Voice Of The Student
Underground newspapers were a short-lived high-school craze in the late '60s. It seems quaint now, that a three page dittoed paper could cause such a stir. In our senior year my friend Andy started one with a quickly made sheet complaining about an arbitrary act by the school's principal. I expanded it, got some contributions from another cranky classmate, it wasn't more than twenty four hours later that the three of us found ourselves in front of the "great man" himself. Anything that could be construed as a threat to his authority was always dealt with an over-reaction on his part. His ultimatum: drop the paper or you won't graduate. Whether or not he actually had the authority to erase credits already earned was beside the point. We were sufficiently cowed.
When I told my father what had happened, he was livid. Not at me, but at the principal. I was most impressed, I had not seen this side of my Dad before. We went to see an ACLU lawyer, learned our options (not many- seeing as I would graduate long before any legal actions could take effect) but because of this "clout" I was allowed to continue my paper and my vanishing credit for the regular newspaper class would be turned into an independent study credit for Drama class, and I would graduate. My scholastic career had been less than stellar prior to my senior year, but I had finally found my stride, and I was getting straight A's at the time.
News of this micro-tempest actually reached the media, I was interviewed by the Minneapolis paper, I received correspondence from other underground newspapers from around the country: New York, Washington DC, Louisiana, Seattle and California; I got an author's inquiry from Esquire magazine and even a subscription request from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (of course!) The other papers were similar to ours, tackling social issues of the day, including birth control, drug use, the war in Viet Nam (some things never seem to change) and just stating what it was like being a teen-ager. It wasn't great journalism, but I suspect they did start the careers of many writers. Now, children in grade school can have an international audience, instant publishing is a reality for the masses, and one can find a few "needles" in the haystacks of MySpace and Blogger- young people who are still "acting up" and have something worthwhile to say. (Although I fear that this electronic mode of communication is already being taken for granted.)