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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Youth and government; art we doomed?

Today was Youth in Government Day at Oakland County Circuit Court, a very noble endeavor to try and teach young people about why they should pay attention.

However, one part of it is a real shame.

The highlight for many, in fact, the only part of it that does not involve sitting and listening to a lecture is the police dog demonstration.

It's a shame for the media, us here at The Oakland Press, as it's the most interesting visual part of the day, and we rely on visuals to better tell stories.

But when I think of what I want our children to learn about our government, it includes the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the rules of evidence, the premise that we have rights and responsibilities.

Police dogs demonstrating how they attack and bite people? That reminds me of totalitarian governments, of suppressing the civil rights movements, even of Hitler's march across Europe.

They have entire crime lab, a jail (including the booking procedures), guns, dispatch center, training for officers. All this stuff, showcasing the rules we follow, the rights people, and the technologies we use to manage ourselves, and it's the dog that's always the most popular part of the police department.


Blogger mt teach said...

can i comment

April 19, 2012 at 10:10 AM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

Please do.

April 19, 2012 at 10:15 AM 
Blogger mt teach said...

It is obvious that you are not familiar with this program. As a teacher who has brought my students to this for a number of years, I can tell you that my students enjoyed so much of the program, not just the dogs. The interaction that they had with the commissioners, and the judges was thrilling for them. There were no boring lectures. I don't know what program you were at, but it wasn't the one that we experienced. Over the years, we have experienced the problems of county government - being in committees dealing with real problems - overcrowding of the jails, the West Nile Virus, Parks and Recreation budgets as well as the budget of the county as a whole. We have viewed taser demonstrations, and the like. Perhaps if you would do a bit or research about what you write about, you would know that the County Commissioners DO deal with the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the like - its called Constitution Day - and it too is a great program in the fall. Your ridiculous comparison of the police dogs demonstration to Nazi Germany only provides difinitive proof that you are not worth the time to view your warped perceptions. Please do everyone a favor and stop your mindless blogging!

April 19, 2012 at 10:19 AM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

Thanks for your input, especially the details about what is learned. I've covered a few of these over the years. I appreciate even your insults at the end, Mt. Teach.

However, I shall continue blogging and I'm not worried if you read or not. Please don't, I might say, if I knew who you were.

My point was just that it's funny that the dog demonstration is the seemingly the most popular part of the program; they have it every year. I noted that it's not representative of what our government is about, except don't mess with the police, yet it's the most popular part with the students and even with us, the media. The judges and commissioners give very fine presentations, especially Judge Warren, who has long been impassioned by teaching about our country's roots, which did not involve police dogs.

Yes, I usually disagree with the Nazi comparisons, but the fact is, they used dogs, just as the police down south did with civil rights advocates.

Thanks again for not coming back to read.

April 19, 2012 at 10:27 AM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

Oh, the art we doomed might have been strong and unnecessary but it was used because of our need for art to make a story more interesting for readers, hence the picture (art) of dog attack. :)

April 19, 2012 at 10:28 AM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 19, 2012 at 12:45 PM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 19, 2012 at 12:47 PM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

Oops. Had to repost this:
I received this and was asked to post it. Thank you for this fabulous commentary. I have to break it up due to character/word limits. This is from Julia Ruffin (see next post for more). Here you go:

Dear Mr. Frye,

“Youth and Government –Art We Doomed?” in response to your blog, I thought about your very scathing mischaracterization of the Youth in Government program and the young participants. After taking a deep breath, I’m still trying to understand the purpose of your blog.

It is obvious from your version of events that you were not present; therefore, you missed a great portion of the program and some very important elements that gave better understanding to area youth and their views on government.

You missed the eloquent expressions and very well-thought out questions that these students vocalized, such as asking “Why is it that when a person runs for office they promise to do certain things, but when they get into office they do not keep their promises?”

Another student asked, “How has the war on drugs affected Oakland County?”

What about the number of young people who listed what they believed to be important leadership qualities? If you were at the Open Forum and the County Leaders Panel, you would have heard the strong convictions of high school students listing the following qualities: HUMILITY, HONESTY, GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS, THE ABILITY TO UNDERSTAND ANOTHER’S PLIGHT—COMPASSION, INCLUSIVENESS, CIVILITY, RESPECT FOR OTHERS, INTEGRITY and the ABILITY TO GET ALONG WITH ONE ANOTHER, which are only a few that students listed. Some explained in detail why they selected a particular leadership quality.

How about the young student who inquired about the contention in Congress and the fact that Congress has the lowest ratings in the history of the body as reported by media polls; he wanted to know “Why are the two political parties at such odds?” He wanted know why it is that the two parties are not working together for the country and the American people.

