FREAK US OUT… a message to our awesome teenagers, by Steve Safran

We have heard from our secondary principals that many of our students have reached out to them to collaborate on how best to address the student desire to walk out and express their opinions but do so in a safe manner… We are proud of our student leaders at all levels for the collaborative, thoughtful advocacy they have demonstrated.

This planned walkout, as we see it, is the “lab” experience for the teaching and curriculum we bring to our students. Teaching our students how to lead, think, propose ideas, disagree and take respectful and forceful action on issues is what we do; our students are indicating to us that they have learned and want to take action.

– Massachusetts Town Email to Parents

 

This is nonsense.

As a parent, I don’t want an email from my town explaining– in much longer detail than above– how a school-condoned walkout from classes will be arranged. I don’t want the town organizing with students. I don’t need a “heads up” that my kids are going to walk out of class.

I want them to get up and go.

Where goes youthful rebellion if it’s into the arms of those against whom they are rebelling? This is an angry generation and they have every right to be. They’re being shot at in their schools. We have let them down. We have failed to protect them in what should be a sanctuary. Don’t ask us for permission. The school is on fire and we’re offering you a hall pass for the water fountain? No wonder you’re pissed. (No wonder nothing has changed.)

I’m all for young rebellion. That’s what our country is about; it’s American in the best kind of way. Lobby for change, and let the marketplace of ideas decide. I take no issue with student protest and, in fact, I support it. At Wayland High in the ‘80s, we’d “walk out” in order to demand soda machines. IT’S NO JOKE! WE WANT THE COKE! IT’S OUR RIGHT… TO HAVE A SPRITE! (This may explain why my parents transferred me to private school, where I was once sent home for not having a close enough shave.) As a conservative, wholehearted support of youthful protest might seem out of character. As an anti-gun, pro-choice, anti-religion-in-schools, pro-women’s-rights, free-trade, anti-Trump conservative, however, these days I guess I’m what’s known as a “Democrat.”

But you can’t stick it to the man if the man sends gentle emails with sentences like, “We support this and find it a fine learning experience and we’re going to make it a lab.”

A lab?

Way to take the fun out of it, grown-ups. I officially protest the administration’s support, and will occupy their building. I will, of course, be alone, as the administrators will be outside, patting themselves on the back for being progressive as they make sure students do not wander outside of the “designated protest area.”

Personal politics aside, I think most of us recognize that this generation is creative in ways we do not understand. They are seriously skilled. I mean it– they really are. They make movies and music better than any big screen scene from the ‘90s… and they make them on a device in their hand. The best these Internet, gaming, and video wizards can do is…  walking out with permission? That might make Grandma and Grandpa Hippie sentimental, but today’s teenagers can do better.

Here’s my message to them: don’t walk out, freak us the fuck out. We’re 50. We get spooked by a 1% drop in our IRA. We’re easily panicked. You’re going to need to scare the status quo out of us. Be creative, make movies, share them with your zillion followers. Show us you’ve got more game than a supervised walkout. Take a page from your ‘60s forefathers and put a tech twist on it. Walking into a field while the principal says “Yes. Good. You get an A in civic engagement studies” sure as hell wouldn’t have ended any war. A VR vision of what it’s like to be helpless as you are slaughtered in your own homeroom, even as you have a gun that’s useless against an attacker’s armor? Now we’re talking. Get coding.

Me? I hate the damn guns. I truly believe this is the generation that will do something about it. Every generation that grows up in fear is the one that brings about change. We hated the day-to-day worry of nuclear annihilation. Anti-nuke protestors took to the streets, while conservatives encouraged Reagan just to spend the Soviets into oblivion. Whatever your macro-political view, it worked. The people who grew up watching their older brothers and classmates die in Vietnam put an end to that. These teens have grown up watching a non-stop war and “Hamilton.” They KNOW they can do something. And they’ll probably make it catchy.

So protest, kids. Skip class, but take the detention. You can’t change the world if you can’t take the hit. Don’t walk into a field and hold a sign. March in the streets. Go to state capitals. Make and share videos that answer the NRA like the Parkland Students did so poignantly and slyly. Be subversive. You have the tools to out-media the media. You can podcast and VR-simulate and disseminate your message virally. You can be so much more creative than we can imagine (we still don’t understand SnapChat stories). Where justified fear and anger meets youthful peak creativity is where change happens. We’re watching. We’re listening.

So go ahead. Freak us out. That’s how you change the world.

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United, they stand. #NeverAgain

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