violence” and “end the school-to-prison pipeline.”

I asked how school violence affects her and the students she knows. And that’s when the interview turned slippery. Morris turned out to be the equal of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in sidestepping questions she didn’t want to answer. Underfunding and unequal schools, she told me, are also forms of school violence. I was growing leery. And I asked: Is actual, physical violence a problem in school?

“At Student Union, we believe that no student should be criminalized,” she said. “So...we believe that no student should be criminalized. We should come together.”

In the span of three quick minutes, Morris would talk about ending the school-to-prison pipeline three times and four times assert that no student should be criminalized. What she wouldn’t do, though, is tell me what actual violence looks like in Philly schools.

Morris shot me a look. “I don’t think that’s really the purpose of what we’re out here for today,” she said.

This wasn’t a case of first-time media jitters. Morris was delivering PSU’s message, buzzwords—and only buzzwords—and all. The bullhorn guy soon steered me to Zakia Royster, a PSU activist who attends Sayre High School. She told me the exact same thing, in nearly the exact same words as Morris: The rally was aimed at “all forms of school violence” and that underfunded and unequal schools are also a form of violence. I asked her the same question: How much do students have to deal with physical violence in their schools?

And I got the same result.

“Best I know, no student should be criminalized when it comes to that type of violence,” Royster told me, and added: “We need to broaden our look at what violence is.” Try as I might, Royster wouldn’t budge from the talking points.

Once the rally started, I had a brief moment of hope that someone would finally tell us what the problem looked like. A young lady took the microphone and implored her fellow students to stand against violence. “No student should be afraid to go to school!” she cried. “They should all feel safe in every school no matter what school you go to!”

But then: “Violence isn’t just physical violence,” she said. “Underfunding our schools, that’s a form of violence.”

You get the idea. PSU’s members defined the problem of “violence” broadly while refusing to provide any supporting details that might help anybody identify or solve the issues. And in so doing, they inadvertently parodied the worst excesses of Philly’s protest culture.

Most likely, it’s not the kids’ fault. The adults who help PSU’s teens “lead” a campaign against school violence have clearly spread the creepy institutionalization of progressive grassroots activism into the lives of kids, teaching them to very effectively parrot the parlance of protest without conveying substance. And that’s a real problem: As long as those students speak in meaningless abstractions instead of talking about what violence really looks like and how it affects them—and in avoiding those details, echoing the city’s deadly “don’t snitch” culture—it’ll be easy for school officials to ignore the problem and difficult for the media to force it into view.

In a recent edition of PSU’s newsletter, Zakia Royster wrote about how her school’s officials mishandled a riot, and detailed the obstacles to anti-violence activism there. For whatever reason, she wouldn’t talk about stuff like that on Monday. She’d only speak in generalities.

“Nobody’s listening to the students at all,” Royster told me. “I think that one of the main solutions would be to listen to the students.”

Maybe. But I tried listening to the students. They weren’t saying anything. Meanwhile, real violence continues in the city’s schools. ■

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 85 of 85
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1. Ms43 said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 11:46AM

“I wonder why Joel Mathis didn't ask more questions about the students' message that underfunding schools is a form of violence? That is an interesting statement that I would like to understand better. How about giving these young students a chance to explain exactly what they mean by that statement? To me, it sounds like they are defining violence in a broader way. I would like to know more.

Instead of slamming these young people for not saying exactly what he expected to hear, why didn't this author allow them to explain their message in depth?

I have read many other newspaper articles (especially lately with the South Philly High incident) in which acts of school violence were described in detail. And we have all heard how much fighting goes on inside schools. But what I haven't read before is a student explaining their analysis of the root causes of violence. It seems like this article missed a chance to do that & instead criticized young people who are trying to make a change.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 04:00PM

“Many youth have the experience of being condescended to and having their policy goals ignored by officials and reporters who want to write about how cute they are and not what they came out to demand. If you want youth leaders to feel secure giving you more heartfelt personal accounts, then change the newsroom culture so that fewer reporters ask youth leaders questions like, "What does your Mom think of this?"”

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3. Anonymous said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 04:27PM

“Huh. So when a politician stays on message, you report exactly what they say. When a young person does it, you slam them. I guess you feel okay about that since young people are powerless and you don't feel like there will be any repercussions? That shows more about who you really are. I think you were looking for some kind of juicy, sensationalistic story where young people criminalize each other. That is exactly what these students refused to do. You also don't know anything about the substance of what these students do. Next time, do a little more research. Not only have they put forward solutions, they have implemented them. Talk about substance - this piece lacked it.”

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4. DBurnette said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 06:08PM

“As you read this piece it becomes clear that you have neither the intellectual capacity or journalistic ability to comprehend these students' message -- so you resort to blatant disrespect. The Philadelphia Student Union and students from South Philly High are leading this city in finding real solutions to problems that young people face in their schools. People like you -- who have no interest in real change for Philadelphia -- keep trying to impose your shallow understanding of violence on this important issue. This is not useful.

This group of young people pulled off an incredibly successful MLK event on Monday. PSU unified and lead a large, diverse and powerful group of people to march and reflect deeply on the kind of change that defined MLK's life. King called on people to respond to violence with non-violence -- to change those systems that maintain poverty, violence and oppression. Those who were there for more than 20 minutes heard and understood this.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 06:36PM

“this is an example of lazy journalism, plain and simple.”

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6. Shania said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 06:39PM

“Hello, I am Shania Morris, a member of the Philadelphia Student Union. I would like to give some feedback on the article I was included in --Hollow Protest Against School Violence (1/19/10)-- written by Joel Mathis. I felt unfairly attacked and misrepresented. When Mr. Mathis stated that the things I said came from the adults that work with us in Philadelphia Student Union, that was all wrong. What I said came from the talking points that we --the students-- developed for the event.

I feel that Mr. Mathis took my quotes out of context. I felt that Mr. Mathis tried to make me state complaints about my school. That was not the purpose of why we were there. It was perfectly fine for me to stick to my main purpose for being there and not go into specifics about incidents at my school. This piece of the article really made me feel unfairly attacked and misrepresented.

