#walkout vs. #walkup (Part 2)

This is a continuation of #walkout vs. #walkup (Part 1). Please start there and read both posts before leaving a comment at the bottom.

#walkout vs. #walkup

As a history and government teacher (former, but it is still in me), I always encouraged my students to know and exercise their rights. I taught them so that they would be aware of current events and to actively advocate for themselves via their vote, and other means too. That was my job as a teacher. That is my job as a father. And, quite frankly, I wanted my students to be productive and active citizens of their country. That is really important when it comes to the survival of our country.

However, one thing we always talked about and discussed in class was that it was important to be informed before taking action. Allowing emotion and knee-jerk reactions to events could end up causing more confusion (or harm) and being active for the right reason is important. Therein lies the conflict between the two movements that we have seen come out of the most recent school shooting tragedy.

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#walkout – or March for Our Lives – is lending itself to the hysteria, and because it makes for “good” media it got all kinds of coverage. As such, the students who are most vocal are being used to perpetuate a narrative that is misleading and inaccurate. And, unfortunately, the students who are active in the movement are protesting the wrong thing or aren’t being active for the right reasons. As my daughter put it, after I asked her why she participated at her school, “Dad, we’re getting killed out here.” To her credit, she does go to a school in a district that experienced it’s own school shooting tragedy, so the community is a little raw when it comes to these things. But, as we have seen in the statistics (previous post), the data doesn’t support her statement. Her generalization was, at the very least, typical teen drama and over-exaggeration. I didn’t run her down or take her to task for participating though. She is one of the few teens I know who actually pays attention to the news and the world around her, even when she isn’t given a school assignment to do so. She does it on her own, and that is important. Instead, we had a discussion about what the root of school shootings really is, why it is important to be informed, and to keep being involved.

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#walkup – Students are, typically, quick to jump into action but often they ignore the root problem and go after the symptom. It is easy to blame others or point the finger at someone else rather than to deal with the problem you (or your friends) have created themselves. Having been in the classroom as a teacher for 15 years (let alone my own experiences as being a high school student), I can tell you that school shootings stem, in most cases, from students treating their fellow students poorly. When I say “fellow” students, I don’t just mean the students who are the same age. I mean all students who go to a school.

School shootings DON’T take place every day, let alone on a regular basis. What DOES take place every day, without fail, it that students are treating other students in ways they wouldn’t want to be treated themselves. That is a fact and it is at epidemic levels. Whether it gets reported or not – at school, outside of school, online, in social media – it happens. I saw it or heard it every day, to one degree or another. Teasing, laughing, joking, harassing, whispering about, pointing at, turning their backs, ignoring, physically bullying, etc., etc., etc. You name it; it has probably happened. I am sure you all can look back and remember a time when it happened, where it happened, and whether it was done to you or someone else. It doesn’t take much effort to look back in your own life and remember it.

School shootings DO happen because of this. The only people who can really stop it are the students themselves. As adults we can do everything we can and talk about it and discourage it and punish it, but the fact is that it won’t stop until there is a culture change and the students themselves have to make that happen. Look, one student or even a small group of students likely can’t (or more precisely won’t) do it. It puts a target on their backs and we all know students are vulnerable to the opinions of their peers, whether they like to admit it or not. And, not all students are the problem but may passively “support” the behavior because they don’t want to become a target themselves. There are lots of good kids out there, but those good kids tend to ignore the fact that it is taking place in their presence and most often do nothing to stop it.

Let’s not let the generalization get too far away from us. There are good kids. Lots of them! But we need those good kids to stop being bystanders (we talked a lot about this in my history classes in direct relationship to the Holocaust, but it applies in lots of places) and #walkup to step in when they see or hear it happening around them. Then we will see change. Students need to be the change and it can only really come from them. BUT, it has to be done in the right places and at the right times. #walkout or March for Our Lives isn’t the right thing to be protesting when the students themselves are the root of the problem, and the solution to the problem. They need to stop blaming the symptom on others and step up to own the cause.

Victim blaming?

I saw it going around social media. A counter argument to the #walkup movement. Apparently some believe that by asking the students to prevent school shootings by stopping or standing up to the behavior of their classmates is victim blaming. This counter argument is completely off base. First, let’s be sure we understand where the term comes from.

Victim blaming has most often been used to describe what happens to a victim as a result of rape or racism (there are other crimes too, but these are the main ones). There are those with the belief that the victim must have done something to deserve the outcome. The victim was the cause and therefore the crime was appropriate for that cause. Obviously, this is not a way to understand or treat victims. No one deserves to be the victim of a crime. So that is precisely where accusing those who participated in the #walkup movement of victim blaming goes off base. No one actually believes that students deserve to be the victims of school shootings or other crimes.

So, am I victim blaming? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. Students are and will be the victims of crime in school. They certainly don’t deserve to be the victims of crime. Unfortunately, in a world that is self-focused and has a lack of empathy, our students aren’t immune to the cause nor the crime. I believe that many of the students/victims of school shootings are likely not even participants in the poor treatment of fellow students. They truly are victims in every sense of the word because the become a convenient target for someone bent on destruction.

The Final Word

Students, if you want to stop school shootings, cure the cause. Befriend the friendless. #walkup instead of standing by. Have empathy for your fellow students and and treat them as though you would want to be treated. Listen to each other. Value each other. Protect each other. Put down the phone (or mirror) and take a look around you. You are not that important to be so self-absorbed. You can make a difference, for yourself and for others. But, you have to choose to do so.

I firmly believe, and in my experience I have seen it, that if students do those things they will lessen the number crimes in their school, they will lessen the number of bullies in their school, and most likely also lessen the number of school shootings dramatically. It won’t stop it completely (because there are people who do bad things), but it would go a long way to making it happen.

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