Thursday, November 12, 2009
Farmville-generated thoughts about WMRA's Civic Soapbox . . .
I was invited because these two creative professors had included the WMRA listeners as one of their designated audiences, and assigned their students the task of writing a Civic Soapbox essay. My job was to talk about what I think works from atop the Soapbox.
We had many interesting and lively discussions over the course of the two days I was there, but one student said something that worried me. We were taking a look at another student's opening paragraph in which she talked about watching her little brother play sports, and this guy questioned whether NPR listeners would be interested in hearing anything from a person who was obviously so young, since NPR listeners were all really old.
Of course, I immediately disabused him of the notion that NPR listeners are really old--although if I remember myself correctly as a twenty-year-old, twenty-five seemed really old. And, helpfully for me in making my point, it turned out that there was actually a sprinkling of WMRAers among his class-mates.
Beyond demographics, however, I realized I couldn't speak for the generic NPR "listener," I could only speak for myself. And so, speaking for myself, I said I greatly value hearing the thoughts, the experiences, the hopes, the fears, the stories of college students. Of course, college students are less experienced than I am, but what experience they've had is quite different from mine in many, many important ways--both personally and generationally. This leads them to question life, institutions, traditions, relationships, their world, themselves in ways I've never even considered. And to me, finding new questions to ask is what keeps life such a grand adventure.
Oh golly, I know most of the essays we run from atop the Soapbox are written by people who are, shall we say, not under 25 as, I think, all my temporary Longwood University students were. But I certainly hope nothing about the community effort that is WMRA seems unwelcoming to anyone's voice, anyone's opinion, anyone's story.