The Public School as Political Activist

This week a nationally-organized walkout took place in schools throughout the United States. Some say that it was primarily intended to honor those who were killed or injured in the Parkland shooting, and I guess that at most schools there was some kind of memorial gathering where those students were remembered.

It is apparent to me that these walkouts were politically motivated, and an opportunity to use children to influence public opinion about gun control. I say “apparent” because of the obvious organization. Note the t-shirts in the picture above. A child at a middle school in the comment section of a local Chicago-area newspaper mentioned that they were “helped” by people from the Women’s March organization to prepare for their walkout. Another middle school student said he was one of the organizers and thought it was inappropriate to voice pro second amendment beliefs at a “gun control protest”.

This post isn’t about my beliefs about guns and gun control. It is about the role of public schools in political activism, and the “education” of children in a particular philosophy, rather than history and facts, allowing the children to weigh all the facts and reach their own conclusions.

At least one teacher who attempted to discuss with her students about the appropriateness of schools taking one side of a political argument:

California High School Teacher On Leave After Questioning School Shooting Walkout

Benzel says she never discouraged her students from participating in the national school walk out, but she did question whether it’s appropriate for a school to support a protest against gun violence if they’re not willing to support all protests.

“And so I just kind of used the example which I know it’s really controversial, but I know it was the best example I thought of at the time—a group of students nationwide, or even locally, decided ‘I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes’ and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?” she said.

She says the administration didn’t talk to her about her lecture, last week.

But while thousands of students walked out of class, Mrs. Benzel received a letter from her human resources department, informing her she’s being placed on paid administrative leave.

“I didn’t get any backlash from my students. All my students totally understood that there could not be a double standard,” she said.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

My opinion is that it is great that students want to protest peacefully for something they believe in. I don’t think protests should be organized or sanctioned by public schools, or that teachers and schools should be encouraging or pushing students politically in one direction or another. If students want to protest, let them organize outside of school, and outside of normal school hours.

AND, I think that school should be about learning and critical thinking. That involves teaching ALL of the facts and viewpoints, not just one side of the argument.

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21 Responses to The Public School as Political Activist

  1. rheavolans says:

    How about they all get arrested for truancy for being out of school during school hours? This sets a bad precedent, giving these kids the idea that the world should give them time off to protest the things that they want to protest.

    Also, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Until people are ready to admit that gun-free zones invite homicidal maniacs to shoot up the place, I’m not interested in talking about “gun violence.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • stella says:

      Of course. The thing is – most of the schools turned this into a school-sponsored event. Most stayed on school property, had organized gatherings in the football stadium, speakers etc, or allowed picketing on streets adjacent to the school. The time spent was set by the schools, after which the students were to return to their classrooms.

      The point is that schools have no business getting involved in politics, and encouraging their students to follow a particular political philosophy. None.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. stella says:

    “Ironically, the only men these children want to be armed are the men who cowered outside the school while their friends were being murdered.” – PJ Lange

    Liked by 5 people

  3. czarowniczy says:

    And the school system moves forward with drugging ‘problem’ students. Our school system’s trying to emulate Louisiana and allow psychologists to prescribe psychotropic drugs to students. Right now they have psychiatric NPs on call to do so and seem to be targeting ADHD students as ‘depressed’ under one or more of the multiple types of depression in the depression spectrum. This serves their needs as it can be used to lever ADHD students out from under ADA programs as parents then have to fight the school as depression doesn’t necessarily make the student eligible for ADA coverage.
    Much easier for the school to have children pop a pill than the school having to create and administer IEPs. With a diagnosis of depression by a school employed and paid psychologist (the only source accepted) the parents have to get an independent diagnosis by a certified psychologist or psychiatrist and modst likely hire a lawyer to fight the school. In the meantime the school, while you get the testing and refuse the drugging, can move the child to an alternative school where s/he’ll be warehoused with thugs deemed too dangerous to be in the regular system. Howzat for a threat?
    Meanwhile we have the FDA putting black box warnings on ‘ttranquilizers’ as far as their bei ng prescribed for children while the fact that so many of the actors in school shootings/major acts of violence were on psychoactive drugs at the times they committed the acts: https://www.cchrint.org/school-shooters/ .
    Ban guns while allowing ever lower levels of public employees to drug our kids with dangerous psychoactive products.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m a middle school teacher that works in a district that’s extremely left-wing. My perspective is that as the schools are growing more left leaning because what kids are leaning is so catered to progressivism. It would seem fitting that with a curriculum rooted in progressive ideals, public schools would be a great tool for political action.