I hope that in the future Philadelphia Weekly has better and more truthful journalism when covering youth events.

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7. Daniel Jones said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 06:49PM

“My name's Daniel Jones. I'm a senior at Masterman and also one of the organizers who helped put this march together. I want to respond to some of what Mr. Mathis said in this article, because I feel slandered by what was written both as an individual and as a young person and organizer.

The author assumed that just because we were well prepared with a media strategy and messaging, that those things were prepared by adults. This is not only an incorrect assertion, but it also vastly underestimates my own and my fellow students' abilities. I was a part of the team of student leaders that prepared for and planned the march, and I think that in light of what was written, it is important to note the substantial amount of time that we spent figuring out messaging for the the event and preparing our press representatives to get that messaging across. So when he says that "Try as I might, [she] wouldn't budge from the talking points," I take that to mean that we did our job well.

contd below”

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8. Daniel Jones said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 06:54PM

“Another assertion made by the author is that what we were saying lacked substance. I think that again, he made an incorrect assumption. He thought that just because the substance of what we were saying was different or more complex than what he expected, that it was absent. He thought that we were avoiding talk about "real" violence in our schools. Violence is the infliction of harm upon something or someone. So let's be clear about something: structural violence is real violence. Underfunding, lack of qualified teachers, gross inequities, schools that feel and look like prisons, the school to prison pipeline, and a curriculum that emphasizes test-taking over leadership development and critical thinking are all real examples of harm that students in this city face every day.

However, we also recognize the importance of addressing the interpersonal violence (maybe this is what the author means by "real" violence) that is a consistent problem in our schools.

contd below”

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9. Daniel Jones said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 06:56PM

“That is why we called upon all of the students present to make a pledge of nonviolence in their own actions, words and thoughts. Part of this is organizing to stop all of the violence that we see- whether it be between two students or perpetrated against all students by a violent institution.

The last point I take issue with is how the author began his article- he said that he was looking for "good old-fashioned righteous anger". Maybe that framework contributed to his misunderstanding. This action was one motivated first and foremost by love for each other and a desire for peace.”

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10. Shuron Morris said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 08:07PM

“As the parent of Shania Morris I will let you know that I am extremely proud of my daughter and the other students. What I get from this article is you are more upset that you were unable to manipulate the conversation with a 13 year old. You should be ashamed of yourself for attacking these students and your editor should also be ashamed for letting this story through. I now know not to take anything you right seriously. Perhaps you forgot what truthful journalism is or this has simply become a paycheck to you. Whichever has occured you should take time to find out what they are about the next time they have an open house you should go.”

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11. Zakia Royster said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 10:02PM

“My name is Zakia Royster. i am a proud member of the Philadelphia Student Union and one of the young ladies quoted in this article. At the MLK Day event the students who gathered were there to show that as young people we could be non-violent. That event was not to bash our schools or to criminalize students. On that day as one of the ladies who Joel Mathis spoked with i did state talking points that YOUTH in the organization came up with and decided upon. I would like to clearly state that The Philadelphia Student Union is a Youth Led Organization. A group of young people who notice problems in our schools and communities, and instead of constantly just writing about whats wrong we actually try to and in many cases do fix the problem. I would like to thank Mr Joel Mathis for showing that if young people just sit back and not think deeper into the violence that ignorance causes that our future wont be bright. so thank you Mr. Mathis you to have shown violence when you doupted the power”

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12. Zakia Royster said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 10:14PM

“and the ability of young people. After reading this article i felt attacked and and insulted. that same day i wise man said that " if you study the history of any movement, there was youth in the front" just as the Philadelphia Student Union was on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.”

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13. Kristen Mosbrucker said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 08:52AM

“Lazy journalist.I know some of the students in PSU and have been very impressed by their tact, knowledge, and activism. Way to interview a 13 year old and try to manipulate what she says. Yet another reason why I usually never bother reading the PW, the chain owned paper that prints bullsh*t.”

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14. S.Wylie said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 08:54AM

“Well, I found this to be judgemental instead of supportive of these students. My hat goes off to Ms. Morris, at the age of 13, he compared her to one of the most powerful men in the White House at this time, what a high praise, we all should keep our eyes out for Ms. Morris-- her job out of college will be White House Spokeswoman!!!! To all of the students-keep up the good work in spite of this interview.”

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15. Justin S. said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 09:32AM

“To quote the closing of the article- "They weren’t saying anything". Really?
Students using their day off school for an organized, non-violent gathering for the betterment of their school experience isn't saying anything? In a city where the media is more concerned with Tony Danza's presence in one school than the actual in-school environment district-wide, these students made headlines. It made this article, Fox News, KYW, and countless online reports. It also made an impression on the teachers and soon-to-be teachers at Temple, Drexel, LaSalle, CCP, and Penn. With students at these schools beginning their student teaching sessions the day kjafter the protests, it surely made an impression in their developing attitudes.


Ms. Morris, the eighth grader quoted in the article, should be applauded for her resistance to give in to Mr. Mathis' badgering. The student was prepared to present the goals of the protest without giving into the reporters incistence for a "sound byte".”

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16. Veronica C. said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 10:47AM

“Basically all the guy wanted to hear was “oh yeah people get beat up in my school everyday”. He was just looking for gossip rag quality news about Philadelphia schools. He wasn’t trying to hear anything positive being said he just wanted sensationalist gossip from the kids. What a lazy TMZ jerk.”

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17. Danielle K. said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 10:56AM

“It seems Joel Mathis was looking to find specific complaints about these young students' schools to sensationalize and divert the readers away from the message of the Philadelphia Student Union. Instead he found a united front representing the voice of the students, focused on their purpose and maintaining a peaceful protest. Perhaps the students Mr. Mathis spoke with are not directly affected by the kind of violence he may deem to be worth a fight, but their broad definition of school violence shows that these students are looking beyond their personal experiences and are willing to fight for bigger changes. I found it quite refreshing and very much in the spirit of Dr. King.

