I’ve seen a lot of mixed opinions about the national school walkout yesterday meant to honor the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Parkland, Fla. The sentiments range from proud of the students to hostile towards their message.
I’m proud of those engaged even though I whole heartedly disagree with the gun control message they’re pushing.
What is important is that teens are waking up to the fact that their voice should, and does, carry weight.
I’m a very strong 2nd Amendment supporter so I disagree with the premise that firearms are the problem and that firearm restrictions are the solution. However, the fact youth realize that true grassroots activism can cause change is a good thing for our country.
With our election participation rates being so ridiculously low for youth — just 24 million people under the age of 29 voted in 2016. In Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election in December, only 23 percent of the voters, which translates to translates to approximately 175,000 were under the age of 29 — it’s refreshing to see young people actually getting involved in the political process.
On the other side of this event was a movement to “Walk up, not walk out.” While I like the walk out for its sign of unity, strength and activism, I love the idea of taking action and making a difference better.
High school is a very cliquish time. Which can be hard on even the most popular and well adjusted students. What’s worse is those who find themselves lost without friends or a sense of belonging which is easy during the young awkward years. In this digital day and age, bullying and meanness and loneliness are real issues and the impacts they have are huge. Opening the eyes of today’s youth and teaching them to be empathic is a good thing.
It’s not up to our students to identify those who could commit these types of heinous crimes, but it is important for those to be aware of their classmates and to talk to adults about them if they have legitimate concerns.
Learning more about your peers, those outside your social circle is something that is real and will have tangible results in the lives of students. Is every school outcast a mass shooter about to happen NO? The quiet loner could be the student who’s new to the school, the student who’s homeless or is living in poverty, the student who’s dealing with a sick mom or dad, it could be a student who’s introverted and misunderstood. The possibilities are endless and your child won’t know until they reach out and say hello. The chances of that person being a threat to the kind kids are incredibly rare (read statistically not really happening). Again, this isn’t about identifying and stopping the next shooter this is about making our world a better place in general. Students want something they can do. Well they can make a friend and learn something new. They can practice kindness and empathy not with the goal of ending violence but with the goal of being good people.
If that comes out of yesterday’s protests and efforts, then it’s a win for all of us.
In Alabama, we had a number of schools and students to participate. I think that it opens the door for parents what our responsibilty is for kids in our communities. For the walk out or walk up crowd, I think it’s the kind of activism we need.
Just as supporters of the 2nd Amendment want hold tight to their Constitutional rights, we can’t ignore the 1st Amendment. It’s marches and sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations that put our country in a place where women now have the right to vote. And blacks have the rights that they should’ve had all along.
So this is a good thing for all of us.