Today is National Walkout Day. Organized by students for students its purpose is to both honor those who were killed in Parkland, Florida and call for stricter restrictions on gun sales. Unsurprisingly, many adults are doing their best to stop it. From threatening punishments for students who walk out, to diminishing the importance of what these young people are doing adults are using every tool they have to end the protest. It has made me think about a lot of things. Both how I would have handled this as a student and as a parent of a high school student. Neither of which are currently applicable. I do know this: As a student not only would my parents have supported me walking out in protest, I would have gone back to school with a note for an excused absence and my mother would have turned the school upside down if I was unreasonably punished for protesting. As a parent I would have done the same. I find myself confused by parents who act differently.
The one specific push back that I have noticed is the movement telling students to “Walk Up not Out”. This takes the above graphic, crosses out “Out” replaces it with “Up” and gives a list of things to do to be nicer to people. Honestly, this has made me crazy since I first saw it and this morning when I saw it posted yet again I figured out why.
- It’s a thinly veiled argument against gun control. It implies that guns aren’t the problem. It changes the entire focus of the protest and diminishes the students opinions.
- It silences students. It tells them that their voices don’t matter in the conversation that the ‘grown-ups’ are having. Alternatively it tells them that they do not have the right to protest again, diminishing their opinions.
- It tells the protesters that they are wrong. It tells them that they do not understand what is really happening in the world and that if they did, they would change their behavior. Again, you guessed it, diminishing their opinions.
- Finally, and most importantly IT BLAMES THE VICTIMS. It basically tells kids ‘if you were nicer, you wouldn’t have been shot.’ If only someone had sat with the various shooters at lunch, agreed to go to prom with them, or partnered with them in science class everything would have been fine. I call BS on that. It is not the job of a teenager to determine who is a threat and make sure to be nice to them. It is the job of the adults around them to make sure they are safe. And if we aren’t going to do it, they will do it themselves.
So, I support the walkout. I hear their voices. As adults we need to stop judging them, blaming them, and stop diminishing what they say.
Is school attendance important? Yes.
Could we all be kinder? Yes.
Is that the point of the argument? No.
Let the young people walk out. Let them speak. Let them be a part of the conversations that directly effect them and the world they live in. Honor their courage and their opinions. They are not wrong.
#Enough is #enough.