At the outset of the Iraq war four years ago numerous polls found that students, like the majority of the population, overwhelmingly supported the invasion. Now those same polls show that students, more than any other age group, oppose the war.
I’ve heard much lamenting over the lack of student antiwar activism and organizing around Iraq. The absence of a draft is generally held to be the most important difference in explaining the larger student mobilizations against war in Southeast Asia but charges of apathy also abound.
This has always seemed unfair to me–students have exhibited just as much, if not in most cases more, opposition to the war than any other age group. As Sam Graham-Felsen recounted in a recent Nation article, a broad array of student groups have made ending the war a top priority. Among the main players are a reborn Students for a Democratic Society, the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, the Campus Antiwar Network and the Hip Hop Caucus, a new organization founded by Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. (Check the SDS site for a survey of antiwar actions mounted by students to mark yesterday’s fourth anniversary of the war and read Nation intern Wes Enzinna’s description of antiwar activists’ use of YouTube for more examples of student opposition to the war.)
Offering some of the most substantial support for this collegiate peace activism, Campus Progress, the student program of the Center for American Progress, has launched the Iraq Campaign and Iraq Film Project. (Full disclosure: CP is also an active collaborator with The Nation. We re-publish a small portion of CP content on our StudentNation site and we jointly produce an annual student journalism conference.)
There’s been an unusually large number of good documentaries recently produced on the war which can help bring the realities on the ground into sharp focus. Campus Progress is offering to supply organizers with the docs and assist in arranging associated panel discussions with war veterans, elected officials, policy experts, activists, and film directors. Check out the list of films currently being screened, see a list of upcoming screenings, and click here to organize a screening on your campus. More than 40 US campuses have already signed up to host film events.
Campus Progress is also offering ideas for action, downloadable posters and signs, access to policy experts, and, best of all, actual grants of $200 to $1,000 to student activists working on innovative education and advocacy campaigns to end the Iraq war.
If you’re not a student and want to get more involved in peace actions, check out the United for Peace website for a range of activist suggestions and tools for change.
Does diversity matter? The National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights is asking students from 12 to 17 years of age that question in a “Kids Speakout” writing contest. All entries must be recieved by March 30. The winner receives $500.