If Mr. Mathis continues to cover the Philadelphia School District and the daily struggle of Philadelphia students I hope he’ll find a more objective and, dare I say, productive voice.

Ms. Morris - I applaud you! Let this fuel your fire. It is never to early to start changing the world around you.”

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18. Shania said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 01:35PM

“it may not be my place but thank you all very much for the comments. keep hope alive for the young minds.”

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19. Becca T. said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 03:04PM

“Joel, your article is infuriating. It shows a real lack of any willingness to really listen to or empathize with these kids. Who in their right mind takes the angle of "the creepy institutionalization of grassroots activism" when covering an event that KIDS are doing to demand respect from the adults who keep them in shitty public schools and then supports that angle with a threadbare personal attack against an EIGHTH GRADER?? Have you gone mad?? Jesus Christ!

I've interviewed some PSU kids before and I've gone to their protests, and YES, not every student has the highly developed verbal skills that you have. They can't all articulate exactly what they mean by the "school-to-prison" pipeline because the biggest obstacles these kids face *ARE* in fact very highly abstracted forms of violence, not just getting beaten up in the halls. And if you talk to an African American Studies professor, they'll tell you that the biggest obstacles in overcoming racism are the same: they're heinous”

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20. Becca T. said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 03:22PM

“... *because* they're very abstracted systemic issues without clear scapegoats, and the complexity of these systemic problems makes people unwilling to take the time to figure them out and change their beliefs.

Likewise, these poor Philadelphia students have to spend their days in environments that are completely mentally and emotionally traumatic. Any good developmental psychologist will tell you that adolescents spend a huge amount of effort trying on different roles and adapting to roles that society prescribes for them. So when adults assign them these criminal roles in these overcontrolled/policed environments, they internalize them, and THAT is a far more twisted, malicious form of violence, and it shapes them to be violent. Since these systemic issues are demoralizing, younger kids can't process everything completely because it's so utterly disempowering for them, so yes, an 8th grader might not express herself clearly. I'm INCENSED that PW printed this.

Stay strong, kids!”

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21. Anonymous said... on Jan 21, 2010 at 04:18PM

“PW should print an apology for running this article.”

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22. Helen said... on Jan 22, 2010 at 10:40AM

“I appreciate the fact that PW doesn't want excuses for school violence, but here's the difference: The School District has also spun out a broad framework for school violence that blames society, "gangs," racially intolerant children and the violent communities in which they live. The District does that to avoid responsibility for what went down at South Philly. The young people here however have put out an analysis that is broad, yes, but has clear lines of accountability for teachers, schools and the District. Its an analysis that takes a look at lack of quality teaching that drives kids out of classrooms, at a lack of respect for culture and race that causes children to show the same, at suspend and expel disciplinary practices rather than restorative justice programs that actually work to heal a community. I hope PW will recognize the world of difference between spin (the District) and analysis (these young people).”

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23. Anonymous said... on Jan 22, 2010 at 03:43PM

“Isn't it interesting how the racial angle is totally downplayed whenever
"inner city youth" commit the violence? (which is 95 o/o of the time)
race is never a factor. But let someone THINK they heard an imagined
slight at a private swim club, all hell breaks loose, media gets involved as well
as pandering politicians. What hypocrites.”

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24. Anonymous said... on Jan 23, 2010 at 10:25PM

“Doesn't Becca T = Becca Trabin, fellow PW writer? Way to keep the feud in-house, guys.”

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25. School District Adult said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 10:04AM

“Joel, you are right on target with your analysis of these kids. They come to School District meetings, they demand an audience with school district leaders and they are led by activists with personal or business agendas. I see it all the time. The students come scripted and rehearsed. The adaults are always nearby to watch over them to make sure they say the right things.The students don't know substance, they only know 2 or 3 lines and they can't think outside of those points.
These students would be more effective being educated in depth on the real issues instead of being puppets to these "leaders". Again, your perception and analysis was dead-on correct. Nice job and it'sabout time someone brought this in the open.”

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26. Anonymous said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 10:20AM

“Joel, good job. I would suggest that you interview the kids without their adult handlers and see how much they really know, then interview the adult "activists" and get to the bottom of their personal agenda. The adults who handle the Philadelphia Student Union and the adults handling the Asain students run in the same circles and are throwbacks to the 70s activists. They use the students to justify their own jobs and keep their names in the paper while misleading the students. These adults are professional activists and that's it. Whatever is their latest and greatest cause to protest, they show up. They give the kids bad information and offer bad strategy. The students are nothing but talking heads for the adults and the adult who try to brainwash these students ought to be held accountable.”

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27. Hannah Sassaman said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 04:26PM

“Um, yeah. Joel, this is a terrible article.

I agree with the folks who say that the paper should print an apology -- or, better yet, an opinion piece from the students where they can describe their movement to end the school to prison pipeline, an all too real problem in our district and around the world.

Joel, did you go to the event at Arch Street Methodist and hear from students and teachers across the district about the positive vision they want to build? No one who spent time at that event could fail to appreciate the depth of commitment and vision the students had to support each other at the event they organized and in the future.

I'm just shocked at how snide and sad this piece is.”

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28. Anonymous said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 05:19PM

“"their movement to end the school to prison pipeline". More buzz word, activist talk. The "students" now have a movement? Not without being force fed their ideas by their adult handlers. I agree that the students should engage the school district officials WITHOUT being brainwashed by manipulating handlers.”

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29. Nicole said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 10:22PM

“I suppose that you ridiculous haters support the after school programs that get funded to the millions of dollars that have students cutting pictures out of magazines to make collages or painting by numbers? Come out of anonymity and request a meeting with students yourself. They will run circles around you. Do you have a problem with decision-makers that have millions of dollars for armies of PR people, lawyers, and lobbyists? If you ever again in your life make a positive reference to King, Malcolm X, or Obama, you are a complete hypocrite. The President used his community organizing skills to get into the White House. You know absolutely nothing about the organizations that you attack. You would rather tell young people to sit down and shut up that address the issues that they face and learn to be subjects instead of objects.”

