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The Real Narrative of the RNC Protest: Will Anyone Remember?

On Monday in Perry Harvey Park, a young woman from the resuscitated Students for a Democratic Society stood on stage and repeated the popular line from college classes about imperialist wars. She then led a chant: “Education is a right. Fight, fight, fight!”

A student from the Student Labor Action Project, which is a unit of Jobs with Justice, addressed the audience, “men and women and those who do not conform to gender.”

A “Rock the Vote” bus drove near the protest site in Ybor City on Tuesday. Rock the Vote is getting a benefit concert at the Democratic National Convention by the Foo Fighters. A look at the issues confirms a partisan mission.

President Obama is desperately courting college students, luring them with promises of loan subsidies. He was turned away from the campus of the University of Virginia. But this president, in an unprecedented manner, has imposed himself into school rooms across the nation by delivering a message directly to children in his annual back-to-school speech. Four years ago they were too young to vote. Not now. But you have to wonder about political candidates who have to rely on the support of the “youth” and children.

The Democrats also have the support of teachers and professors. At Ohio State University, an English professor sent a message to colleagues imploring them to allow an Obama campaign worker to address their classes. Textbooks now present the words of Obama as hallmarks of eloquence.

Youth Vote Remains an Elusive Target for Republicans” reads the headline in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The enthusiasm among young voters is waning, but Obama still holds a lead. The reporter quotes Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political science professor who “moderated an independent panel discussion … hosted by the Young Invincibles, a nonprofit youth advocacy group.”

The name “Invincibles” implies bravery, resourcefulness. Yet, a look at the web page reveals that the organization is “fiscally sponsored by the Center for Community Change, a longstanding organization committed to building the power and capacity of low-income people across the country.” The partner organizations are a Who’s Who of the far left. Student debt is the appeal on the main page, yet the message is that we need more college graduates.

Young voters -- because of the education they’ve received -- are vulnerable to such appeals. The SDS, reincarnated by the original members of the SDS like Tom Hayden, Carl Davidson, and Mike Klonsky, is something new to most of them. Only about two of my students had even heard of the SDS. The web site states that SDS has merged with Occupy Colleges based on “common principles of participatory democracy.”

“Participatory democracy,” of course, is a euphemism for soviet democracy (another part of history students are not likely to learn) and it comes from the manifesto of the original SDS. But students are taught that protest is a sacred American rite. It’s in their lessons about the 1960s. Virtue is presented as synonymous with fighting corporations and Republicans on behalf of the oppressed.

Civic discourse has been abandoned for the shouted slogans at rallies and heckling. At conferences, English teachers and professors discuss ideas for incorporating the “rhetoric” of protests into their lesson plans. The idea of civic duty through military service or traditional volunteer agencies has been replaced by college-sponsored “community service.”

College students see a bleak future with a lot of debt. The only hope they have, they are led to believe, is from the government, the government that will subsidize their educations and provide jobs. They are supplicants, like the peasants of yore to their lord. But as I mentioned earlier, few college students have heard the word, much less understand how such a class is being created in the United States.

I have witnessed firsthand media attempts to make something out of nothing. I know also that what will be presented in the history lessons will not be the reality, which is the pathos of a fizzled movement by a sorry group of people. Instead, like a New York Times lesson plan peddled to teachers, students will be expected to debate in all seriousness inane slogans like “We are the 99%.”

No, they definitely are not. That is the lesson of the anti-RNC “protests.”