My 13-year-old son, on the recommendation of his social studies teacher, submitted an editorial to one of the local newspapers which has a weekend magazine by and for middle and high school students.
His editorial offered logical rebuttals to reasons why people say homosexuality is bad. (And by “people” I mean “the Neandertals on his school bus”). For example, his idiot classmates said that gays are often rapists, so he researched some worldwide statistics on rape and homosexuality and showed that they don’t suggest any correlation. There’s more, but you get the idea. It was a clear, well-presented piece of writing that was both well-argued and from the heart.
He just got a very encouraging rejection letter from the editors (they told him he is a good writer and invited him to submit ideas for other essays he could write). Of course, this is Indonesia, and the publication in question is aimed at English-speaking Indonesians. There is NO WAY IN HELL they could publish his piece - it is quite frank and states in direct language that it is wrong to discriminate against gays, they should be allowed to marry, and they should be allowed to adopt children. Yeah, publishing that for a bunch of Indonesian 12-year-olds to read would go over well. The editors would quickly lose their jobs.
Still, I hate to see his good work go to waste. People who don’t know what he’s been writing about have suggested Cricket, but somehow, I don’t think that’s the right venue either.
Anyway, any suggestions for where he could submit this?
(Meanwhile, he’s going to write something on why music piracy is wrong and try submitting that. I love my kid!)
I have always wished there was a kids news magazine. We always read the paper together when I was a kid, and we make sure ours have a basic ( for their age - they’re 2 & 5) understanding of the world, but how great would it be to have a publication for 8-12 year olds written in a style and level that would appeal to them? If anyone knows of such a thing please do share! Or if anyone knows anything about how to start one, I’d be interested in that, too.
Your kid sounds awesome, and I hope he gets published! If his essay is ever posted online I’d love to read it.
Give him his own blog. Not that I have any idea of what’s involved in doing that but considering the millions out there (at least seems like millions) it can’t be terrribly difficult. It’s always possible that what he writes will be picked up and referenced by the ‘real’ media, plus if he’s consistent with writing it it’ll be great practice.
You could try looking at some big city newspaper’s websites in the US and see if they have an editorials submission. Have your son write a little intro saying “I live in Indonesia where hatred against gays and lesbians is so rampant that the papers here refuse to print my article in support of LGBT issues. I hope you will run my editorial to show Indonesia that standing up for what is right is a good thing to do, even if it is unpopular.” I wouldn’t be surprised if he could convince a few of the big city papers to run it.
Could he re-write it to be less controversial? The arguments against prejudice are still accurate, even if the conclusions he draws are too radical for your culture to find appropriate for the age group. Maybe changing the conclusion to something like, people should examine their prejudices and beliefs about categories of human beings, and do actual research to find out if these widespread rumors are correct or not? That might go over better with the editors.
Try a free blogging site like Wordpress. You sign up for an account on their servers and blog away.
If you have your own server already, you can install the Wordpress software on it. Many Internet hosting providers will also install the Wordpress software on customers’ servers.
Of course, this is also an education in cultural norms and when it is a good idea to go outside them, and how, and what the reaction might be… dissenting consciously can be very powerful. Rebelling blindly without thinking about it on the other hand…
He might have to rewrite it, but he could submit it to one of the GLBT magazines. UU World (the magazine for Unitarians) published things like that from kids sometimes. He might be able to get it printed on a liberal leaning site - like Huffington Post.
Yeah, from most. However, there’s always one (or more) jerks who won’t care about his age or in teaching, just in attacking and mind-f**king. Which can be a learning experience as well but perhaps requires some filtering and guidence through the maze of message board culture at that age. So I’d probably not allow unfettered access to responses.
Sounds like a typical teen ager that is just beginning to learn there is unjustice in the world and now is going to change it. Hopefully your kid can be one of those that does change something. But just keep him interested in doing good.
True, but I don’t think we’re the audience he’s looking to reach (preaching to the choir).
Yeah, he’s on the right track, but prepare him to run into many roadblocks like this. Maybe the best thing you could teach him is how to avoid disappointment when he runs into one. Always think long term. Always be persistent.
Might be a bit ‘preaching to the choir’, since it’s a site run by and for GLBT & Questioning teens. But they would probably publish it, and would say nice things about him and his writing abilities (and most teenagers could use some of that).
I think it would be really educational for you to have a discussion with your son about why his paper can’t be published in Indonesia regardless of the impeccable logic or fine quality of writing. May his next paper can be about the dangers of censorship, or dangerous ideas that threaten the status quo.
Or, as kind of a protest piece, rewrite the same paper, and every place where anything even remotely controversial, insert a large typed repeating “CENSORED” over the space where the text could be. “It turns out that CENSORED do not commit the CENSORED of CENSORED any more or less than CENSORED people”. Like an “identify the dangerous ideas game”. Maybe figure out a scheme like telling some kind of parable to get the same ideas out.
If part of the issue is that the editors can’t publish the essay because they’d get fired, no matter how personally sympathetic they might be, I think he ought to add that as the introduction for the article if he submits it to a US publication. There’s no benefit in having people write angry letters to the newspaper and getting the editors fired anyway if they’ve been otherwise supportive.
Shit, this reminds me of when I was feature editor of my high school paper and decided to review “Dead Ringers” starring Jeremy Irons. It was too controversial a film to run due to some state evaluations taking place in our county that year.
Your son is quite organized and intelligent in his research. Even though he was rejected, maybe he’ll be interested in journalism professionally in the near future. I hope he continues his investigative research in this and other subjects. I’d love to see what his perspective on bullying is.
Did he publish it on Facebook? I suggest a different page other than his own page. Also to local and city American newspapers explaining how it was rejected by an Indonesian newspaper in the first place. That always gets our attention over here.
Hi everyone - an update seems in order given that there have been some promising developments.
My son has been in touch with the editor again, and she has taken the libery of submitting his editorial to Q, the Jakarta gay & lesbian film festival - a big deal here. (The link is from 2004, but it’s in English - newer info is mostly in Indonesian.) Don’t ask me precisely how a film festival would use his editorial, but I can see how they might manage to integrate it into their publicity materials - that would be cool! Anyway, whatever happens, I think it speaks very well of the editor that she supported him in his quest to speak his mind, even if she could not provide a venue directly.
Less significant but also nice - my son is a member of the animal rights club at school (as you can imagine, there are a lot of problems with illegal animal trade and animal abuse in Indonesia) and, after talking to his peers in the group, he proposed to the same editor that they write and submit an editorial on one aspect of that issue. He hasn’t heard anything back yet (he just submitted the query a few hours ago) but I think it is likely to meet with a positive response.
Also, I have checked on the letter requirements for my hometown newspaper, which as it happens is famous for printing “letters to the editor.” (It’s the Manchester Union Leader, in New Hampshire.) Their guidelines may be a little tough to meet, as letters must be restricted to 200 words and that will require a lot of editing. However, if Q doesn’t pan out, I will help him prep something for the Union Leader.
So, I think we are on the right track and something good is sure to come of this, even if it takes a while. Thanks again to everyone.