School “walkout” – grassroots or astroturf?

So, yesterday (Wednesday, March 14th), many schools around the country had a “walk-out” in which students – many with the support and encouragement, and even in some cases the mandate – of their administrations protested violence in schools (which is a legitimate concern) and in most cases also called for additional gun control measures.

It is the latter that (as will not surprise regular readers of this blog) I have issues with.

The sad reality is that it is actually much more likely that kids will be killed at home by a relative than that they will be shot in school by a lunatic. Well, anybody who shoots anyone who isn’t threatening them is a lunatic, but you know what I mean…

Point is, this should have been a “teachable moment” to help kids understand a) where the real threats are, and are not, and b) the point and purpose of our God-given and inalienable rights and liberties, as enumerated in – not granted by – the Constitution. Instead, we see this.

It is very frustrating to me to witness schools, which should be fonts of knowledge, promulgating misinformation and disinformation and even encouraging it. Civil disobedience is also a right (as long as it does not involve violence or mayhem), of course – but we need to be very careful, imho, what examples and precedents we set!

It’s also interesting to see which rights schools deny students, and which they do not – and why. In many school districts (including, now, my home district of Carroll County, Maryland), it is not permitted for students to wear or carry Confederate images or memorabilia: a prohibition which is a clear infringement on their First Amendment right to free expression. But, goes the argument, schools have the authority to limit the rights of their students while they are in school.

However, now students apparently have the right to walk out of class in protest… as long as it’s for an approved cause. Wonder what would happen if they walked out for gun rights, or to protest bans on Confederate iconography, or in support of the white farmers in South Africa being brutally attacked, and who are now in danger of having their lands seized without compensation?

I’ll bet the administration wouldn’t be so eager to have them walk out for those causes!

Also telling: some students have been disciplined for refusing to join the walkout, and others for carrying signs that disagreed with the premises of the protest. While I do not deny that many students are concerned – nor that they have a right to be – their teachers and administrators are not, in many cases, serving them well by supporting and encouraging emotional reactions not justified by the facts.

Update: it’s not just students:

A California high school teacher says she was “aghast” to learn she was placed on leave over comments she made about National School Walkout Day.

Julianne Benzel, a Rocklin High School teacher, said that administrators’ decision Wednesday followed a debate she held in her history class about the nationwide school protest supporting gun control reform…

“I just kind of used the example, which I know it’s really controversial, but I know it was the best example I thought of at the time — a group of students nationwide, or even locally, decided ‘I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes’ and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?”

That is a darned good question, actually, and it ties in directly with my comment above: that civil disobedience is being selectively allowed – and even encouraged – by schools, so long and only so long as it’s in support of a cause they favor.

“I didn’t get any backlash from my students,” Benzel said. “All my students totally understood that there could not be a double standard.”

On National Walkout Day, she received a letter from the human resources department notifying her that she was being put on paid administrative leave.

Benzel, who has since retained legal counsel, said the school’s decision has raised questions about First Amendment rights.

Indeed it has! And her point about a double standard is square on. But as I have commented before, double standards and unintended irony are all too characteristic of the contemporary American Left.

In a related move, the City of Baltimore (struggling against rampant crime and an opioid epidemic, among other challenges) apparently plans to spend $100,000 to bus students to an anti-gun protest in Washington, DC, and even provide t-shirts for them!

Indeed, far from being the “grassroots” movement that is claimed, this whole thing shows definite signs of being astroturf, instead.

While I do not doubt that there is legitimate concern on the part of many students, which is entirely understandable under the circumstances, teachers and administrators – rather than engaging students in a genuine dialog on the costs of freedom, the limitations of attempting to legislate safety in the absence of a moral climate which encourages self-control and respect for life, and the importance of balancing rights and freedoms with safety and security (or vice versa) – appear to be encouraging and even manipulating them in some very concerning and authoritarian directions.

I am once again boggled by the prospect of people who self-identify as “liberals” loudly and aggressively insisting that their rights be taken away!