In my previous life, I was a teacher. I taught high school seniors. 18-year-old children who desperately wanted the world to know how grown up they were. It was of course my job to make sure they got to adulthood with at least a grasp on the tools they would need to survive the rest of their lives.
My educational weapon of choice — Government and Economics.
The thing I counted my greatest privilege in teaching was watching my students develop into actual humans. They spent their last year of traditional education in my classroom learning what it means to have a voice. I watched them learn to develop thoughts of their own— to know why they believe what they believe and to be able to take responsibility for their opinions.
The moment an almost-adult can put their weight behind their beliefs and articulate their thoughts in a rational, coherent manner is magical. Especially for their teachers.
Especially because many actual adults never learn to do so.
Watching the uproar in Egypt makes me think of my former students. Historically, revolution is in great majority started by students. Venezuela. Korea. Russia. Spain. China. Iran. India. Ireland. Even France in 1968. All student-led revolt.
It's not the educated, it's those being educated, as in present tense. It's the group of nearly grown-ups learning that they have a voice and wanting to exercise it when they see injustice or suddenly become very aware of what they feel is oppression.
Sometimes the response is defiant silence. Sometimes, as in Egypt over the last eight days, it's chaos. Sometimes the result is bloody. But without fail, every time a student revolution begins, the outcome is a wave of movement— often dramatic transition. And at the heart of it are brand new adults who have just found their voice.
An entire country has been brought to its knees by college students.
A government has been rendered ineffective by college students.
A dictator, who has ruled with an iron fist for more than three decades, has just been ousted by college students...well he will likely be when election season rolls around in September.
As a teacher I find it fascinating. As a journalist I find it a little more frightening. More than anything I hope that my former students, who are now well on their way to being adults, are watching as history plays out.
Having a voice is a powerful thing. Using it is a responsibility and, sometimes, a liability. What happens in Egypt in the weeks and months ahead will go down in history like many other national revolutions have— with the generation being educated at the time saying, "We just thought it was time for a change."