While in Washington D.C. we asked our students to create their own personal investigations into issues that could be studied by visiting D.C. As teachers, many of us decided to do the same and create our own personal projects. Here is mine.
As a resident of Washington D.C. and the surrounding area for over twelve years, I was always stumped by the question of why the residents of Washington D.C. were not given representation in congress. Every day, I would see D.C. license plates with the slogan, “No Taxation Without Representation,” but to be honest, this was as far as it went.
The irony of the situation struck me again when I lived in Argentina. I would often tell people that I was from Washington D.C. This question was often followed by, “En qual estado es que?” or “In which state is that?” Routinely, I found myself explaining that D.C. is in fact, not part of any state, and each time I bumbled through this explanation in Spanish, I became more and more aware of the irony, and each time I became more aware of the irony, I became more irritated. I felt that every attempt at D.C statehood was committed to half-heartedly, like the license plates, left to stand for something, but never move people or affect change.
I spoke with Greg Simon, the former advisor to vice president Al Gore, after he spoke to our students in Washington D.C. When I was able to get a moment to ask him a question, I said, “Why hasn’t the issue of D.C. statehood ever been seriously considered?” He agreed that every attempt had been done so halfheartedly, almost as if they had expected failure. Greg suggested that to finally make a change, the people of Washington D.C. would have to protest. The people of this city would have to realize that this issue does affect them, and they would have to “turn to the streets.” The only problem, I now realize, is that to the regular citizen of D.C. this issue is not immediate and pressing.
To solve this problem, I took the skills and inspiration from the street art and stenciling class that the 9th and 10th graders took in Buenos Aires at a gallery/bar called Hollywood in Cambodia, and as the street artists did, made a post-modern adaptation of an already existing piece of art. In this case, it is one of my favorites, located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington D.C. The piece can be seen here in a posting by one of my favorite D.C. bloggers.
My version is an easy to print, cut, and use stencil that can placed around the city on sidewalks. The hope is to appeal to a sense of pathos rather than irony and logos and to link citizens more closely with the issue at hand and in more places. In this way, the issue becomes more present, immediate, and personal.