The Advocacy of a Young Writer
It seems adults aren’t the only ones expressing rage these days at our government. Max, ten years old, is pissed off too.
In South Carolina where Max lives, a legislator proposed a bill that would require all public school students to wear uniforms. Democrat Cezar McKnight proposed the bill in January stating, “…peer pressure causes students to ask their parents to spend large sums of money to ensure they can wear designer clothes to school on a regular basis.” It also states, “…students have, regrettably, used particular articles of clothing on occasion to identify themselves as members of certain gangs, to the detriment of discipline and safety at their schools.” There’s a provision in the bill in which children who receive free or reduced-price lunches will be given five sets of uniforms.” Of course, the uniforms will be free as long as there is money in the budget. We all know how that typically works out for constituents.
Max heard about this proposal on the news and he immediately began to voice his rage to his mother. She offered a simple suggestion: “Well, the best way to speak out is to send a letter to the congressman who proposed the bill.” With a pressing purpose for writing, and an authentic audience to receive his ire, Max marched to the kitchen, grabbed a pencil, and wrote. His letter, written entirely by himself, is attached.
After a brief introduction, Max lays into the congressman with his concerns. First, he worries about his status amongst his friends. He needs to prove to them that he did, indeed, get a Miami Dolphins T-shirt for Christmas. After all, knowing which team has your loyalty is important in boy culture. It’s what you use to rib a friend for a loss or hate another friend for a win. For many boys, who they cheer for on any given Sunday says as much about who they are than it says about who they cheer to victory.
In boyland, your word is your bond. So if you tell friends you have something and they respond, “Prove it!”, you better damn-well prove it. Max knows this. And he pleads with his congressman to not make a liar out of him.
For many boys, verbal expression takes a back seat to physicality. A swagger says more than a speech. The wardrobe must match the attitude. “Nobody would know me,” is Max’s plea to not strip him of his identity.
We writing folks talk about the power of choice in writing topics, audiences, and purposes. Sometimes we forget how much those same foundational principles apply to all aspects of a writer’s life.
Love the venom this young boy can spew towards the government official who is supposed to be representing him and his family, as well as his friiends. Love the mother who suggested he put his words and anger on paper! Love that you shared this. It speaks volumes of boyhood identity, government pressures, and expressing one's self. I often talk of audience with my writer's. In this piece, audience is nicely demonstrated. Thanks.
3/29/2017 05:07:22 pm
That is a great letter, right to the point and no mistaking what he wants the congressman to do. I hope he gets a response! I hope Max will continue to express himself to others, both in office and in other parts of his life. Words are powerful!
3/29/2017 09:23:59 pm
What a way to encourage Max to use his voice! I love it!
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About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.