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30. Don said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:11PM

“Philadelphia Student Union is awesome! Way to stand up against the problems in our school district!!”

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31. Brett Hart said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:15PM

“Did someone who identified themselves as "school district adult" just say "the students don't know substance"? Really? Did they really say that?
Well "school district adult", I guess your an authority, you work for the school district. By the way, you're doing a great job. Those students education is in your care and you defame them to prove your point? Next time man up and post your name; let us all see who in the school district doesn't believe in the students.”

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32. twolfson said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:47PM

“On Monday January 15th, the amazing young leaders at the Philadelphia Student Union held a "Call to Witness and Action" to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. The theme of the event was to call for an end to forms of school violence. The messaging that the students collectively developed for the event aimed to broaden our understanding of the subject of violence by explaining that the structural violence produced by underfunding our public schools leads to all sorts of negative outcomes from high drop out rates, low levels of college access and a school to prison pipeline. In order to develop this deep understanding of violence that many college students struggle to develop, PSU members came together for hours to probe the system in which their schools exist and develop a deeper analysis of the situation. Amazing right.

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33. twolfson said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:48PM

“Flash forward to the Philadelphia Weekly's article on the MLK event from reporter Joel Mathis. In Mathis' story "Hollow Protest Against School Violence" he argues that the students offer empty messaging, produced by adults, which is illustrative of the cynical media age we live in. I have to say that this article illustrates the worst of lazy, untrained reporting. First off, while Mathis had a fair question he wanted answering--about the actual experience of physical violence-- a convention of the profession is that reporters come to a story with an open-mind. However, when Mathis, a 36 year old white male, heard time and again, answers he didn't want to hear, that the problem of school violence was a larger structural problem, instead of listening to this message he characterized these smart young students of color as puppets of adult handling. Moreover he made this argument without the slightest of proof except that students stuck on their message, a lesson we are all taught.”

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34. twolfson said... on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:49PM

“What is worse is that Mathis did not even report on the message the students offered. He did not consider the argument they were making, or attempt to either justify or debunk this argument. Instead, he spent the precious words the Philadelphia Weekly mistakenly allotted him, to degrade young amazing students like Shania Morris, that decided to spend a school holiday taking part in the body politic, by calling them puppets of an "activist" agenda. The Philadelphia Weekly and Joel Mathis, owe the students of Philadelphia's school system an apology, one I think we all should demand.”

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35. Eric Braxton said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:27AM

“This is one of the most irresponsible pieces if journalism I have read in a long time. I would hope that the PW would hold its reporters to a higher standard. Bashing middle and high school students because you don’t like the way they answer your questions is unconscionable.

It sounds to me like Mr. Mathis had his own agenda of portraying students as either victims or perpetrators of violence. The students he encountered refused to play into that and instead raised some of the larger issues that feed into the problems in our schools. Since that isn’t what Mr. Mathis’ wanted to hear, he chose to discredit them.

It seems like when students are intelligent and articulate people say they are being coached and if they sound less articulate then people say they are just children who don’t know what they are talking about.

Disrespecting young people who are trying to change their schools and are strong in their convictions is a poor excuse for journalism.”

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36. Another Eye Rolling Comment said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 01:00AM

“We get it, the PSU and their mentors don't like the way they were repped here. No one denies there are phenomenon described as "institutional violence." But to play "we're all victims" when gangs within the school systematically beat students of a specific asian group, the PSU seems overwhelmingly silent on that specific issue, and in a democracy people expect an ability to articulate to the particular instance not just reiterate a general idealogy. Joel seems to accurately point out that the PSU's mentors have done their students a disservice in trapping them in the heady speech of 'social justice' abstractions.”

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37. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 01:08AM

“This article and the comments on here attacking the Philadelphia Student Union are appalling and flat-out incorrect. A quick read through the comments written by PSU members themselves (see above) makes clear immediately how blatantly wrong, ignorant, and unproductive Mathis' take on the students and the MLK action was.

Anyone who actually knows PSU members and about the work they do knows what an incredible organization it is. For those truly interested in an end to violence and its root causes, take some time reading PSU's website to learn *accurately* about what they have accomplished, how they work, and what they do: http://www.phillystudentunion.org. They are mind-bogglingly impressive and inspiring.”

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38. Nicole said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 09:45AM

“To: Another Eye Rolling Comment:
PSU is the *only* group of students that reached out to the Asian students and started to meet with them and stand in solidarity immediately after the incidents of December 3. And they got attacked for it from various quarters - Did you see any of the co-sponsoring groups for MLK day? The Asian students were there - and they spoke for themselves. The event was about the unity students, across color lines and neighborhood barriers. AERC - you don't know what you're talking about.”

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39. Aaron Couch said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 10:37AM

“What a sad and cynical view of these amazing students.


You are seriously attacking an eighth-grader for not having a more nuanced opinion on the "school-to-prison" pipeline?


You ask her a question about her specific experience with school violence and then are frustrated that she redirects you to the institution problems. What exactly are you arguing? That unless a student has been physically assaulted they shouldn't speak out? Would you prefer she tells you an anecdote and not have a larger analysis?


It is ironic that you are complaining about a lack of 'substance' from students at a rally they organized.


Joel, try and interview more than two people for more than two minutes. Try and go to a PSU meeting. Do some more research than showing up for an hour.


The PW is capable of good journalism. Philly needs the PW to be a source of good journalism. Please respect that.”

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40. fellow reporter said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 10:52AM

“I usually side with my fellow reporters, but this article is just dumb. This guy is mad because....kids were trained with talking points? Does he feel the same way about Ackerman, Nutter, and every other politician? Frankly, I think the organizers did a good job training kids to get their message out. That's communication 101.”

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41. Dana Barnett said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:13AM

“I echo all of these good points and positive comments made supporting the students who put this rally together and critiquing the many flaws of Mathis's argument.