If you wanted to cover the program in its entirety, you could have witnessed another student ask the County Leaders Panel about steps she needs to take to prepare herself for elected office, even though she is in high school. What courses and what activities should she be involved in to prepare her for such a future.

You missed the excitement in the student’s eyes as they sat in the Commissioners’ seats and you missed a teacher asking his student how it feels, while encouraging the student to visualize him as an elected official one day.

You missed the students confidently speaking out formally and informally after the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee meeting ended. Students approached commissioners about an array of issues.
In your blog, you asked if they are paying attention and my response is “YES”—more than you know and wanted to use as visuals for your media purposes.

You missed area students speaking out and you missed a group of very dedicated elected officials, county representatives and employees who gave of their time to listen.

April 19, 2012 at 2:49 PM 
Blogger Stephen Frye said...

You missed the dedicated teachers, chaperones, parents and students who came to be a part of this program with some teachers and their principals going the extra mile to make certain they were a part of the April 12th Youth in Government Day program.

You tried to reduce the program to being about dogs which was very disingenuous. The Oakland County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit is a very important part of public safety and law enforcement. Those students who learned about the K-9 Unit may have an interest in pursuing a career in law enforcement to serve the public, as I do not assume that all students will run for elected office. But this presentation was only one small part of the day’s activities.

You presented the program as being about a bunch of lectures that could not be further from the truth. Students were not lectured. They were educated about how county government works and were given opportunities to discuss what they learned. Students witnessed government in action and participated in the process, voicing their concerns—in an open and unfiltered environment.

Over the past 32 years, this program has evolved and covered many areas of government and issues, while always making it a point to be relevant to area youth. Many elected officials from County Commissioners, County Executives, County Treasurers, County Sheriffs, County Prosecutors, County Clerks and Circuit Court Judges have participated in the program through the years.

Because of their involvement, area youth have been inspired to see themselves as judges, elected officials and law enforcement professionals.

You missed students and teachers being informed and given applications for the Junior Leadership Oakland program, which strives to model and promote diversity and inclusion as a means to strengthen leadership for high school students. Also, students learned about the National Association of Counties “Counties Work” online interactive program that teaches students about how county government works throughout the United States.

As one who has also worked in the media, I know firsthand the power of the press and the fact that you can spin a story to produce a certain outcome. I only wish you would have covered the event in its entirety as you missed a great deal of good visuals that could have aided you in producing a more balanced view of the program.

In reference to Hitler and the other outrageous reminiscent comparisons you shared in your blog, you did not explain how it has anything to do with the program. You mentioned some of the most uncivilized aspects of history—WHY? Youth in Government Day is a program that gives voice to young people.

Unlike Hitler and Totalitarian Regimes, young people were never given a true voice—but were silenced or used for propaganda purposes. Did you even take the time to ask any of the students and the teachers what they thought about each aspect of the day’s activities? Why Not?

This was truly a missed opportunity for you in the media, who look for visuals to convey a very valuable and positive story about area youth.

Julia Ruffin
Oakland County Board of Commissioners—Liaison
Youth in Government Day Coordinator

April 19, 2012 at 2:50 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Stephen Frye,

My name is Evan. I am enrolled at Birmingham Groves high school. I also went to youth in government day.

Let me just point out that you are an idiot and did not learn anything from it.

Youth in government day was one of the best days of my life. I learned so much from it. I also met some very nice higher ups that answered some questions I had like Mrs. Marcia Gershenson. She also gave me her business card if I had any more questions or advice. It was a high point in my life.

For you to write this article is just a disgrace. I doubt that you even stayed for the whole thing. I bet the only thing you did was go there for 5 minutes, watch one groups reactions of the police demonstration with the dogs, and leave without another word.

You make me sick.

And this article you wrote is just disgraceful. We all went to it because it caught our interests. Half of us didn't even know that the police were going to give a demonstration with dogs, including me.

Plus the police are just doing their job keeping us in line. It makes no sense what-so-ever for you to think of totalitarian governments.

Plus I am Jewish. I am very offended that you would make any comparison at all with Adolf Hitler. For that matter you have angered my entire religion and a great number of others as well.

For that matter the police demonstration with the dogs was only like a half hour. The most interesting part was when we heard from our representatives and got to ask questions, along with lunch.

I feel the only reason you wrote this article was for attention in which you want the publicity for getting rid of something that meant a lot to people like me.

Anyway, long comment short, you article is terrible and completely misses the point of youth in government day.

Sincerely, Evan

April 21, 2012 at 2:42 PM 

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