The Peer Podium: Walkouts are becoming a field trip, not a protest

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The Peer Podium: Walkouts are becoming a field trip, not a protest

Walkout or hangout? Some students believe that walkouts are just an excuse to leave class.

Walkout or hangout? Some students believe that walkouts are just an excuse to leave class.

Abby Jay

Walkout or hangout? Some students believe that walkouts are just an excuse to leave class.

Abby Jay

Abby Jay

Walkout or hangout? Some students believe that walkouts are just an excuse to leave class.

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Shouting and screaming erupted from gatherings of students not only at WHHS, but across the nation. With the purpose to bring awareness to the growing concern of climate change, students dropped their pencils, left their desks, assembled, and called for action from our leaders.

As students across American highschools become more politically active, walkouts have become increasingly common. WHHS students have been active participants, engaging in multiple walkouts against gun violence and most recently, climate change. With the goal of spurring political and social change, students voluntarily leave their classrooms and gather in protest. But what does this achieve?

At WHHS, the student body is intelligent, diverse and passionate. As a result, our voices are heard and our opinions valued in our local communities. However, in the never-ending game that is American national politics, the voice generated by a student walkout has been diminished; now just a buzz of a mosquito in a wide open room. The two most powerful ways to have a voice in politics are money and votes. Unfortunately, most students have neither.

One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Besides awareness, walkouts fail to bring about political or social change. A walkout, in and of itself, does not generate additional supporters, resources, or the targeted change of policy or behavior. Those who walk out take on a passive role, only generating awareness by showing that they are willing to accept school repercussions. But even that is declining.

The power of any protest comes from the willingness of protesters to show their acceptance of the repercussions of their actions.

In his letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “one who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” The penalty at WHHS for walking out is a cut slip, the assignment of which has been questionably enforced during previous walkouts. As walkouts have become more common, students, parents and faculty have requested administrations to excuse students from class.

During the climate change walkout, New York City schools excused the absence of student protestors as long as their parents signed a permission slip. If a walkout has parental and school support, it is no longer a protest—it is a field trip.

Students have a lot of potential power and influence in the political process. If students are engaged in outreach or attempting to educate and gain someone’s support for a position, then they take on an active role in generating change. Through visiting legislative and executive offices, gaining corporate support, holding a voter referendum, leading an editorial campaign, signing a petition, promoting a fundraiser or being involved in other forms of grassroots activism, students gain money and votes, strengthening their political influence. These forms of activism are much more effective than a school walkout.

If you are looking for an excuse to get out of class, walkouts are successful at providing that, but if you are truly interested in generating political or social change, other forms of activism are much more effective and do not interrupt students’ learning.

All views shared in the Opinions section of The Chatterbox belong to their respective authors, and may not represent the views of the publication as a whole.