One of the saddest aspects of this article is that it is attempting to undermine the efforts of public school students in Philadelphia, who are working to make a positive difference in their schools and communities. As others have stated the reporter should be seeking to understand and accurately reporting their message and we should all be supporting their initiative to build better schools and student community in Philadelphia.

These students struggle to find a decent education in underfunded schools. They are up against huge structural odds and yet they spend their free time volunteering, and organizing.

If they say that the root of the violence is poverty and neglect of underfunding then we need to listen to them! We need to support these students in making their schools and lives safer.”

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42. Duffy said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:51AM

“Hollow protest? How about hollow journalism! A group of teenagers stayed on point like a good campaign should. As an organizer I'm impressed, especially given some of them ARE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Good work PSU!

Joel, who pays you for this reactionary garbage? I can cover an event better than this. I'm submitting my resume today. Watch out, I'm taking your job, sucka.”

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43. Paul Walker said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:44PM

“I think it's terrible that Joel Mathis, digging for some sensational peek into the grizzly lives of high-school students, couldn't accept the PSU's point that underfunded schools are a form of violence against students and that Philly high-schools _are_ a pipeline to prison. Inequity in schooling is at the root of many of this city's problems. When students try to bring this to the forefront, why are they scoffed at by journalists seeking an easier story? Who's really skirting the issue here, Joel Mathis?”

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44. Another Eye Rolling Comment said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:45PM

“Nicole, it's pretty apparent that the rhetoric of the day was as inert as the "establishment" handling of the issue. Your movement created a puff piece and were called out on it. It doesn't take a genius to recognize the names here "Helen, Nicole, twolfsen, etc." pig piling on this article are the mentors of the PSU. The fact that the pig pile is almost entirely composed of twolfsen's e-mail address book shows just how inert your event was. No one cares about this article or the event's "ramifications" except those who were there or orchestrating. Clearly the PSU's mentorship is an unconscious exercise in narcissism at the expense of some well intentioned kids.

Waiting for Journalists 4 Mumia or his German academic friend to chime in on this silly tirade.

Duffy, you're impressed a group of teen agers gave a bad impression because their training made them come off as abstracted and removed from an issue that should arouse passions? Idiot.”

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45. quan b said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 01:08PM

“Good job Psu for sticking to your talking points and not allowing this idiot to have the story he wanted but trying to force him to give the one the city needs he so mad because Zakia and shania made him look like a a freshman journalist by ignoring his request for the youth on youth story.bumbass”

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46. Master Ganja said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 01:48PM

“What a bad story. What a hollow journalistic work. This is what happens when you leave "alternative journalism" to hipsters and neophytes that are only opinionated and don't really delve into the issues. But that's all you can get when you pay peanuts and hope Comcast throws some dollars at you. I wonder why the PW doesn't write anything on how that corporation does as it pleases here. Oh, probably because it's not PSU.”

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47. Nadeem said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 01:49PM

“Instead of applauding 8th graders for taking a stance against school violence -- regardless of how broadly defined it may or may not have been -- he picked on them? If not anything else, these teens deserve credit for their courage. Most of us were busy playing stick ball in the 8th grade - not organizing for change. Joel Mathis needs to get a life...”

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48. Lawrence Jones said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 01:59PM

“My name is Lawrence Jones and I am a sophomore at Drexel University and and has been a member of the Philadelphia Student Union for 5 years. First, I want to thank everyone for their support and positive comments. There's some real ignorance going around. Second, to Another Eye Rolling Comment, the people "pig-piling" on this article are not our "mentors" and neither are the staff at PSU. They are our supporters are we were and continue to be attacked by people who just don't get it. PSU is a YOUTH-LED organization and we make all the decisions. We teach each other in this organization and we are a family. We are ALL leaders and the adults ONLY provide support. Oh, and were you at Arch Methodist Church? You would have saw students speaking, hosting, cheering, and telling about their real life experiences. You mostly likely are NOT in high school anymore and you don't know how it is. Although I graduated two years ago, it's still the same as when I left it.”

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49. Lawrence Jones said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 02:18PM

“The duplicates were an accident. I apologize. I also wanted to address this notion that we are all being feed some message and are being controlled. First, that is extremely appalling and disrespectful to us as PEOPLE. To insinuate that we can't think for ourselves and we have "handlers" is ridiculous and idiotic to even think, let alone say. The adult at PSU are awesome and help us when we need it. The youth recruit. The youth teach the new people that they ARE leaders, not how to be one. The youth led the rallies and events and workshops and EVERYTHING! To say that we are brainwashed or something like that is just ignorance since you probably don't know any of us personally or know much about PSU in general. So, when anyone want to say something about PSU, make sure you have the knowledge to make it up.”

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50. Stacy in CA said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 02:19PM

“I don't live in Philly and have no connection with these schools or kids, but I do have a B.A. in Journalism and remember what it feels like to be a high school kid in a school/community with racial tensions, school violence, underfunded school resources, terrible school board policies that resulted in overpolicing schools and institutionalizing prison like qualities in public schools rather than addressing issues of interpersonal and institutional violence in more effective and straight forward ways such as tolerance and diversity training, non-violent conflict resolution programs, etc. I would not have been able to articulate my concerns as a high school student as well as I can now ten years later, but I assure you I felt those concerns daily, and I had definitely felt stronger about the institutional problems and inequities than the fights between individuals. And I know that many of my peers in my high school newspaper class did as well, and we did try to write about it in our”

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51. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 02:21PM

“I don't live in Philly and have no connection with these schools or kids, but I do have a B.A. in Journalism and remember what it feels like to be a high school kid in a school/community with racial tensions, school violence, underfunded school resources, terrible school board policies that resulted in overpolicing schools and institutionalizing prison like qualities in public schools rather than addressing issues of interpersonal and institutional violence in more effective and straight forward ways such as tolerance and diversity training, non-violent conflict resolution programs, etc. I would not have been able to articulate my concerns as a high school student as well as I can now ten years later, but I assure you I felt those concerns daily, and I had definitely felt stronger about the institutional problems and inequities than the fights between individuals. And I know that many of my peers in my high school newspaper class did as well, and we wrote about it in our HS newspaper”

