It was cloudy but warm, so I wore my “No warships” t-shirt. As I started to protest, it started to unexpectedly drizzle. I was worried, because I didn’t have an umbrella or a jacket. Luckily, the rain stopped.
Jonathan, a journalist with the Halifax Media Coop, came to interview me about my high school essay contest. In the spring, I launched an essay contest open to all high school students in the province. They were invited to write an essay that answered this question: “Instead of spending $25 billion to build new warships for the navy at the Irving shipyard in Halifax, how could the Canadian government invest our tax dollars to make our society and our economy greener, more equitable, and more peaceful?” To publicize the contest, I mailed a letter with a poster and emailed every high school in Nova Scotia. I also put up posters in high schools and hand delivered letters and posters to individual teachers. I was so thrilled to receive about a dozen entries from students. They wrote thoughtful essays about how the federal government could instead spend our tax dollars on smale-scale organic agriculture, education, and renewable energy to create a better country.
I was very grateful to the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group for helping to fund the prize packs for the winning students.The winners got a copy of the book by Todd Gordon, Imperialist Canada, stickers, a DVD “What I’ve Learned about U.S. Foreign Policy”, a copy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence“, and a cheque.
The essay contest was a great way for me to reach students on this issue and encourage them to think critically about what is going on in Nova Scotia. It was also a way for me to counter the NDP provincial government’s Kids & Learning First Policy that was released in February 2012. The policy presents the new direction for education and re-orients curriculum so that high school students have the skills to work in the shipyard. The word “shipbuilding” is stated three times in the policy but the words “sustainability education,” “environmental education,” education for sustainable development,” and “climate change” are not even mentioned. Under the policy, the Department of Education is also giving credit if high school students join the cadet program. The department is not being honest with the high school students that it is warships that are going to be built at the shipyard and that the cadet program is really a recruitment strategy for the military.
Jonathan has been working for the Halifax Media Coop for a few months. He is a student at Mount Saint Vincent University and is interested in sociology. He took a course with Dr. Alex Khasnabish, a professor who teaches critical and radical political theory, and became more interested in popular movements and resistance. As a journalist, Jonathan wants to write under-reported stories about people’s struggles. I think that’s so important and noble. We also talked about the importance of critical thinking and dissent in education and in society.
Judy, a professor at Saint Mary’s University joined us. She is an example of a professor and a person who inspires critical thinking, dissent and positive social action. It was nice to see her again at the protest. We laughed again about buying the house that is for sale across from the shipyard and turning it into a peace house.
We were talking a lot and I was not paying close attention to the expressions of support and opposition but I did count 3 happy honks.
Afterword: Jonathan published his article about my essay contest with the Halifax Media Coop on July 26. The article is entitled “Nova Scotia youth discuss alternatives to warships.”
Dedication – For brave Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye who was just released from prison after being held for three years on trumped up terrorism-related charges at the request of President Obama. Shaye is a reporter who helped expose the U.S. cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah that killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children in December 2009. Many people around the world believed that Shaye was imprisoned to silence him and stop him from reporting on US drones in his country. You can read about his reporting and plight in prison here on Democracy Now! “Yemeni Reporter Who Exposed U.S. Drone Strike Freed from Prison After Jailing at Obama’s Request.”