Kids and Their Protests

Anyway, lots of kids marched out of their schools yesterday. Some faced discipline from school administrators. Other school districts supported and cheered for the kids. Here in New Jersey, it went both ways.

I watched a minute of two of the film clips of the protests, but couldn’t stomach much more. I’m too jaded to be moved by impassioned speeches of 15-year olds. I love that they are testing out their political opinions, but I don’t really care what they have to say.

At some schools, there were counter protests by students on the right. Some students say that left-leaning school administrators tried to squash the counter protestors.

Administrators were largely just afraid that the situation would get out of control and someone would sue the district.

Will those protests make for any changes on gun control? My guess is no. The protests were impressive, but nobody is talking about them today. The moment is done.

 

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41 thoughts on “Kids and Their Protests

  1. I’m bummed that you didn’t get to write about it. I followed on the internet. In my minimal neck of the woods (which is a limited view, in a number of ways), there was widespread participation, facilitated, to the extent they could, by schools. Local public high schools had high profile government officials (the governor, at one school, state congresspeople at others) at their rallies. The students facilitated and planned effective rallies (though, yes, there were speeches of impassioned 15 year olds, which, to me, didn’t sound all that different from the impassion of anyone else — i.e. they didn’t seem particularly more naive). In WA, 17 year olds can register to vote, if they will be 18 by the election, and we saw them registering (and their parents posting FB pictures).

    One of the candidates, a pediatrician, running against a suburban republican incumbent US representative, who is leaving, wrote an impassioned piece of her own, supporting gun regulation measures. She said she was going to stage her own personal walk out, and she was joined by others at our major hospitals, one of whom treated the one survivor of the Marysville shooting.

    My own kids (who are a bit cynical about impassioned rallies and walkouts and the social media hype that surrounds them) participated, though they are even more reluctant than most adults to consider the participation meaningful. My kiddo looked up the gun related death numbers, and put them on her sign — ≈400 by law enforcement, ≈ 500 accidental deaths, ≈ 12000 homicides, and ≈20000 suicides.

    I myself grew emotional at Rosa Rodriguez, who came off as a mostly goofy 15 year old, with a great deal of naivete, but also showed the courage of being willing to stand alone, if need be (story circulating the twitter streams, a lone girl who wandered out of school in the walkout, in Sayreville, NJ, which had threatened suspensions). She walked out to applause, and with little preparation. There’s always kids like that, and I love them.

    Will these efforts make a difference? I think they might in WA. We’ve passed ERPOs (extreme risk protection orders) by initiative in the last couple of years; the statehouse didn’t pass any significant laws this year, but there will be pressure in the urban areas to do so. And, other laws might be passed by initiative. I think raising the age to purchase to 21 and potentially an assault rifle ban are plausible initiatives. Nationally, any changes will, I believe, require breaking the republican power at the federal level. The (hopeful) election of Lamb in PA is a potential start. I’m trying to figure out who to support against the Republican in WA 8. The pediatrician who wrote the gun regulation op-ed is definitely on my list.

    I think it’s a slow burn, and I am hopeful for changes, though I don’t expect them anytime soon.

    Do you think your general frustration is a hope for a moderate, rather than power in the edges? Lamb is a sign of that, I think.

    1. bj said,

      “[The pediatrician] said she was going to stage her own personal walk out, and she was joined by others at our major hospitals, one of whom treated the one survivor of the Marysville shooting.”

      That’s one of the worst walkout ideas I’ve ever heard of.

      What next–protesting anti-vaxx by cancelling flu shot clinics?

  2. My kiddo’s history teacher showed a picture of his first protest, against the Vietnam war, in which the students took over the interstate here.

  3. Echoing harryb on Middlebury, I am unmoved by demonstrations where the adults use children as front people, which is what you mostly see. As I mentioned before, at some schools, the students have a Day of Silence to support gay rights, at other schools they have a Day of Silence to support the unborn. We’ll have to wait until the children are grown up to find what they really believe. (Although it is certainly possible that people in 40 years will believe in both of those things.) In the meantime, most school administrations will continue to practice “Free speech for me, but not for thee.” https://reason.com/blog/2018/03/15/national-school-walkout-abortion-guns

  4. I think folks who think these students aren’t thinking for themselves (and I know some of them personally) are dead wrong. Certainly there are kids walking along with their peers who aren’t particularly committed to any political cause. But, the 200 kids (< 20%) who walked out to he protest (and the two who organized it) in Tumwater, a school that has an active gun club (and thouare examples of politically motivated kids. They are kids, and thus inexperienced and naive. But, they are also smart and willing to educate themselves.