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52. Stacy in CA said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 02:21PM

“I don't live in Philly and have no connection with these schools or kids, but I do have a B.A. in Journalism and remember what it feels like to be a high school kid in a school/community with racial tensions, school violence, underfunded school resources, terrible school board policies that resulted in overpolicing schools and institutionalizing prison like qualities in public schools rather than addressing issues of interpersonal and institutional violence in more effective and straight forward ways such as tolerance and diversity training, non-violent conflict resolution programs, etc. I would not have been able to articulate my concerns as a high school student as well as I can now ten years later, but I assure you I felt those concerns daily, and I had definitely felt stronger about the institutional problems and inequities than the fights between individuals. And I know that many of my peers in my high school newspaper class did as well, and we wrote about it in our HS newspaper”

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53. Shanee Garner said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 03:08PM

“Perhaps, just perhaps, those students were trying to teach you a lesson. One in opening your eyes to a broader analysis of the situation. You don't a rocket scientist to explain that violence detrimentally affects all students. You don't need a quote to understand that it's scary to go to a school where children are allowed to run rampan without structure or relationships with adults. What you do need, is to stop scape-goating 15 years olds for situations that are designed for their failure. You should know that underfunding schools like the Zakia's will almost surely result in a higher failure, absentee, drop-out, and violence rate. You should know that whether or not you have a juicy quote, something must be done to change the educational SYSTEM as it exists now. I am very very sorry that you feel cheated that students stayed on their self developed message and therefore did not feed you bitter sensationalized stories of blood and gore.”

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54. Marina in Bmore said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 03:17PM

“shout out to PSU! Remember, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you...and cover your story like this in the Philadelphia Weekly...but then you win. much respect”

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55. Ruby said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 03:24PM

“Stay strong, PSU students! You've got this one right.”

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56. K.O.M said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:34PM

“'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis(and bad journalists). But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it:”

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57. S Rosen said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:38PM

“I am deeply disappointed in the Philadelphia Weekly for publishing an article like this. There are so many things wrong with this piece that it's hard to start, but I'll try to comment on some of the most egregious aspects of it. Of course, it goes without saying that I echo many of the comments that have been made already. This kind of cheap, flashy reporting that makes a mockery of real people with real passion who commit real time to an issue is tabloid-ish at best. How sad that the PW would want to entertain readers by making fun of young people. This article and its author have several major weaknesses:

cont'd...”

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58. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:39PM

“First, Joel Mathis suffers from a lack of journalistic integrity. He makes claims and attacks individuals without having any real basis for his critique (though I use the word “critique” liberally, as it reads more like a bully’s taunting). I have spent time observing members of the PSU and of YUC (another Philly-based youth organizing group) in meetings, at protests, and in their schools, and I have witnessed firsthand the depth of their thinking about and commitment to the causes these groups represent. It is clear to me that Mr. Mathis has not. If he bothered to take the time to actually ask permission and attend one of the PSU's Saturday meetings, he might get to see what "youth led" means.
cont'd...”

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59. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:40PM

“Yes, youth organizing groups often employ charismatic, committed adults to run these non-profits, but the youth members consistently set the agendas, offer their experience-based insight into salient social problems that confront Philadelphia’s public schools, and do the tough work of reframing issues to counter the neoliberal, racist assumptions that underlie much of the mainstream media’s interpretations of social problems.

Second, in mocking the notion that these young people consider themselves part of a movement, Mathis ignores the extensive scholarship on youth organizing that combines empirical research with academic theorizing. This body of literature is very clear on the fact that youth organizing is considered a social movement. There is a nationwide network of youth organizing groups that seek to address issues such as educational inequity, immigrant rights, an unfair criminal justice system, and other problems that affect youth.

cont'd”

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60. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:40PM

“This network also mobilizes the support of a range of allies, including educators, politicians, parents, academics, school and district administrators, and the general public. Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Mathis hasn’t read any of this literature, though I would be happy to direct him to dozens of helpful sources if he is so inclined. And, having said that, I would also add that the best sources of information on this topic are still the youth organizers themselves. These are individuals with a great deal of experience doing what they do, and all of us could learn much by listening to them.

Third, I find it sad that Mr. Mathis cannot appreciate the magnitude of the fact that the young people he interviewed and observed are exhibiting capabilities and courage beyond their years.

cont'd...”

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61. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:41PM

“I am currently completing a Ph.D. at an Ivy League university, and I had the privilege of attending a well-resourced private school in my elementary years, an equally well-resourced suburban public school as an adolescent, and then a prestigious college. Even with all of that privilege, in high school I was not nearly as articulate as most of the students in the PSU. These students have a nuanced understanding of complex issues that clearly exceeds Mr. Mathis’s analysis. I would like to invite Mr. Mathis to come to a graduate class at my university, where we take pains to avoid his simplistic approach – the search for the “real” violence that Mathis keeps mentioning – in favor of an analysis that accounts for structural issues that shape and constrain the choices available to individuals in any given situation. Would a class full of graduate students be impressive enough to this journalist, or would he choose to dismiss them as well?

cont'd...”

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62. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:41PM

“Faced with a press corps that demands statements no longer than soundbites, the student members of the PSU have made the choice to stick to the soundbites that will reframe the public discourse on school violence. However, behind this choice are hours of discussion and reflection on their own experiences in schools that consistently fail to serve their needs – academically, emotionally, physically – schools that cannot take responsibility for the articulate, composed young people that stood before a group of reporters on MLK Day.

cont'd...”

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63. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:43PM

“I guess the most disappointing aspect of this article was the way Mathis chose to ignore the strikingly unique nature of this event. MLK Day is so often talked about as merely a “day of service,” a day for people to volunteer to feed homeless people or paint schools. But Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an activist, and his notion of “service” was one that involved changing the root causes of social problems, not just offering band-aid solutions or demonizing the victims of structural inequity. What the students who organized this MLK Day event were doing was more in the spirit of Dr. King than almost any other MLK Day commemoration in the city of Philadelphia – and certainly more so than other events taking place in the School District of Philadelphia that day.

cont'd...”

