Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Listening to Teenagers

A few years ago at my school, many hundred students staged a walk-out in solidarity with a fellow student who absolutely didn't deserve their support.  Our principal didn't handle it the way I would have, but he handled it and in his own way defused the situation.

Now the kids at that school in Florida are using social media to schedule a nationwide walkout in schools to "show support" for the kids who were killed.  I heard several students laugh at that, saying that just like the situation a few years ago, most kids would use it merely as an excuse to get out of class and not as some attempt to "do something about guns".

Look, it's pretty obvious that I like teenagers.  I couldn't do the job I do if I didn't like them.  But let's not pretend that they're deep thinkers, that they're constitutional scholars, that they have much to teach me.  Sure, a couple of them helped with settings on my computer a few days ago, things that were beyond my technical capabilities, and made my computer setup more functional than the guy from Tech Services left it!  That, however, doesn't mean that they have an understanding of history, philosophy, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, or any of the other issues involved in the so-called debate about firearms.  They just haven't put enough time, energy, and thought into the subject to make their opinions on the topic worth my while.  And being terrorized by a peer for awhile doesn't make them experts, any more than having my toilet overflow makes me an expert on plumbing.

All of which leads me to some interesting thoughts regarding the planned walkout:
Walking out elevates a feeling of moral urgency above respect for education and the rights of fellow students. Walking out during regular school hours is meant to dramatize how deeply students are touched by the latest school massacre and how strongly they support legislative remedies. The walkouts, of course, won’t change the surrounding debate over Second Amendment rights. The students may hope to persuade elected officials to “do something” to stop the scourge of mass killings in schools. But what they are really doing is mistaking moral vanity for genuine “participation in democracy.”

Walking out of class to drive a political point emphatically subordinates education to the quest for power. To many students, the protests are righteous and perhaps cathartic. But underlying their experience of “making a difference” is the message that the pursuit of political ends justifies the sacrifice of educational priorities.

Walkouts are not costless. They elevate groupthink. Children are extraordinarily vulnerable to peer opinion, and if the prevailing view favors protest, millions will conform not because they care much about the cause but because not conforming will expose them to ridicule. The students who hold contrary views—and surely there are some—will be bullied and, in any case, denied their right to a day of regular public education.
Joanne had the following on her blog recently:
Robert Pondiscio and Andrew Tripodo, who’ve both taught government, wrote about the dangers of uninformed student activism in November.

Traditional civics teaching bores students, they write. Busing kids to state capitals and organizing voter drives may engage students without educating them.
As teacher Jaime Escalante said of his students in the movie Stand and Deliver:  "It's not that they're stupid, they just don't know anything."

Update, 3/18/18: A similar view:
Young people have many virtues that accord with their youth, including idealism, innocence, enthusiasm, and energy. They do not, however, have educations or experience. They lack independence. And, in the latest far-from-spontaneous protest in favor of gun control, they are not only wrong, but also the victims of shameless manipulation by adults for narrow, partisan ends. While such manipulation was entertaining to watch in the case of the Muppets, when constitutional rights are at stake and the puppets are our children it is simply offensive.


ObieJuan said...

Remember how Reagan dealt with this type of stuff?

"All of this began when some of you who know better, or should know better,
let young people think that they had the right to choose the laws they would
obey as long as they were doing it in the name of social protest!"

Anonymous said...

And these children that you spit on—as they try to change their world—are immune to your consultation: they’re quite aware what they’re going through.

Darren said...

Yes, David Bowie, they're aware of what *they* are going through. They don't necessarily know anything else.

Darren said...

ObieJuan--I love that quote from Reagan. I've linked to the video a couple times.

Mr. W said...

we had our staff meeting on the walk outs today. Everything is rolling over for the students. One teacher said, "if I am giving a quiz, I don't need to allow them to make it up." The principal beat around the bush not saying he had to, but implied he should. The teacher (government) said "well they should know if they participate in civil disobedience, then they need to be willing to accept the consequences" :-) made me laugh. Caught the principal off guard too.

Anonymous said...

IN reality, the gun walkout thing isn't listening to teenagers, it is listening to a minority of teenagers that CNN and others in the fake news industry and social media industrial complex have propped up. You barely hear about teenagers who support the 2nd, though they certainly exist. Why is there no march for the constitution? The answer is that the media won't prop it up and the algorithms on social media won't let it trend. In my opinion, these kids who are "leading" this movement are really just pawns to the DNC/Soros agenda. I haven't look into it but I would not be surprised if this has Soros's fingerprints all over it or at least the involvement of groups he bankrolls. Sadly, I think this march against guns will get great turnout, because as you said, kids at that age will use any excuse to get out of class, especially when they know there will be no repercussions for it. Hopefully this will just blow over and not translate into any actual restrictions on our 2nd amendment rights.