June 4, 1999

The Kids Are Alright

Stories in which young people take matters into their own hands: Students who become political activists, students who pull pranks, violent students. Broadcast for the tenth anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square.


On the tenth anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square, we hear from Wen Huang, who was part of the student movement. He says that the students weren't fighting for democracy, at least not as it's been widely understood in the West. He—and other former student activists from China—say the protests were an expression of sheer pleasure in living, a rock-n-roll bravado, a desire for a better future. But they never wanted to see American-style democracy or the overthrow of the Communist government, or anything so grand. (5 minutes)
Act Two

When Czechs Bounce

If part of the impulse behind the Tiananmen Square uprising was the pure desire to feel like life had possibility, that the future had potential...that impulse was behind another movement. This one among young people in Eastern Europe back before the Berlin Wall fell. The movement had to do with music: jazz. We hear an excerpt from Josef Skvorecky's essay "Red Music" (collected in his book Talkin' Moscow Blues), about how jazz in Czechoslovakia during the 1940s and 1950s seemed to pose a threat, first to the Nazi occupation, then to the Communist authorities. The story is read by Broadway actor Ed Dixon. (17 minutes)
Act Three

When We Were Animals

Since the high school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, parents and teachers are looking for warning signs that the children in their lives might suddenly strike out. But the dividing line between normal childhood aggression and social pathology can be hard to spot. Writer Paul Bravmann tells a story from his own boyhood in a West coast suburb about the difficulty of spotting that line. (14 minutes)
Act Four

When We Were Angels

The most innocent possible student uprising imaginable...documented by an actual student, Hillary Frank, using the crude tools of a telephone answering machine and a shiny red boom box. (11 minutes)