    The 17 year olds who were speaking at those rallies yesterday get to be grown up next year. And the ones I'm seeing plan to vote.

    At my kids' school, a pack of students stayed behind and did not participate in the protest. One of them will be the student body president next year.

    I think there are energized teens on other subjects too — guns, for example and anti-abortion activism. Is it really surprising that a 17 year old might have a strong committed opinion on abortion?

    And, there is no free speech crisis: "https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2018/03/14/25904009/theres-no-free-speech-crisis-on-campus-so-please-shut-up-about-it&quot;

    1. Yes. The whole tactic on the right of denouncing misdemeanors committed by the powerless while glossing over much greater offenses by those with great power has gotten absurdly disconnected from reality.

      Anyway, the kids are alright, but I’m concerned at how ready the whole Republican Party seems to be to toss away the chances of getting appreciable votes from younger people (or not-white people). It fits with my theory (Trump is the white Baby Boomers shitting on America as their last act before death or debility), but I really don’t like to see it because it makes me worry for what will happen after it their coalition declines as a percentage of the voters.

    2. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to a crisis, only to individual injustices (of which there are a fair number). Ignoring individual episodes is what allows a situation to become a crisis. The same as I would say about racist violence on campuses: I don’t think it’s a crisis, but any instance is an injustice that should be addressed. I trust the police departments in most university towns to do so.

    3. But you never post about racist violence on campus, or race harassment, or gender harassment. You post about fringe behavior of those with whom you are less politically aligned. And, that’s what I see at RedState and Breitbart, too.

      Red State’s two top stories are complaints about Hillary & Obama, two individuals who are no longer members of our government. Breitbart — Breitbart, talk about suppression of free speech — “The national school walkout for gun control that took place at many public schools across the country Wednesday likely violated the Constitution.” I think that someone should follow up on their suggestions, of organizing a walk out on behalf of abortion rights and let’s see how schools handle it. Will schools in Atlanta have a lockdown?

      1. Plenty of people comment here about racist violence, and I rarely add a comment merely to say, “I agree.” Either I disagree, or I think I have an insightful orthogonal perspective, or I say nothing.

      2. So, in other environments, you are talking about it? In other forums, you are discussing gun violence, or racism, or other perspectives that you don’t feel you need to represent here?

      3. Believe it or not, I actually agree with y81 here. I don’t see much of a point in posting agreement. Sometimes I do, but more often than not I post only when I have something different to say. So I don’t make assumptions (or try not to) about y81’s choices about what to agree or disagree with here. We all only have so much time in the world.

  5. I’m also sorry you didn’t get to liveblog this – it would have made a great story. I also miss liveblogging in general. Now I watch the tweet list on Slate when there’s a speech or something, but it’s not as good. (Andrew Sullivan was an excellent liveblogger.)

    We were on spring break here, but a report from a parent from another state was fascinating. Lots of unsubstantiated rumors about threats led 500 kids from the high school to stay home; in the end 200 or so walked out. There was much deliberation by kids (some of whom were quite scared) and by parents.

  6. As a school committee member, I received a legal update from our state association of school committees. The basic gist of it was – if there are no consequences for this protest, then there has to be no consequences for other sorts of political protests. So if you let kids walk out for gun control, you have to let them walk out for pro-life protests too.

    We’ve been having discussions about what to do if kids walk out (the school had planned a rally in school at 10am, focused on making schools safer – whatever that means). It didn’t come to a head because we had a snow day on Wednesday – still digging out from the latest Nor’easter. I advocated for a punishment that fits the crime – make them serve a detention after school and write an essay about civil disobedience. Because the thing about civil disobedience that so many are missing here is that there has to be a willingness to endure the punishment that comes with disobeying or protesting laws you believe to be unjust. MLK was arrested 29 times! If you’re only willing to stand up for what’s right when it’s easy (i.e. it’s sanctioned by the schools and there is no punishment), then you’re not really standing up for much. The true test comes whether you’re still willing to do it when it gets hard.

    1. Slate had an article about how the consequences for walking out of school for political protest should be the same as walking out of school for any other reason. You can’t change the punishment because of the reason behind the walkout.
      I’m all for punishment; that’s what civil disobedience is.

      1. I agree with Wendy and y81.

        On the other hand, corporal punishment should not be part of the equation: https://nypost.com/2018/03/16/arkansas-high-schoolers-punished-with-paddle/.

        Our kids’ high schools have work details as disincentives for misbehavior. After-school detention was a thing back in the ’80s. I don’t believe in out of school suspensions, because I don’t believe schools should restrict access to the classroom, with an exception for cases in which students have physically harmed other students.

