Vicente Fox Article

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“New learning happens every day,” said politician and former president of Mexico Vicente Fox during a visit to Palo Alto High School in Northern California last month.

On April 17, Palo Alto High School teacher and Journalistic Learning Initiative (JLI) founder Esther Wojcicki welcomed former Mexican president Vicente Fox to speak to Palo Alto journalism students, staff and community members. Fox addressed a range of topics, such as democracy’s dependency on media and free speech, the value of education and climate change. Fox highlighted unity, independent thinking and the importance of being active in politics.

Wojcicki, who piloted Palo Alto High School’s current journalism program in 1985, built the program from a mere 20 students to its current number of 500 students. The program now has eight award-winning journalism elective courses, in which more than 80 percent of the student body participates. Wojcicki’s journalism students had the opportunity to interview Fox prior to his speech at the Palo Alto Media Arts Center.

During the visit Fox and Wojcicki’s students explored the societal importance of journalism in today’s culture and political climate.     

When asked about the importance of journalism in democracy, Fox responded, “I’m absolutely convinced that the freedom of expression and freedom of the press is a pillar of democracy. I profoundly believe media is a pillar and on the forefront of peace and a strong democracy.”

Fox emphasized that it was crucial for students to continue their education beyond high school and maintain an active role in society. “In order to make a meaningful impact, one must do more than attend a good school,” Fox said in an interview with the Paly Voice.

Fox reminded the crowd that diverse and educated citizens yield more productive and dynamic societies. “We all have to be active in politics,” Fox said. “It is people that move nations, it is people with their everyday work, learning and decision making that build the world.”

This dialogue with “Paly” journalism students affirmed for many of them their  ability to affect and influence the world around them.  Although participating in journalism extracurriculars in high school isn’t a surefire sign students will continue on as journalists, practicing these skills provides them with many other benefits.

“We should not go to school for one job or for one activity,” Fox said in reference to higher education. “We should go to school to learn to think, to learn to decide, and to learn to be free.”

JLI’s mission aligns with much of the advice Fox passed onto his listeners. JLI uses journalism to strengthen student’s informative and expressive writing skills, and encourages  students to take ownership of their learning by giving them control over their writing–or “story”–assignments. It is crucial that students learn to investigate through critical thinking and make impactful, informed decisions about the world around them.

Research proves ( that when students learn and engage in journalistic-based skills, such as researching, reading and writing, their performance and success rates increase. Skills such as conducting interviews, learning to access and discern key information over extraneous or inapplicable information, and publishing their findings help to prepare students for life beyond implemented education.

Fox wrapped up his time at Palo Alto by leaving the students with a thought-provoking call-to-action: “Today the world needs more and more happy moments, and a happier way of living.”

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