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Disruption of School Walkouts Outweigh Perceived Benefits

Disruption of School Walkouts Outweigh Perceived Benefits
A sheriffs officer walks past students as they assemble outside a high school in Zionsville, Indiana, on March 14, 2018. Students nationwide participated in walkouts to protest school gun violence, one month after the deadly shooting inside in Parkland, Florida. (Darron Cummings/AP)

By Thursday, 15 March 2018 11:47 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Students across the country staged school walkouts steeped in political protest. These were events driven by frustration and anger because things were not going the "right" way. And if the situation didn’t soon change, the students stated, there would surely be more victims. 

Sounds like an apt description of this week’s nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence. But it’s not.

It actually described the walkouts staged in November of 2016 after Donald Trump was elected president. U.S. News and World Report captured the general atmosphere at the time. West Seattle High School Principal Ruth Medsker was quoted in the magazine's online edition as saying, "Their anger and frustration were (that) their ideals didn’t line up with who they perceived got into the government . . . they needed time to process that." 

Sorry, but that’s unacceptable. It's ridiculous for high school students to protest a free and fair election (and no, the Russians did not affect the outcome) by walking out of class, solely because they didn’t like the overall results. It smacks of entitlement (vis-a-vis, "how dare anyone but my candidate win"). It also reeks of intolerance ("if my candidate isn’t victorious, I won’t accept the results").

It addtionally reflects massive insecurity borne of coddling ("how are we possibly going to survive? The end is near!"). A little self-serving calculaiton can be thrown in for fun as well ("Let’s get out of class and milk this for all its worth!").

What does this have to do with the current protest? A lot when you consider: 

What is the true message of this walkout? First, we heard it was to honor the 17 students killed in Parkland, Florida, by walking out for 17 minutes. That would be honorable. But things changed.

Like everything in America, the walkouts became politicized, and morphed into a protests against gun violence. But who is actually rallying for gun violence remains a mystery. The final version, not surprisingly, is thousands of high schoolers ostensibly railing against the evils of guns themselves, as they unsuccessfully attempted to articulate their perceived panacea of banning guns.

This column isn’t the place to debate such (misguided) positions. But without question, they are not valid reasons to disrupt school. Students should resist being political pawns of agenda-driven adults, and their schools should not be used as political forums. It’s bad enough that our students can barely compete with their global counterparts; throwing politics into the mix makes things even worse.

Certainly, students should have a voice, and social media gives them an unprecedented platform to organize, communicate, even possibly affect change. However, they should do so on their own time — not at the expense of the day’s teaching lessons.

A word to the wiseof the younger generation. If you wish to be taken seriously, it isn’t enough to spew naïve platitudes and spout old talking points on social media. That’s not saying you are expected to become public policy experts overnight, but you have to put down the video games, invest the time, and do your homework.

That thing called the Internet is loaded with both facts and fantasy. This mandates that you discern truth by using the critical-analysis skills which you hopefully learned in class — and formulate intelligent arguments.

You want to disagree with the president, congressmen, or the NRA? Or take issue with gun control organizations, liberal politicians, and left-leaning Hollywood celebrities? Great. But given that social media and press coverage have made your voice exponentially magnified, you better know what you’re talking about, being prepared to  logically back up your arguments.

Middle America is growing tired of arrogant high-schoolers espousing that their position is not just the right one — but the only one.  Not only is that the height of intolerance, but often those positions become "demands." And showing utter disrespect, such as calling legislators "child murderers," doesn’t help the cause.

Courtesy still counts.

Demonstrating tolerance and using well-constructed arguments are the best ways to shatter perception that you are simply spoiled high-schoolers whose only gun knowledge prior to Parkland was being an "expert" in the shoot-‘em-up video game "Fortnite."

Superficial social media "likes"notwithstanding — credibility matters.

Knowledge is power. And that is why schools should be educating, not condoning, protests. Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that First Amendment rights do not stop at school. And therefore, yes, students can express themselves, so long as learning is not disrupted. But that's a slippery slope, one leading to questions in need of concrete answers.

Should students be allowed to walk out of class whenever they choose? And for whatever issue strikes their fancy? Must acceptable protests pass a political litmus test?

One wonders if protests would have been met with such "understanding" if students walked out following a Hillary Clinton victory.

Can students take protests off-campus?  Where does the school’s liability start and stop? Can teachers join student-led walkouts? What are the walkouts' duration parameters — minutes, hours, days?  Do walkouts count as absences? And if so, will multiple protests amount to truancy? Should schools be able to discipline students, by detentions and suspensions, to gain order?

Perhaps most ironic, with so many students coming and going, isn’t it exceedingly difficult to maintain the integrity of school safety?

Students have constitutional rights, but they are not unlimited. Large scale walkouts and protests, by their very nature, are disruptive. If they proceed unchecked, it will amount to inmates running the asylum. That hurts those who need help the most — students.

Let’s be very honest. Students are not the primary driver behind many of these protests. In fact, it has been reported that many left-leaning entities have facilitated organizing and fundraising for such walkouts. Sadly, that has led to the marginalization of Parkland’s victims — relegated to the backseat in favor of political agendas. Regardless of where students fall on the gun spectrum, all should feel resentment at being manipulated as pawns in someone’s ulterior motive game.

Student action has long been a part of American culture, as college protests helped end theVietnam War and advance civil rights. But in our age of increasing intolerance, we must ensure that those who don’t participate are not labeled "uncaring" by the politically-correct thought police.

It is encouraging to see so many young people engaged, but protesting for the sake of protesting — without a working knowledge of the problems, and concrete, real-world solutions to fix them — becomes meaningless. Likewise, walkouts done to generate "likes" so that a social media post goes viral serves only to accelerate the trend toward total self-absorption.

Too many innocents have died at the hands of lunatics. We can’t change the culture of killing anytime soon — no matter what measures are taken — but the least we can do is honor the victims and their families in the most empathic, genuine way possible.

For once, let’s leave politics at the door, put down our phones, and say a prayer. Amen.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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Too many innocents have died at the hands of lunatics. We can’t change the culture of killing anytime soon. The least we can do is honor the victims and their families in the most empathetic, genuine way possible. For once, let’s leave politics at the door.
florida, parkland, social media
Thursday, 15 March 2018 11:47 AM
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