SWW Students Have Their Say on BBC World Radio

Posted on: June 20th, 2012 by Admin

sww students bbcBy CHRISTIE HOYTE HAYES

On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, I joined a buzzing mass of my fellow students in The School Without Walls’ library to discuss issues that impact our daily lives. We were participating in a live broadcast of the BBC World Service Radio program,“World Have Your Say.” That particular segment was called “World Schools Have Your Say” and it connected SWW students with other students from high schools in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Accra, Ghana; and London, England.

The BBC made it quite apparent that it really wanted to hear our views. Consequently, we had two segments of extremely engaging, student-led discussions, in which we compared opinions with our international counterparts on issues ranging from serious topics—like the importance of education; the state of the economy; gentrification in Washington, DC; violence; and U.S. and world politics—to comparatively trivial matters such as the music industry and the influence of artists like Nicki Minaj, fashion, and school uniforms.

The first segment started off with the serious topics. We realized that we shared similar opinions with the international students. For instance, the reasons why we want to do well in school, our career goals, what responsibilities come with wealth, and the ramifications of existing tension between socio-economic groups. Being in a live discussion with students on the other side of the world also put some things into sharp perspective. For example, while Walls has a racial and socio-economic diverse student body that exists harmoniously, the Haitian students explained that there was substantial friction between richer and poorer students at their school. While all the students were emphatic about their desires to succeed in school, many of the Ghanaian students saw a good education as a passport to leave their country.

As the segment progressed, we discussed lighter topics. We had a lot to say about dress code restrictions and whether we minded them. Some of our international counterparts like wearing uniforms, explaining that uniforms force academics to be the bigger focus. Walls students expressed appreciation for our no-uniform clothing policy, which gives us the freedom to express ourselves through our clothing choices.

After school, the BBC invited a smaller group of Walls students to take part in another broadcast. This time, there were no other schools involved, so the discourse was a bit more America-centric. We touched on the role of America in the world, discussing what, if any, affect the current economic recession would have on America’s global power. One student suggested that America is “learning to share power.” Another big topic we broached was gentrification in Washington, DC. We explained that in our own short lifetimes we have seen how the so-called “urban renewal”—or as one student dubbed it “negro removal”—has led to displacement in many long-time poor neighborhoods to make room for younger and whiter residents.

Listen to the recording of that later program, built entirely around Walls’ students: SWW Students on BBC World Service Radio

Richard Lawson, the BBC producer who worked with us throughout our broadcasts, was very impressed. He said, “I had a very inspiring day at School Without Walls. The students were articulate, passionate, honest, and entertaining, and we discussed an impressive range of topics.” In comparing this program to his typical broadcasts, Lawson explained, “A lot of my work involves straightforward news reports, but the BBC as a whole has been doing more and more interactive shows in the shape of the ‘World Have Your Say’ radio show.… However, I hadn’t made a show from an American school before, and what really stood out for me was the confidence and fluency of the students at School Without Walls.” With this in mind, he told us he could “absolutely” see himself working with School Without Walls again.

This was a fantastic program. School Without Walls is the only American High School that participated in the “World School Have Your Say” program. We were given a global microphone and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves while engaging and informing our global counterparts about life at a high school in Washington, D.C. In turn, we learned a lot from them.

We are entirely grateful to the BBC for selecting our school to be a part of this international event.