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Camden students’ political manifesto draws attention of politicians local and international

By Daniel Dunkle | Apr 01, 2021
Courtesy of: Watershed School Watershed School students from the Ethics and Public Values seminar. Pictured are, from left: Nate Strout, Garrett Neal, Thor Gabrielsen, Morgan Macdougal, Lily Cassidy, Vivienne Willett, Maggie Vinci, Sarah Morgan, Caleb Edwards, Alden Lewis, Jamie McAllister, Rep. Vicki Doudera, and teacher Mark Burrows.

Camden — Visitors including a member of the European Parliament and the Maine Legislature tuned in for a presentation at the Watershed School Thursday of a student-written political manifesto.

Students who have been taking the "Ethics and Public Values" seminar shared “A Vision of Society” that called for great emphasis on climate change, elimination of the electoral college, healthcare for all, a $15 minimum wage and a greater focus on international relations. Their full statement will be published in the editorial section of The Camden Herald and The Courier-Gazette April 8.

Mark S. Burrows, Ph.D., an author with experience teaching graduate school students, has been leading the class.

“I designed this course to explore seminal public statements that sought to articulate a vision for a more just and equitable society,” he said.

The students studied works including The Declaration of Independence, The Communist Manifesto, and The Port Huron Statement by Students for a Democratic Society from 1962. They also studied the Ten Point Platform and Program of the Black Panthers from 1966.

Students then had to discuss what changes were needed in our society and come to an agreement on these often-divisive issues so they could author their own manifesto.

The piece presents a political statement in the space of about two pages that takes a clear position on the most important issues of our time.

German politician David McAllister of the European Parliament tuned into the event via Zoom and spoke to the students after their presentation. His daughter Jamie is an exchange student in the class.

He said the two-page statement is more difficult to create and better than a 100-page document because, at that length, it will actually be read. He noted that many of the things they are demanding of the U.S. government, such as a public health care system, are already in place in Germany. He praised their focus on international relations saying that while the United States is the strongest nation, there are also 192 other nations (193 total in the United Nations; two others outside that group). He said now that Joe Biden is president, America is back in terms of international leadership and relations.

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, attended the event in person and complimented the students on their ability to come up with a statement working in a large group.

“We need and want your participation,” she said to the students. She said when young people speak, the Legislature listens because they represent the future.

She agreed with the focus on climate change, noting she is on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

To the list of items the students addressed, she added some for them to think about, including affordable housing, gun violence and reproductive rights.

The students argued in their statement for developing renewable energy, enacting campaign finance reform, elimination of the Senate filibuster, making Election Day a national holiday, and the understanding that all human lives are equal in value.

They called for “the promotion of more efficient and redistributive taxes, with programs to help those underserved by capitalism (such as universal child allowances, anti-poverty programs, and Universal Basic Income).”

While they acknowledged in the statement that they come from a place of privilege, they also stated during the discussion that their generation does not feel the health and safety of past generations. This is a generation that has had to perform active shooter lockdown drills in their schools from an early age and who face inheriting a future blighted by climate change.

These students are: Lily Cassidy, Caleb Edwards, Thor Gabielsen, Alden Lewis, Jamie McAllister, Morgan McDougal, Sarah Morgan, Garrett Neal, Nate Strout, Maggie Vinci and Vivienne Willett.

Their teacher, Burrows, is a story unto himself.

He is a scholar of theology and religious culture, with a special focus on the European Middle Ages, and the author of many books and translations. He is a poet and a translator of German prose and poetry.

“Until the beginning of the pandemic, I taught at a university in Bochum, Germany, in the ‘Ruhr region’...” he said. “I resigned my position in the Fall 2020, to return to the States on a full-time basis. I currently am living in Camden, and am self-employed as a writer, speaker, and leader of retreats/workshops.”

German politician David McAllister of the European Parliament tuned into the event via Zoom and spoke to the students after their presentation.
Mark Burrows (Courtesy of: The Watershed School)
Rep. Vicki Doudera talks politics with Watershed School students on Thursday. (Courtesy of: The Watershed School)
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