Dakota Cline, a middle school student at Horizons K-8 in Boulder, CO, read and responded to the online YES! Magazine article, “Standing With Malala: Meet the Teenagers Who Survived the Taliban and Kept Going to School.” From 2009-2012 the Taliban forcefully banned girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan from going to school. In an interview with Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, the two friends of Malala who were also shot on the bus by the Taliban in 2012 tell the story of the traumatic experience that emboldened them to stand up for the right of every girl to an education.
Writing Prompt: Describe how you would feel if you were forcibly banned from going to school tomorrow—and indefinitely. What would you do?
To Say “Nah”
When I first heard about the prompt for the YES! article, “Standing With Malala: Meet the Teenagers Who Survived the Taliban and Kept Going to School,” I thought, “Totally! I’ll write about how I don’t want to go to school!”
Because I don’t.
Like many American teenagers, school is not one of my top priorities. I would rather be drumming, biking, or skiing than attending, say, my science class. So, when asked how I would feel if I were forcibly banned from going to school, I was eager to illustrate my point: school is lame.
With this opinion in mind, it’s clear that Malala Yousafzai and I have almost nothing in common. We live on different sides of the globe, and have different daily routines. We brush our teeth differently, get to school differently, we even hang out with our friends differently. These unique lives result in different values. There are very few things we have in common, except for one: our drive to rebel.
In Malala’s hometown of Mingora, Pakistan, attending school as a girl was frowned upon, and most had to pay to go. In my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, I am required by law to attend school. It is free, and a place highly regarded for girls and boys alike.
Another famous rebel of her time, Rosa Parks, also has almost nothing in common with me. Rosa grew up in a segregated society as a minority, while I am a white male who does not experience segregation. Rosa was sneered at and spat on, and if I was spat on, my parents would probably press charges. When a white man told Rosa to go to the back of the bus, Rosa had the same drive, the same spark that Malala had, and refused to budge.
As a teenager, I am pretty critical of the world; my nature is to rebel against societal expectations, and my version of rebelling is not liking school. Malala’s nature, from what I’ve learned about her, is also to rebel against her society’s expectations. Her version of rebelling, whether she calls it that or not, was to go to school and to learn with passion. Rosa Parks’ version of rebellion was not to give up her seat for a white man —and boycott Montgomery buses. We are all doing the opposite of what our society tells us to do, although that means completely different things for all of us.
My parents may say, “Go to school, Dakota!”
Malala’s grandfather may say, “Stay at home and work!”
Rosa Parks’ neighbors may say, “You aren’t allowed to sit at the front of the bus!”
I may say, “Nah.”
Malala may say, “Nah.”
Rosa may say, “Nah.”
But I can’t just quit school. I can’t boycott school without serious repercussions from my parents and elders. There is, for me, no way around school.
Yet I can learn a valuable lesson here. I can harness the drive, the desire to rebel, now. Then when I’m out of school, I can recapture that drive and use it for the things I may want to stand up for. I know that I am capable of the “want” part, which is the most important part of any rebellion. It’s the same equation with two different values. I rebel against my system, as most teenagers do, and Malala rebels against her system, too.
So school is something that I don’t necessarily like—I actually dislike it quite a bit—but the lesson to be learned here is that you sometimes need the things that you dislike to spark a personal revolution. Without oppression, suffering, and boredom, no one would have the drive to make society better. Without the bad things in life, we wouldn’t find the motivation to do good things. So, if I were indefinitely banned from school, I would be happy, but that’s the impulsive part of me talking. The wiser part knows that it’s important to listen to the drive inside of us. It’s important sometimes to say, “Nah.”