      2. I agree about the punishment and civil disobedience. If you aren’t willing to take the punishment, then you don’t care that much. Obviously, depends on the punishment.

    2. Shannon said,

      “Because the thing about civil disobedience that so many are missing here is that there has to be a willingness to endure the punishment that comes with disobeying or protesting laws you believe to be unjust.”

      Right.

      1. I also agree with everybody that the punishment for walking out of class for political reasons should be equivalent to the punishment for doing so for non-political reasons.

  7. Administrators were largely just afraid that the situation would get out of control and someone would sue the district.

    It’s understandable that they’re thinking like this, but I don’t think the schools are where the protests are going to get out of control. The overall political climate is pretty clearly going to get worse before it gets better. At some point soonish, I think Trump is going to fire Mueller and then the protests are going to get huge and it won’t be high school students.

  8. I disagree with y’all about discussing areas of agreement as well as disagreement, because, for me, an important point of discussion is to discover those areas of agreement.

    In our tate, the governor declared March 14 “Stand up for School Safety Day”.

    Maybe a governor in Oklahoma or elsewhere will want to declare a “Arm Teachers in Schools” day?

    1. I don’t think there is anyone who wants schools to be unsafe. I (personally) think armed teachers is a silly idea.

      On the other hand, it’s more popular to go along with the crowd on advocating for more laws (that won’t change anything) than to advocate for resources to be devoted to treating the mentally ill. NY Presbyterian is moving to decertify psychiatric beds: http://thejewishvoice.com/2018/03/14/upper-manhattan-residents-outraged-closing-psych-ward/

      “The scary prospect is that the folks will give up the search for help if they’re forced to go seek it,” Community Board 12 Chairman Shah Ally told the New York Post. “With the beds closing, bad things are going to happen, whether it’s people killing themselves or killing someone else.”

      “These are low-functioning patients with histories of violence,” Allen Hospital nurse Anthony Ciampa told the Post. “For New York-Presbyterian to close its doors to the mentally ill does not reflect the actions of a community hospital. This translates to me as taking away from areas of need and building in profitable areas of greed.”

      There has been a vast marketing effort to expand the idea of “mental illness” to include almost everyone. And most people who take psychiatric medications will never be a danger to anyone. Nevertheless, there are some people who need intense supervision, more intense than they can receive from their families. (and it is unfair to the families to expect them to manage such complex cases.)

      Hospitals lose money on psychiatric beds. New York is one of the richest cities in the world. If one of its leading hospitals feels it can’t support psychiatric beds, what hospital could? It is naive to believe that low-functioning mental patients will continue to take medication with fewer local supports.

      1. Maybe not obviously, people who are advocating for the laws (“https://www.womensmarch.com/enough-demands/”) as an example, don’t believe that the laws “won’t change anything.” Those of us advocating for expanding background checks, raising age limits for purchasing guns, ERPOS, banning assault rifles think they will decrease gun deaths. To dismiss the possibility, without trying the laws is not good government.

        Better mental health care services are a worthwhile cause, but not an alternative, and, there is even less evidence that mental health regulations that fit within the bounds of what we would consider constitutionally acceptable would decrease gun violence.

      2. I agree with bj on this. I think it’s pretty clear that making it just a bit harder to get guns does effectively reduce gun deaths (the evidence for suicide is very clear). And it’s also clear that the number of casualties is impacted negatively by the high capacity magazines that have only become common for civilian use in my lifetime.

        More funding for mental health is important. I’ve seen a poorly funded system and I’ve seen a very poorly funded system. While treating serious mental illness is complex, funding is low enough in most that it would not be hard to see how more of it could be very usefully spent just to reduce misery via basic care.

        But raising the issue in the context of school shootings appears to be chaff for those who don’t want to do anything. A kid who posts pictures of himself in a MAGA hat on Instagram kills kids in school, people start talking about “crazy” because it’s easier than pointing out if a kid wants to learn that the solution to problems involves shooting other people, he doesn’t need to have voices in his head to hear that.

      3. bj said,

        “Better mental health care services are a worthwhile cause, but not an alternative, and, there is even less evidence that mental health regulations that fit within the bounds of what we would consider constitutionally acceptable would decrease gun violence.”

        The details of how Broward County handled Nikolas Cruz and the shooting continue to become more and more indefensible.

        http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-nikolas-cruz-parkland-shooting-20180318-story.html

        So, that’s another angle.

        I realize that bj does not want us locking up everybody who is depressed, but at the same time, there have been numerous recent cases of violent, disturbed people being allowed to terrorize those around them, right up until they finally committed murder.

