Last week hundreds of thousands of students exercised their first amendment rights in a nationwide walkout. Others, like those in our school, didn't get to walk out due to a district-wide lockdown drill that occurred at the same time.
I'm not going to try and change people's minds on gun control, the truth is I hope those who disagree with me never change their minds because I cannot fathom how tragic of an event would have to be for them to do so (yet another mass school shooting - possibly at their child's school).
So this isn't about gun control; it's not even about the walkout or specific schools/districts' response to them (though I certainly have thoughts about doing a lockdown and threatening kids with a suspension for participating in a nationwide protest about making schools safer). This is about the lack of understanding that adults have about this generation, as evidenced by the comments I've seen and heard in reaction to recent student activism.
I work with this generation everyday. I've been teaching for a decade now, and, almost all of that time, I've enjoyed it. So I'll state the obvious, this generation is not perfect. Neither was mine. Neither was yours.
Their flaws and crazy antics (how did this Tide Pod mess ever become a thing?) are merely more obvious because of social media. Can you imagine the stupid things we would've posted if we had Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook as teenagers? I imagine my high school friend, who shall go nameless (or not, his name was Brett), would've gone viral after discovering the bar he washed his hands with in a port-a-john wasn't soap (or that the basin wasn't a sink). How many Pet Rock videos would've been posted by Gen Xers? And Baby Boomers? I'm sure the generation that created disco had many moments that would have broke social media to a point where none of us would ever want it back. Beyond that, I would assume that many of us would be mortified to read our ancestor's posts about race during the 1800s (or maybe we're still terrified to see what Grandpa Bob said in his post just earlier today about it... or maybe we wouldn't be embarrassed - and that would reveal a whole other problem).
These are kids are finding their voice and they're using it as a means to protect themselves and their peers. Their voice is all they have; they find themselves being knowledgeable, but unable to vote. Their voice is their only weapon, and they're wielding it effectively.
This generation is not filled with "stupid sheep who've been brainwashed by the liberal media," despite what some news outlets or your Facebook feed may say. They may not all be able to tell you what AR stands for (does it matter?). They may not be able to pick it out of a lineup (also doesn't matter). They know that those guns have no place in our schools and that they do not belong in the hands of mentally-deranged domestic terrorists (that matters). They know that they don't want to be shot by one (that really matters). They know that they have a constitutionally-protected right to speak out about it. Isn't that enough?
These children are not old enough to vote, but they don't want to wait to make a difference. Is this something that we should condemn?
How bizarre is it that the very people who condemn these kids for being so self-absorbed all of a sudden want them to shut up and go back to playing on their phones?
How preposterous is it that eligible voters, who only turnout at a rate of 60% in presidential elections, ridicule these kids for being civically involved?
How can we dare tell these students that the status-quo is acceptable or the tragic death of their friend is merely the cost of freedom?
You may disagree with their message, you may criticize their methods, but do not question their motivation, intelligence, or ability.
They'll prove you wrong EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
These kids can drive me up a wall; it seems a few make it their daily goal. They also give me hope for a better tomorrow. I certainly have more faith in them than I have in older generations. They are not just the future; they're one of the best hopes we have for a better today. If that truth is too tough to swallow, I hear there's something else you could try.