Samantha Kubota shares why she is a Generation Citizen Democracy Coach at Boston University.
I’m a Social Studies Education major – an explanation of why an organization like Generation Citizen (GC) caught my attention is a biography of my life, literally. GC is essentially my past, present and future. It encapsulates everything about my identity as both a person and a future educator. It represents my values, my ideas, my goals and ambitions.
It seems natural that I’d eventually end up in teaching. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been cornering my friends so I could deliver unsolicited rants on our education system. Most of these rants were incited by frustrations with my high school’s administration. I was the Student Council President, and I was simply bursting with ideas to improve student life.
But most of these ideas were quickly shut down. I can’t count the number of times when I was turned away with dismissals that “this is just the way things are.”
Obviously, receiving this response repeatedly infuriated me – it drove me insane. I became convinced that the school administrators were adamant in maintaining their flawed systems only because it was an easier alternative than undergoing the extensive process of taking action.
I was frustrated with the resistance of the administrators, but I was even more disappointed that I couldn’t convince my classmates to join me in demanding changes. The apathy was toxic – it was stifling, it was restrictive, it was the reason our school continued to be stagnant. We had become too comfortable to envision an alternative.
From then on, I dreamt of teaching my future students to “break the system,” even if it required fighting authority in the process. To me, it represented my own discovery that all of my high school’s rules were somewhat arbitrary, in the sense that they weren’t perfect and shouldn’t be enforced without a reason more valid than the emphasis on convention.
Breaking the system was a mentality that change is always possible, and almost always necessary, in one form or another. This is applicable to any system in life in general, whether it is simply correcting an ineffective workplace protocol, or abolishing an archaic law. Teaching my students to break the system would encourage innovation and creativity among a younger generation– everything society needs in order to continue progressing.
And this is what we do in Generation Citizen.
In GC we teach students that there is always work to be done and that they don’t need to settle with the existing conditions. We show them that their voices have power and that though they are young, they do have agency over what happens in their lives. And then our students actually go out and break the system – they demand changes, whether it is implementing a new school policy, opposing a piece of legislation or proposing a better one in its place.
One of my favorite moments from my GC class occurred while I was at home, reviewing the notes my students had taken during a presentation from Tito Jackson, a Boston City Councilor. Before I collected their papers, I asked them to jot down a sentence explaining what they took away from the visit.
I beamed when I got to a page absolutely crammed with elaborate note taking. At the very bottom, my student wrote, “They have to listen after we stand up!!!”
He is exactly right – three exclamation points and all.
Generation Citizen Democracy Coach and Chapter Director
Generation Citizen is a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 tax exempt organization which does not endorse candidates; our goal is to engage our staff, participants, and stakeholders in political and civic action on issues that matter to them personally and in their communities. The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the writer alone and do not reflect the opinions of Generation Citizen.