Nationwide Student Walkout March 14th

Mar 13, 2018 by

Students nationwide will walk out of their schools on March 14th to vent their rage at Congress for balking at gun-control legislation on a variety of bizarre pretexts and arguments, most of them driven by cowardice, ideology and crass self-interest.

This action will last 17 minutes, one each for the students and teachers murdered in Portland, Florida.

Whether there is strict observance to the time and what percentage of students participate is irrelevant to the expression and the lesson.

We cannot look into the hearts of all the students. No doubt some will just conform to the crowd and be energized by the feeling of belonging. They may bask in the novelty. Others may luxuriate in the knowledge that they are tweaking the noses of segments of the population who will vociferously decry the latest “lost generation.”

That’s all right. The realization of what the demonstration is all about and even the discovery of their subconscious allegiance to it,may dawn on them later when they least expect it. Such was the case with me 50 years ago.

I was a passenger on a bus for some reason I’ve forgotten to a destination that I don’t remember. It’s not important now and probably wasn’t then.The driver announced that the bus was being re-routed because of an anti-war demonstration nearby. We could hear it blocks away. So at first, more out of curiosity than out of conviction, I got off to join in the fun and indignation.

I chanted in sync and raised my fist on cue. What did I know? At first it was a pose and a pantomime and my fervor was artificial, though as one of a throng of human dots on a media camera, I was anonymously numbered among the passionate and the principled.

But it grew on me that I belonged there all along. The awareness had been dormant and was ignited only in the aftermath of the event. No doubt that’ll be the case with the walkout also. It will become even to the initially apathetic students, the most constructive 17 minutes in their academic lives to date.

The Department of Education has instructed principals and teachers not to penalize students for walking out, as long as their protest is peaceful and they return to school on time.  Each school is advised to provide volunteers to maintain order outside.

Good ideas.

Some sticklers may argue that the walkout is not an official activity, countenanced under duress rather than truly authorized, interrupts the continuity of instruction and may have partisan overtones. Technically true but rightfully unenforceable. This is one of those times when the “big picture” eclipses the rigid image of empty compliance.

The DOE prohibits its employees from participating in such demonstrations on company time. It also forbids them from skewering history or current events in an indoctrinating way that may lead to preferential grading based on students’ sharing their teachers’ ideology.

Normally, that is an unchecked practice, unfortunately. It conditions young minds to imitate the biases ( both positive and negative) of their mentors. Such intimidation spurs ill-gotten persuasions.

The walkout promises to spark society’s awakening on the issue of gun violence and school safety.  It will also result in critical long-term enfranchisement of the older students especially, because of a tangible proposal of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.  He urges there be desks at which students, at the cusp of achieving voting age, may get assistance in completion of registration forms.

Perhaps that may be an awakening rude enough to rouse Congress. That’s a Big Bang theory worth giving a try!

Emotions will run high during those 17 minutes on the street. Memories of the slaughtered students and teachers will be somber and reverential. Let us honor the dead by honoring those who sound the alarm of destructive national policy and who call attention to the healing that could be born from their memory of our martyrs.

Ron Isaac

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