Airing council meetings on television could be a great way to combat the deadening apathy that is the real enemy of public discourse these days. Most ordinary citizens feel left out of the political conversation, convinced that only shadowy, impersonal "powers that be" have a say in what goes on. Imagine the effect, though, if you could turn on your TV and see a neighbor down the street who you merely nod to in passing, arguing in public about a topic that you also have an opinion about. You might be tempted to share your own ideas with this person the next time you bump into them, a conversation which would not have happened if you hadn't seen your neighbor on television. Lo and behold, the idea that you too could speak at a public meeting might not seem so far fetched anymore.
As an educator who has worked in the Hoboken public schools, I also see the tremendous potential benefit in letting students watch tapes of public meetings. Teenagers are hurting today because they are shoved off to the side of a culture too busy making money to care about them. The result is a profound sense of alienation, a feeling of being unloved and uncared for that is the real cause of teenage violence, drug abuse and suicide.
We now have a wonderful opportunity to help lessen their feeling of being left out by playing tapes of public council meetings in classrooms, then asking students to voice their opinions on the local issues. Everyone benefits from this. Teenagers feel valued again. School is transformed from a place where a boring, irrelevant, fill-in-the-blank curriculum further alienates our children from us, to a vital interesting place where real things that matter are discussed.
Our community, and politicians will be blessed by the release of the amazingly fresh and unique perspectives our young people have to offer.