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40


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 40, July 9, 1998

Untitled Essay

First Place Winner, Teen Category

By Krissi Pulliam (age 17)

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         You must go to school.
         You must wear this uniform every day so that you don't venture onto the wrong path and become a member of a gang, and this clothing will protect you from yourself.
         You must be home before 9:30 in the evening unless you are accompanied by someone over age 18, since obviously only people over 18 are responsible enough to take care of themselves at any time past 9:29 in the evening.
         You must not drink alcohol or have sex.
         You must volunteer at least 40 hours of your time in order to graduate because we feel that volunteering is a good experience for you, and while you are in school, you must do absolutely everything necessary to get into a good college even if you don't enjoy it. After all, colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals and you must get into a highly respected university.
         You must take advanced placement and honors level classes, and you must question yourself and begin to study the great thinkers of the past since you will not be able to understand yourself without learning about philosophies of days past. You must see yourself as part of the whole that makes up society. You must live your life, make lots of money, and do the best you can to serve humanity.
         And oh, along the way, try to enjoy your life a little.
         With all the "You must.." being offered by society to today's youth, it's little wonder that the mass of us have become meek and quietly accepting of society's impositions into our rights. Few of us know who or what we are anymore because we've been trying all our lives to do what we've always been told we ought to do. We are given curfews, school uniforms, and other restrictions because we are not trusted to make the right choices about what to wear or what time to come home. Since a few young people the wrong decisions, apparently this merits the infliction of a punishment on the entire group of people.
         The transgressions do not even end there. Our minds are believed to be so easily influenced that the Christian right has decided for everyone that "sex education" means training us in the different ways to say "no" rather than giving us the information we need should we make the decision to have sex. Never mind that countries that supply youths with birth control have far fewer cases of teen pregnancy and STDs. That's irrelevant, it seems.
         The above all describes what I believe to be one of the greatest ills facing our society today. One by one, the public is stripping youth of the rights and responsibilities they deserve. How are we supposed to figure out who we are and what we need to do if everyone is too busy dictating to us and programming our minds to follow the paths they wish they had followed when they were our age?
         I'm about to graduate from high school now. Only three months remain of my 13 years of schooling, and looking back on it, I feel like I'm lucky to have not been robbed of my individuality. In elementary school, we were taught to write our last names first on the papers to make it easier for the teachers to record. To this date, some of my classmates, when asked their names, still respond with "Smith, John". I barely escaped school uniforms by one year.
         Currently, I'm coming to the realization that in the classes which claim to engender creativity, the opposite is really true. By teaching students to write poems, following specific preset formats, we discourage the students from developing their own new ones. Even free verse is considered a format these days. Is there nothing to be done? Is it hopeless to believe that there might be a way to teach students without making them all the same?
         I have not quite figured out what should be done about this yet. I don't know. The best I can hope to do at this point is not to give in and follow a path I don't believe in simply because it is what everyone else has told me to do. I want to be me, the way that I invent me ... not the way society wants to program me. I will take my idea of me, and do my best to live it, encourage my future children to be themselves ...
         I may choose someday that I should do what I can to repair some of the damage done by society and become a teacher myself. A new movement is appearing in the world of education where the best way of teaching is not to line everyone up in rows of desks and lecture them, but it is to set them free to find their own ways to learn. I would like to help in this campaign and teach people to defend their own individual rights, both legal and within themselves, if not through schools, through writing.
         There are some new "You musts ... " that I would like to bring the world.
         You must choose your own clothes in the morning. You must use what you know from your experiences to try and make the best decisions for yourself. You must not rely on others to make these decisions for you. You must look into yourself and figure out what you want out of life. You must believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. You must not blindly obey what society wants you to do without justifying it against your own experiences. You must see yourself as an individual rather than simply as part of a larger picture.
         And oh, along the way, you must be you.


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