      4. I am actually fairly willing to lock up violent, potentially mentally ill people. It’s the ACLU that’s not, and potentially our constitution. I think that we haven’t fully grappled with the issue of mental illness and the effect it can have on behavior and how our law will treat that lack of competence in an adult (I include brain tumors, alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, late stage parkinson’s, developmental disorders like Downs) in that category. There’s a history of using mental illness to target disenfranchised people, but there is also mental illness that impacts people’s behavior in society and I think people who are violent should be detained, even if their violence results from their illness. But, I also think they should have their guns taken away.

        There was a recent arrest of a former Cornell student, who has been arrested for making false statements about his cache of guns and bomb making material. But, he’s avoided coming against the federal restrictions on gun purchases because he voluntarily committed himself when he was discovered.

    2. Conservative public officials don’t do that sort of thing, for whatever reason. When I lived in Berkeley, one year on May Day (Berkeley is one of the few American cities that celebrate May Day) the mayor declared the day to be “Anti-Reagan Day,” but I never heard of a conservative mayor declaring an Anti-Obama Day. Possibly the P.J. O’Rourke analysis of the difference between liberals and conservatives in levels of public political activism applies here: “We have jobs.”

      1. Why have an elected official declare a day when you can have a bunch of Russians pay for ads to do it for you?

      2. Rob McKenna, the former Republican attorney general in WA was on a talk show recently and was asked about the gun regulation walkout in WA state. He said he had no problems with it and cited his own personal walkout as a local high school student in the 80’s. He walked out because the school district had forbidden concerts in December, because of a fear that religious music (Handel’s Messiah was cited) might be played.

      3. And, it’s demonstrably false that conservatives don’t do things like this — school prayer is a prime example and, Moore was removed from the bench because he wanted to impose his view on everyone who walked into the courthouse.

  9. Laura said,

    “I love that they are testing out their political opinions, but I don’t really care what they have to say.”

    One can get a bit jaded about the opinions of 15-year-olds when one has one/has recently had one.

    Mine, for example, gave me an impassioned 15-minute speech this morning as we were leaving for school/driving to school about how I shouldn’t have thrown out her threadbare holey knee highs, but should have kept them around until I got new replacement knee highs.

    1. I’m working on persuading C that she is not Anna Wintour and I am not Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.

      1. If she’s 15, that’s age-appropriate. I’m glad that our daughter didn’t arrive at adulthood with tattoos and piercings (I think.) Really, at a certain age if they want to be foolish, there’s no way to stop them.

        As to hair, she had it cut a few times, but when she was in middle school I found it useful to let a few days pass between “I want to cut my hair,” and scheduling a visit to a hairdresser.

        I found my daughter’s idea of necessary clothing items varied depending on whether she was paying for it or not. On a related note, Amazon now has “Amazon Teen.” https://www.amazon.com/cr/teen/?ref=sxts_snpl_3_0_3457519382&qid=1521559458&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3457519382&pf_rd_r=MKCPGDCM5C268YC9B4WV&pd_rd_wg=CHzyb&pf_rd_s=desktop-signpost&pf_rd_t=301&pd_rd_w=Re58o&pf_rd_i=amazon+teen&pd_rd_r=de3d37eb-5d3b-4b4f-b54a-338bd39f56f7

        Your teen can shop on Amazon. You can veto inappropriate stuff. Here’s a short list of benefits, from the parents’ side:

        What you’ll love
        Know exactly what they buy
        Receive notifications with order details and approve with a quick text reply.
        Maintain your privacy
        Keep gifts a surprise and your purchases private.
        Grow their independence
        Choose what card they can use and where they can ship.
        Share Prime
        If you have Prime, they’ll get access to Free Two-Day Shipping, Prime Video, and Twitch Prime at no additional cost.

        A little bit of independence can change the dynamic of “Clueless Mom standing in the way of Perfect Teen Fashion.”

      2. Cranberry said,

        ‘As to hair, she had it cut a few times, but when she was in middle school I found it useful to let a few days pass between “I want to cut my hair,” and scheduling a visit to a hairdresser.”

        Nice momming!

        “I found my daughter’s idea of necessary clothing items varied depending on whether she was paying for it or not.”

        Hee!

    2. My 14 year old wrote a description of the “common sense” gun regulations for which he will advocate on Saturday. It’s well written (and researched and has citations). I find my kids to be thoughtful critical thinkers who sometimes have knowledge and perspective I don’t have and have no problem listening to them and learning.

      1. He even challenged me on the “common sense”, which he immediately spotted as branding (which, of course, it is).

      2. bj said,

        “He even challenged me on the “common sense”, which he immediately spotted as branding (which, of course, it is).”

        Yes.

        I believe it might be a real life example of the much abused term “begging the question.”

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