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64. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:43PM

“This is consistent with the PSU’s excellent track record of making major changes in Philadelphia’s public schools through more than a decade of organizing efforts. Couldn’t Mr. Mathis have found a more productive, supportive role as a journalist who ostensibly wants to see an end to school violence?

Joel Mathis, I hope that one day you will decide to think before you write. You owe it to the people of Philadelphia to be part of the solution rather than perpetuating the problem. In fact, I think this was the very point the students were making with this event. If we want to end violence in schools, we have to understand the layered nature of this violence, and we have to follow the lead of the young people who have the greatest stake in making this kind of structural change.

cont'd...”

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65. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:44PM

“My hat is off to the students of the PSU and to all the young people who joined with them on MLK Day for their thoughtful and courageous leadership. Thank you, young people, for sticking your necks out for the benefit of all of us. I look forward to following the rest of this campaign to end school violence in all its forms!

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66. S Rosen said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 05:52PM

“My hat is off to the students of the PSU and to all the young people who joined with them on MLK Day for their thoughtful and courageous leadership. Thank you, young people, for sticking your necks out for the benefit of all of us. I look forward to following the rest of this campaign to end school violence in all its forms!

Oops - all those Anonymous postings should have been under my name.”

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67. Ron Blount said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 06:48PM

“These young adults are amazing, they manage to live the dream of Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Every nationality, religious group, and age group was at this rally. It was a peaceful march including the students of Chinatown. How can you attempt to dirty something that is so beautiful. We should be encouraging young people that are doing postive things. I too believe that an apology is in order. Viva PSU”

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68. Rachel Goffe said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 07:05PM

“This article is completely inane and insulting to young people. Mr. Mathis went to the protest looking for spontaneous outbursts. I gather he thinks that's all youth are capable of. Instead he found a disciplined and unified force. Stunned, he tried to demean them. Shame on you!”

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69. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 07:42PM

“Well Mr. Mathis
Thank you for coming out and seeing what we, the Philadelphia student union is about. I’m a very hard working student and a member of psu. I would like to say one thing. You writing this letter say nothing at all about the person you are, what you stand for or how you to can help the problems that occur in Philadelphia public schools. To me your just like the rest of them. You all set back and point finger. I was one of the speakers at the m.l.k action. I worked very hard on my speech. I came after school every day, I put my time, soul and heart in every thing that I prepared. In my speech I explain to you, to every one the meaning of violence both interpersonal and structural and even gave examples. If you Mr. Mathis would have just for one moment open your mind and heart to what I said you truly would not have written this article. how could you disrespect students like that you should really be ashamed of your self…every bit of work that is done in psu is done by”

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70. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 07:45PM

“us the students and its is very disrespectful of you to think and feel like us as student is not capable of doing such incredible work. We never in one moment at the rally pointed a finger but that’s what you wanted us to do. Were not trying to do that we are trying to come together as one to end all violence every where. Instead of you writing something to reach out to us or to end any type of injustice you bashed us. So what type of person are you let alone a man. Psu have changed my life tremendously, since joining I have become a strong young leader in my family, community, school but most of all in my life and I thank you my fellow psu members for helping me become the person I am today. We are the students who are doing the right thing staying out the streets trying to make a difference not just for us but for those who come after us. And you’re telling me we still are not good enough. You know who I know is not good enough you and the rest of the people who try to but us down. So thank you again for coming out and sharing your thoughts. But as long as I’m in my right mind, living well and have blood flowing”

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71. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 07:55PM

“through my veins I will always stand with the love of my life, psu. I can tell you now you can write all the hatred and bashful things you want about us, but we will not stop, so write on!!!

~I JUST WANT TO SAY TO ALL THE PEOPLE THAT SUPPORTS US THANK YOU SO MUCH.LOOK AT THE THINGS WE AS STUDENTS (good and so called bad)HAVE TO GO THROUGH WE ARE HUMAN TOO AND WE HAVE MINDS TOO THANK YOU FOR STANDING BY US”

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72. Sarah S Smith said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 09:06PM

“What amazing activists and critical thinkers PSU represent.

It's unfortunate Joel Mathis came with an agenda that allowed no room to actually HEAR the the clear message put out by PSU. Not only is it irresponsible but utterly disheartening to read a piece of "journalism" that under minds the real issues at hand and does so by trying to "spin" PSU's MLK action as one that isn't relevant and hollow.

To PSU, supporters and allies, your voices, your message and your activism is heard and felt across borders! Thank you for your courage and brilliance.

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73. Allison B. said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 09:11PM

“It is sad to me that Mathis fails to see that the students who he spoke to last Monday at the MLK rally and action - along with most of the students there - were not just repeating talking points or rhetoric, but were illustrating their political analysis, which is clearly deeper than that which Mathis possesses (although perhaps not as deep as the hole that Mathis has dug for himself). An analysis that I don't think Mathis is even close to grasping. I am flabbergasted that the PW printed this article, and will be even more disappointed if an apology is not given to the PSU, and especially the young folks who Mathis disparages in his article.”

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74. Nijmie Dzurinko said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 09:40PM

“Thank you to our supporters. PSU is an asset which provides a huge value to the School District of Philadelphia without taking one penny of funds from our school system. The organization runs on a shoestring budget for the work we do and our incredibly dedicated staff. Our base of student leaders is composed of hundreds of incredibly talented yet discounted and de-valued youth in our city's poorest neighborhoods and most under-served schools. We are a community-based education setting in which young people reclaim their education, engage in problem-solving, literacy, communication and project-based learning skills. We provide extensive social and emotional supports for our members as well as 21st century skill development in cutting edge technologies. In all my years of being a youth worker and community organizer I have never experienced a more hateful atmosphere toward youth organizing than in the past year. Now more than ever, we need your support.”

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75. Anonymous said... on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:02AM

“Is repeating turgid marxist theory really critical thinking?

