From Krist Boardman:
With few exceptions, most school administrators are taking a permissive stance toward school
students leaving their classes to attend a national march in Washington against gun violence. The students are understandably upset by the Valentine’s Day massacre in a Parkland, Florida high school that claimed their school mates and two teachers; they are also upset by the casual culture of guns in the United States that makes such incidents possible.
They are outraged by a legislative process in Washington and state capitols, which has been dominated by a gun lobby that has paid legislators unbelievable amounts
of money to adhere to their positions and undermine public safety.
In Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh has reserved one hundred buses to take the students to Washington, and most of the surrounding school districts have agreed not to try to stop the students from attending.
In Harford County, a jurisdiction firmly in the grip of pro-gun advocates, the superintendent has announced a no-toleration policy and will attempt to discipline students who do leave school to attend. My guess is that there will be some students who will defy this directive and attend nevertheless. It could even set up some court and First Amendment battles.
When I was a youth the prospect of global nuclear war seemed vey real as the Soviet Union and the U.S. sparred over nuclear weapons in Cuba. I was going to a Quaker boarding school in Iowa where most people were horrified by a possible nuclear holocaust, but the director of the school would not let me leave to attend an anti-nuclear march that was being held nearby. So I sat that one out, but it wasn’t the end of the world. During the summer I organized a march to commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days where maybe as many as 150,000 people were incinerated in the nuclear catastrophe that occurred at the end of World War II. That had happened only sixteen years earlier, slightly longer than I had then been alive.
What’s astonishing about the Parkland survivors and the other students aligned with them is their clear understanding of the issues, their ability to articulate their positions, and their willingness to challenge adults and political leaders and demand changes. A USA Today columnist just wrote that too much stock should not be put in these young peoples’ opinions because they are young and that presumably wisdom can only come with age. I don’t necessarily agree with that,
though it is also true that young people can do and have done a lot of incredibly stupid things just as adults do. But in this case I think the students are acting with great clairvoyance, just as I was when I was organizing an anti-nuclear protest so long ago.
High school students are only a few short years from voting age and military enlistment age, and if they have been sitting in classrooms ever since they were five years old, they should be expected to be applying the knowledge and thinking skills they have been accumulating.
My view is that people can learn a lot by attending a public event such as this. They will meet new and interesting people and have experiences that will teach them about the political process in our democracy. These students have a great future ahead of them and they care about the kind of country they will be living in, enough to try to make some changes for the better.