Grade 6 speech is truly free speech
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May 23, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Grade 6 speech is truly free speech

St. Marys Journal Argus

St. Marys Journal Argus editorial

The parents of a Cambridge 12-year-old have, judging from a series of media reports, spent a good portion of their time recently attempting to dispel the idea that it was one of them who wrote their daughter’s Grade 6 speech.

It is, after all, unprecedented that an elementary school speech — this one created for entry into a contest sponsored by the Association of Christian Schools International — would end up being delivered by its creator at a meeting of the Primerica insurance company in Kitchener, and at a conference in Philadelphia called “Public Banking in America.”

“She couldn’t use any concepts she couldn’t explain or use any words she couldn’t define or use in a different context,” her father told the Toronto Star last weekend.

That said, it seems entirely likely that Victoria Grant’s parents can still claim a good portion of the credit for the fact their daughter’s speech — subtitled “Have you ever wondered why bankers are becoming wealthier and the rest of us are not?” — has become an instant hit on YouTube and inspired online analyses from the likes of the Huffington Post and the Financial Post. No, they didn’t write it, but they did — according to the Star — devise and participate in a series of role-playing financial system tutorials that played out (in between Victoria’s other extra-curricular activities, such as gymnastics, soccer, and aspiring to be a fashion designer) in the family of five’s basement after supper.

“I want to make sure they can learn how to think critically,” her Dad told the Star. “I want them to question. Obviously my daughter is influenced by my opinions, but there’s going to come a time when she’s going to say, ‘Dad, I don’t agree with you.’ I want her to think it through herself and challenge ideas that are out there.”

For now, father and daughter agree: charter banks are getting rich from the tendency of sovereign nations to borrow from them at high interest rates; the common people, meanwhile, are getting poorer due to the need for sovereign nations to repay that interest using tax dollars.

Would Dad have ever been able to bring this idea into broad public consciousness from his current position as an employee of Research In Motion? Given the riskiness of having controversial viewpoints tied to — inadvertently or otherwise — specific corporations, it’s unlikely.

But his daughter, through the decades-old “technology” of a grade school public speaking contest, was able to bring the idea into broad public consciousness. She’s just a kid, after all: what threat could she be to the stock price of her father’s employer; how could the Minister of Finance respond with behind-the-scenes sabre rattling just because a Grade 6-er criticized the government?

As I read of Victoria Grant’s achievements, I was reminded about an assignment from my own daughter’s class, for which each student was asked to research the meaning and origin of a famous quotation from history. One classmate almost instantly recited Mahatma Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Many of us have tried to live by Gandhi’s words. It’s not easy; our jobs and our lives and responsibilities too often get in the way. But it’s wonderful to know young people still cling to those words, and some — like Victoria Grant — strive to put them into action. (S.S.)

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