Does describing all social-economic ills as "violence" really do anything aside impressing an urban studies professor. Yes, it makes the relationship between the PSU and, well, society anatagonistic.

Perhaps the atmosphere toward youth organizing wouldn't be so hateful if the PSU was trained to engage in dialogue rather than castigating the situation as an systemic violence.

I'm guessing that eye-roller is right, y'all probably know each other.”

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76. Nijmie Dzurinko said... on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:52AM

“PSU designed and worked to implement Student Success Centers (SSC's). which provide young people with college and career readiness information and academic support. Student Success Centers are currently being brought to scale in all Empowerment Schools. We were a major youth voice in statewide organizing that brought about a new funding formula for schools in the state of PA, which takes into account factors like the number of students in poverty and the number of English language learners. Prior to this work PA had not had a formula for funding schools since 1993. Students have worked hard to bring transparency and accountability to the district, engaging leaders in ensuring that school district contracts are spent on proven reforms that help students improve academically. At West Philadelphia High School PSU members just led a "community tour" for their teachers, helping increase understanding between school staff and the community. For more: www.phillystudentunion.org”

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77. Anonymous said... on Jan 26, 2010 at 01:15AM

“Joel Mathis, thank you for providing such an incredible account of youth leadership and organizing. Despite your embarrassing display of disrespect, you quoted some brilliant statements, and I don't see one bit of wrong in anything the students said (or didn't say). They didn't let you spin them. They didn't let you defile and degrade their purpose. They didn't even let you dismiss them--instead you wrote a very long article, all about them.
If this was such a hollow event, why bother writing about it? You were too lazy to actually listen to the students (no matter what your silly article says), too lazy to actually walk to the church to hear the rest of the event, too lazy to contribute to reputable journalism--so lazy that you couldn't come up with a better subject to report on than this "hollow" event.
Philly Weekly: this guy doesn't deserve to write his name, let alone an entire article. What were you thinking?”

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78. Deborah Wei said... on Jan 27, 2010 at 09:46AM

“"A riot is the language of the unheard." That's what students were saying about school violence, and what MLK said decades before them. Mathis apparently lacks the intelligence for the depth of analysis the students have. Mr. Mathis - have you been in an underfunded public school? Was that your experience growing up? Have you seen violence - real violence - erupt and felt close enough to touch the causes - frustration, anger, and a sinking feeling that society has written you off? Have you felt racism so heavy that it's hard to think how you can struggle on? Here are students who face it every day and seek another path. Even as you try to write them off. I've worked in Philadelphia public education for more than 25 years. I was there at the march. I felt honored to be in the presence of these students. You have privilge that allows you to be stupid and get paid for it. But if pissing on 8th graders is what makes you feel like a writer, I feel sorry for you.”

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79. Anonymous said... on Jan 28, 2010 at 06:25PM

“How would Mr. Mathis have reported a protest led by a young Dr. King? How would he have responded to the youth-led protests of SNCC's most active years? This piece saddens me--it leads me to believe that he would have written those events off, too, instead of taking the time to uncover and reveal the root causes of systemic failures that these bright students battle in their spare time.

These are our city's future leaders, Mr. Mathis. I'm impressed that you managed to deftly refuse them leadership, agency, and ownership of their own beliefs in one (relatively) short article. Let's hope our city treats them better in the future.”

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80. Erika said... on Jan 28, 2010 at 07:37PM

“Joel Mathis = Boom! Roasted.”

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81. Jack Haley said... on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:14AM

“Joel Mathis should apologize to the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) or be fired. Unlike Mathis, I attended the entire MLK event that the students of PSU put on and talked at length with the student organizers. I was impressed by their depth of knowledge of the issues facing Philadelphia's schools as well as their passion and commitment to take a stand against the violence that the school system is failing to protect them from.

Mathis fails to cite a single source to support his allegation that adults are somehow secretly pulling the students strings like puppets. Mathis has no source because that is a lie and he is a liar.

Why is it so difficult for you to believe, Mr. Mathis, that Philadelphia students can analyze and articulate the problems that face them? Because they are too young? Because they are too black?”

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82. Aaron S. on the West Coast said... on Jan 30, 2010 at 09:32PM

“What did you REALLY want to hear from these young people, Joel Mathis? Because it *sounds* like you wanted to hear them describe themselves (and their communities) as victims... it sounds like you wanted the gritty, down-and-dirty, out-of-context details about what it's like to go to school feeling scared, furious, depressed, etc., etc. in Philly's public schools.

Fortunately, PSU appears to be a group of people with serious integrity who refuse to be portrayed as mere victims. It *sounds* like you're pissed because you didn't get a sob story but rather a story about some fiercely intelligent young leaders who indeed DO have their own agenda... and that agenda is clearly not one that you share. Stop trying to sell other people's life stories for cheap. MAKE a real one of your own.”

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83. N. Anderson said... on Feb 4, 2010 at 11:33PM

“This is a terrible article. Shame on the author for such poor, lazy, and classless journalism. We should be celebrating our positive youth instead of trying to undermine their efforts. Shame on you Mr. Mathis!”

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84. Ralph Dratman said... on Apr 21, 2010 at 01:51PM

“Mathis' article is disturbing, because he seems to be looking at school problems through a punishment-only lens. That approach never helps a situation. Rather, a mixture of mostly positive reinforcement combined with small amounts of negative reinforcement will slowly begin to make a difference. Unfortunately Mathis does not even propose specific aspects of negative reinforcement (punishment) that he wants to suggest. Rather he just derides the whole process. In the process he even betrays his "conservative" side of the argument by failing to include anything of substance in his article.

It's so easy to criticize, so hard to make a genuine contribution. If Mr. Mathis has positive suggestions for how to end school violence, let him come forward and lay them on the table. Otherwise, he should be advised to withdraw from the discussion.”

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85. Anonymous said... on Jun 11, 2010 at 02:11PM

“Underfunding=violence?? We have been throwing money at the schools for years with little to show for it. More whining from the entitled playing their usual game of 'pin the tail on the honky' instead of addressing REAL problems like violence and criminality.”

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