If you went to school before 1999, you probably have little idea of what school is like today. Even if you are a parent of students, you likely project some of your dated experiences onto the state of schools.
Teachers and administrators understand, but most adults have almost no concept of the daily stress students in American schools feel, and this is especially true of policymakers who dictate the essential elements of public education.
Children from kindergarten (yes, kindergarten) undergo massive amounts of testing. Many school districts have opted for high-stakes testing. This links teacher job performance and pay to how well students do on one or two tests on one or two days. Teachers worry that their students will not perform well, and that fear gets placed onto the students throughout the year.
Even in school districts where teacher pay is not directly linked to test results, the stress of test performance pervades the school community. When I taught second grade, we did not have high-stakes standardized testing. However, we were required to prepare our students for the testing they would begin to undergo in third grade. Additionally, our entire elementary school received an assessment from the state related to our overall testing performance; teachers from intermediate grades depended on how well we as primary teachers prepared our children for the testing crucible.
Besides testing, students face the constant pressure of social media. Children from a young age live their lives online. They see everything their friends do, and they express their deepest feelings, thoughts, and dreams on Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik-Tok. Many parents do not even know that their children have social media accounts, much less what they post.
Cyber bullying brings intense torture for some students because all of their peers can see it. But students who are not cyber bullied still feel the pressure of having an enviable social media presence. If you your cyber life does not rise to a certain level of respectability, you do not even “exist.” Imagine being 13 years old and living with the pressure of being seen positively all the time.
Young people also look at the future with increasing hopelessness. They feel the pressure of increasing societal polarization and hear the angry rhetoric of their parents and politicians.
One of the biggest stressors young people experience relates to climate change. What difference does learning algebra and annotating a novel make if the human cost of climate change will cause mass migration, famines, and water shortages?
All of this weighs on top of the developmental difficulties teens and children natural experience.
No wonder many students feel desperate isolation, suffer from depression and anxiety at alarming degrees, and face skyrocketing suicide rates.
All of these daunting traumas relate to the epidemic of school shootings. Students feel the pressure that adults place on them and the weight to have appealing public lives, and they go to school every day with the fear that they could be shot.
Put yourself in the place of a teen. How would you feel with this continual burden? Could you learn? Might you want to give up?
Adults are doing almost nothing to solve these crises. We go through the same liturgy every time a school shooting occurs, and it always end with the adults at a stalemate.
We felt hope after the Parkland students began to make their voices known, but the killings keep happening in America. Even this morning, students faced the barrel of a gun at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita. From Florida to California, our children are being murdered and murdering.
Can’t we recognize that something is wrong?
There are currently four gun control bills that have been passed by the Democrats in the House of Representatives that are waiting for the Republican-controlled Senate to act. The GOP does nothing.
For a generation, adults in America have failed our teens, tweens, and children.
Far be it from me to suggest how young people should act, but I wonder how long it will be until students go on strike. A Student Strike for Gun Control.
The March for Our Lives was a positive start, but maybe students across the country just need to walk out and not come back until we adults show that we care enough about the lives of our children to prevent them from being shot in school.
Call it a Student Strike, Gun Control Strike, Shooter Strike, or whatever you want. Adults responsible for making policy decisions will not pay attention until they are forced to. Millions of students refusing to go to school until their demands are met may cause us to take action.
A Student Strike threatens the entire social structure created by adults. Paradoxically, lawmakers and those who support them will fear for their children’s academic success if the young people refuse to go to class.
Well, what about their future? How will they get into a good college if they go on a Gun Control Strike? A better question is: How will they get into any college if they are dead?
A Student Strike would put tremendous responsibility on students, especially students who can lease afford to miss school. But it also gives them them power to voice their concerns until the adults meet their demands.