We are trusting a population that cannot vote in our society to lead informed debate on one of the nation’s most complex policy issues.
Student activism has exploded in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. This tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has inspired dozens of students from the school to lead the #NeverAgain and #GunReformNow movements. The goal of these movements has been to raise awareness about the shooting and to ensure nothing like it happens again.
I truly sympathize with these students and what they are going through in the aftermath of this tragedy. A number of second amendment supporters have chosen to attack the students personally and have suggested that they are actors pushed by the media to further their agenda. This disturbingly false narrative has led a group of courageous young people to be viewed as villains rather than heroes.
While their actions are to be praised and their bravery admired, we must not forget that these students are just kids. Their views on second amendment policy hold little more weight than anyone else; just because they have experienced a tragedy doesn’t make them more informed on how to prevent it in the future. Yet, here they sit, at the head of a movement full of unchecked passions and misinformation.
What is the next step for this group of students? They want students across the country to join them.
Walkouts have been scheduled at schools across the country in support of gun control measures, largely inspired by the students in Parkland. The first of such protests will be on March 14th, the one-month anniversary of the shooting. Another, larger protest will be on April 20th, the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
These protests, while admirable in their intention, are a really bad idea. Here’s why:
These types of protests are actually incredibly ineffective at addressing the problem. Misinformation is rampant at these emotional protests because there is a high probability these students are not fully informed about the very problem they are trying to solve. Ultimately, the use of false statistics and emotional cries for lawmakers to “do something” will do more harm than good. This is because the very goal of the protest is to raise awareness about an issue of which lawmakers are already very aware. Students may feel better about rallying to a cause and “taking a stand.” However, they propose no legitimate solutions to the problem.
They encourage students to disrespect authority. These protests have also come under fire largely because a school district in Texas has threatened to punish students who participate. Many individuals declare this to be an unjust abuse of power by the school—but is it really? Schools that fail to enforce punishments for students who choose to skip class and walkout will inevitably be endorsing students to skip class in the future. While it is admirable for students to want to protest for something they believe in, the institution they harm by protesting is actually the schools who have to deal with hundreds of students rejecting the school’s authority. By legitimizing this behavior, we risk harming our education system. Students should learn to respect authority. Allowing them to skip to protest teaches them nothing but how to disrespect authority. Schools should make it known that students can stand up for what they believe, but do so in such a way that they aren’t breaking school rules.
They are a potential target for more violence. In today’s politically charged environment, it is not unreasonable to suggest that mass protests at schools across the nation will likely lead to more violence. These groups of students will be major targets for counter protests, which, as we saw in Charlottesville, can turn violent quickly. It is easy to see that this protest,emotional at its core, could quickly turn into chaos and become the very thing it seeks to stop: violence in schools. It is my sincerest hope, that no such thing ever occurs, but it is naïve, in the times we live in, to ignore the possibility of violence at these rallies.
Nonetheless, these protests will happen. They will essentially accomplish nothing, but we should allow students to engage the democratic process. In reality, we are trusting a population that cannot vote in our society to lead informed debate on one of the nation’s most complex policy issues. Empowering students is great, but we must recognize the limitations of their knowledge and make sure to trust the experts who have been working on these issues for decades over the opinions of high school students.
We must remember that our Congressmen and women and experts across the nation are well aware of the gun issue. We want action to come from an informed viewpoint not just for the sake of “doing something.” For now, we must hope that more violence does not come from this issue, and that educated national debate ensues alongside these protests.