    My school (not the district) has too much to focus on, such as getting better scores on standardized testing. I work in a predominantly low-income Black and Hispanic district. With the last Months of school, we need all time in the classroom to ensure we’re staying competitive with other districts and achieving classroom goals. I don’t think teaching or approving kids to skip class over every issue is the right approach. However, schools should definitely encourage students to form clubs or organize on their free time to peacefully discuss issues of concern.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gil says:

      Thats the definition of extracurricular! Education is about hard facts and learning how to think, not what to think.

      Liked by 2 people

    • auscitizenmom says:

      I think encouraging kids to gather and do something as wasteful as protesting is doing them a disservice. They need to be encouraged to learn, reading writing, and arithmatic, civics, how the government works, etc. Going out and DEMANDING, which is what protesting is about, doesn’t seem very productive to me. I am not against people marching, but it needs to be for a very specific reason and they need to know what they are doing. The reason I say that is many of these students that were involved were told this was to show respect for the dead, and it actually was to demand gun control which is a very political stand by certain people who have their own agendas. The children were used. Oh, and a lot of kids went because of peer pressure.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. stella says:

    Seen on Facebook:

    My son asked if he could walk out in protest today…here’s how the conversation went…
    Son: is it ok if I protest on Wednesday?
    Me: protest what? Why would you do that?
    Son: protests initiate change; they bring awareness to the issue
    Me: yes, like what…
    Son: like civil rights; people had to protest for the right to vote, etc (he went on)
    Me: that’s true! Protests can be a great catalyst. So what are you protesting?
    Son: gun laws
    Me: and what are the current gun laws?
    Son: I don’t know, but they need to change
    Me: how do you know that if you don’t know what they are? Who makes the gun laws? Whose attention are you trying to get? State, federal, local…?
    Son: I don’t know
    Me: then no, you may not protest in ignorance. You don’t protest something just bc everyone else is doing it. What is happening in our schools is wrong, and scary, and sad, and yes, some things need to change. But you must educate yourself before you can be an agent of change.
    …I’m all about protesting for change, for justice, and being passionate about a cause; I’m not about blindly following the crowd in ignorance…

    Liked by 4 people

    • auscitizenmom says:

      Now THIS is the conversation that should be had before letting children get involved in things like this. 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

      • joshua says:

        most kids today never tell their parents, who do not listen anyway, much less care what the kids do somewhere other than at home that bothers the parent….so this conversation is truly fictional for kids today. those that actually have such a relationship with an adult parent or parents, already understand about not following like sheep or doing whatever the others are doing…most are likely homeschooled or in private schools today, as the public schools are in total, unfixable disarray and chaos now.

        Liked by 1 person

        • michellc says:

          This has been the case for many years. When my kids were growing up kids always ended up at our house and not because we were the cool parents who let kids do as they please, but because they yearned for family. Things my kids took for granted like eating dinner as a family and catching up on everyone’s day. Watching a movie together, going outside and doing chores together or just playing a game together.
          It always broke my heart and it is what finally made me see how screwed up we were going to be when these kids were running things.

          Liked by 2 people

    • michellc says:

      I watched a video on FB of kids protesting and a man and woman walking around and asking them questions. One of the kids had a sign that said, “We don’t want guns in our school.” The woman asked him what exactly his sign meant. He said, “we don’t want guns in school.” She asked, “who do you not want to have guns in school, teachers, police officers, madmen?” He said, “we don’t want any guns.” So then the man tried, “are you protesting teachers being armed.” He said, “no I’m not protesting teachers, I’m protesting guns.” He tried again, “what do you want the outcome of this protest to be.” He said, “that guns will not be in our schools and kids will stop getting shot.” He asked, “what laws would stop madmen from coming into schools and shooting them up?” He said, “laws that ban guns in school.” He asked, ‘would that law have stopped the latest school shooter, since it was already illegal for him to bring that gun into school and murder is illegal?” The kid got flustered and mad and said, “we don’t want guns in our school okay!”

      They honestly don’t have a clue.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Voice power & progress says:

    This was a great article! I love how you did not take the typical route by expressing your views on gun violence/ laws. You make a point that not a lot of people are discussing and is very essential to developing our younger generations mind. School’s need to provide a plethora of arguments and not impose their perspectives. I agree, school is about teaching students to critically think, not what/ how to think. My friend and I are in the process of writing our second episode for our podcast, VPPtalks, and this is a controversial issue that I think I am going to have to add in a segment. I hope you do not mind me quoting your work! Phenomenal!

    Liked by 1 person

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