The real story behind the student walkout over ‘gun violence’
Author: Tom Tancredo - March 20, 2018 - Updated: March 22, 2018
According to the major news media, American high school students are in open revolt against the National Rifle Association and the 2nd Amendment and are demanding “immediate action” to “end gun violence.” There are plenty of headlines and cable news student interviews that say as much.
But is that really what is happening? Is this story really about gun violence and school safety, or is it about winning public acceptance of a new template for civics education and “civic engagement”— and laying the groundwork for a campaign to lower the voting age to 16?
As a former high school social studies teacher myself, I can’t help looking at this development in the perspective of both education and politics. Unfortunately, the facts reveal this event was more about honing the tools of partisan political mobilization than about public policy, and more about bringing public schools into the vortex of “the Resistance” than encouraging student idealism.
Do the students who walked out represent a majority of students on high school campuses? Who knows? But can it be called a genuine “walkout” if it was organized and financed by adults and then supported by school administrators and classroom teachers? And after the television cameras have left and the headlines fade, is the fallout from the event a positive or negative influence on public policy and protecting classrooms from future violent attacks?
But before delving into the facts underlying the shameless exploitation of healthy, natural student idealism and the understandable interest in school safety issues, let’s look behind the headlines about the well-orchestrated student walkout.
First, was the walkout the immense success newspaper headlines proclaimed? Well, that depends on your measure of success.
If we take Denver as a representative sample of what the walkout was all about, we find as many questions as answers. The Denver morning newspaper’s front-page headline the day after the walkout proclaimed, “Students leave class by the thousands.” So, the walkout was indeed successful if making headlines was the primary goal. The reporter made every effort to paint the walkout as a huge success at several area high schools. But in reality, the numbers do not add up.
For example, at Columbine High School in suburban Littleton, the scene of the horrific 1999 school shooting, the front-page story informs readers that 100 students walked out. What the newspaper did not mention is that the school has a student enrollment of over 1500. Now, fifth-grade math tells us that 1400 students did NOT walk out of class that day — but that is not the headline.
School administrators, too, participated in the charade. How else to explain the large number of school buses providing taxpayer-funded transportation to partisan rallies off the campus?
Similarly, at the only three other schools profiled, South High School, Cherokee Trails, and Arapahoe, from 10% to 15% of students were reported walking out. That means 85% to 90% of students at most schools chose NOT to walk out. They chose NOT to join in shouting chants like, “Hey, hey, NRA! How many kids did you kill today?” as occurred at the rally at Cherokee Trails High School in Aurora.
The fact that the large majority of students at area high schools resisted the national and local media propaganda, the peer pressure and large-scale teacher encouragement is a promising sign that the progressives have not yet succeeded in totally destroying civics education in favor of political mobilization. Not yet, but the campaign is well underway.
The tragedy is that the rhetoric and radical political agenda of the student rally organizers points to more polarization, not less, on finding workable solutions to the urgent issue of school safety. Sadly, the walkout was a setback for meaningful progress in combating maniacal attacks on one of the softest of “soft targets,” our public schools.
How do we know that? Well, a good clue is that none of the laws demanded by the rally organizers and passed last week by the Florida legislature would have stopped Nickolas Cruz from carrying out his murderous rampage. But, hey: how sexy would it be to hold a school rally to demand the FBI and local law enforcement do their jobs and follow up on bright red-flag warnings? Such prosaic proposals won’t get you a prime-time interview on CNN. Nor would it be politically correct to organize students to ask if the Obama administration’s school disciple guidelines have intimidated local school administrators into not reporting criminal behavior to local police.
As a former high school teacher, I am shocked at the scope of political indoctrination and partisan manipulation now taking place in middle and high school classrooms. But the breakdown in standards goes beyond the open partisanship of classroom teachers promoting walkouts. School administrators, too, participated in the charade. How else to explain the large number of school buses providing taxpayer-funded transportation to partisan rallies off the campus? How else to explain reports of students being punished for NOT walking out of class and teachers being disciplined for questioning the educational character of the event?
Rebellion against “the establishment” is so much fun when it is rewarded with applause and cheers from a clueless establishment. Surely, teacher and student nervousness over school safety is warranted. But robust student idealism needs to be channeled into valid educational channels, not exploited for a leftist partisan agenda that includes unconstitutional measures like gun confiscation.
Our school administrators, our school boards and our social studies teachers are failing our students when political mobilization is promoted and rewarded over genuine education. I say, three cheers for student idealism, but the walkout’s adult sponsors deserve a failing grade, if not expulsion.