In Praise Of The Idealism Of Youth
Wednesday - April 21, 2010
I have a new hero. His name is Michael Francis Doyle III. He was a student in a writing class I taught last semester. Michael graduated from Moanalua High School in 2006 and is currently enrolled as a political science major at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu.
Last week Michael’s handsome Irish mug was all over the newspapers and television newscasts. He was among the supporters of Save Our Schools Hawaii who were cited for sitting in the Governor’s office. They were charged with “trespassing.”
Michael is guilty, I think, of youthful idealism and a belief in democratic govern-ment’s ability to solve problems.
“I joined the sit-in as soon as I heard about it,” Michael says. “More people have to take action to support the things they believe in.”
He bears no animus toward the Capitol police who cited him twice, then handcuffed him and took him out to Halawa prison to be processed.
“The cops were really nice,” he says. “I think some of them supported us. It was Gov. Lingle who treated us badly. She could have met with us on the first day. Instead, she ignored us and went out the back door of her office. Then she wrote letters to the media about us.”
Michael acknowledges that there are other villains in the creation of Furlough Fridays - others who have helped Hawaii claim the honor of the nation’s shortest school year: the Hawaii State Teachers Union, the Board of Education, the Legislature, the board-appointed superintendent.
“But Gov. Lingle is our elected leader,” Michael insists. “It’s her responsibility to solve the problem. She could have met with us and explained to us how we might have helped her.
“Instead, she ordered us cited and arrested for criminal trespassing.”
Michael was one of four sit-in participants who were arrested, and 17 others were cited. “How can you trespass on public property?” Michael asks.
I’m not sure, but governors and university presidents and generals have a history of believing that there is something sacred about their particular patch of public property.
Upon his release, a television reporter asked Michael how he felt.
He responded: “I’m tired and frustrated.”
In that, I think Michael speaks for every citizen of the state of Hawaii. Furlough Fridays were a singularly stupid idea, and all who signed on to them deserve a share of the blame.
But six months have transpired since the governor acknowledged the original act of stupidity, yet Furlough Fridays remain on the state’s educational calendar. Therein lies criminality, not in sitting in the governor’s office pleading for an audience with the state’s highest elected official.
Indeed, what else could a concerned parent or citizen possibly do? Nothing seems to have moved teachers, union leaders or elected officials - and the governor does sit in the office where, as the saying goes, “the buck stops.”
“I hope we’ve raised people’s consciousness,” says Michael. “Furloughing is just an added part of our problems with education. When Gov. Lingle was first elected she pledged that children would be the first priority of her administration.
“But she’s made clear that when it’s money or children, money comes first. She just doesn’t want to tell us that education is not a state priority.”
That seems harsh, but Michael reminds me that idealistic young people can go too far at times. Think about all those kids, black and white, who marched and sat-in for civil rights in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Or of those who marched and sat-in to end our participation in the blood-letting in Vietnam.
Yes, young idealists can overstate, but they can also remind us of what’s important. Michael Francis Doyle III remains my hero of the hour.
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