How it all started

Sometimes you have the fortune being in the right place at the right time. I worked as a lecturer in philosophy at Vallentuna 2:nd high in the early 2000´s. At the same time there was a group of fantastic students: Anders, Linnea, Olle, Kalle, Josephine, Paris, Jonas, Andreas, Shanti, John Gabriel, Thomas, Adde, Chriss, Bobby, Peter and others. Together they were brilliant. They could bring intellectual reasoning and create engagement. This handful of students affected the very school culture. They opened their own intranet for school students where the debate was lively. When other students used the word “whore” and ”fag” frequently they started a group of Founding Values in the high school to fight against sexism and homophobia. When an action group put flyers in students’ lockers with racist propaganda, so the students organized a large manifestation in the schoolyard.

There was plenty of money in the municipality at the time and interest in computers was high. The declining political involvement was on the public agenda. Vallentuna municipality had received project grants to enhance young peoples commitment, so they invested 10,000 USD on a study day in high school. The 3:rd October 2000 “IT and democracy” was on the schedule. The purpose of the study day was trying to arouse interest in politics. A company that had developed an electronic discussion system came to our school and set up a network. In the school auditorium fifty computers linked together in a network. Pupils from high school and a handful of specially invited politicians from the City Council sat side by side at the computers. Additional students and audience was in the gallery, including me.

"Computer Network"

A moderator led the work with computers. He went through how the system worked and told that all messages and polls are anonymous. No one should hesitate to speak. All messages appeared on the screens, but you could not see who had written what. Then he asked what the most important political issue for young people in Vallentuna is? What did they want to change?

The students came up with proposals mixed with rogue comments that the moderator quickly removed. After a scoring, the highest score were the proposal to organize a recreation center for young people aged 15-18 years.

Now it was time to clarify the proposal. The moderator asked a few preliminary questions about the recreation center. Where would such a recreation center lie? What activities should there be? The ideas hailed and the improper comments were lost when the students noticed that the system worked. They scored the ideas in the same way as before.

Then the work on the computers suspended and the debate went on to become verbal. The oral debate began with the invited politicians introducing themselves by name and party, and held since the opening round of pleadings speech. Then put a politician today’s main question: Why are so few young people politically active?

  • One student replied that she did not like to choose a ‘package view’. She felt that her views could not be placed on a left-right scale.
    – All questions are fundamentally ideological, said the politician who asked the question.
  • Another student did not think it was possible to influence by policy. “The decisions comes from the top, anyway,” he said.
    – You do not really understand how democracy works, he got in response from an elected representative.
  • A third student experienced policy tedious and sluggish.
    – On the contrary, it is actually very engaging, said one of the politicians.
  • A fourth student replied that she did not have time to become politically active because there is so much else that you want to do. Now the invited politicians nodded assent.

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