Face-Off: Are walkouts an effective protest method?
Last week, approximately 120 Conant students participated in a walk-out protesting gun violence after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Student reactions to the event were mixed. Crier editors Sarah Yamaguchi, ‘18, and Annika Lafyatis, ‘18, debate the effectiveness of walk-outs.
Annika: I don’t think the walk out is a good way to protest. These walkouts disrupt classes and student learning, without actually impacting the politicians in control.
Sarah: While walk outs don’t involve direct contact with politicians, they still draw attention to the cause. When large numbers of students take action, it can get attention from the community like Schaumburg High School’s walkout did.
Annika: However, the event can lose some of its meaning if many of the students who participate in the walkout don’t even care about or know what they are protesting. I’m sure plenty of the kids who walk out just see it as an opportunity to leave class and socialize.
Sarah: Even if there are people who don’t understand why the walkout is happening, it’s still an opportunity for them to learn more about the issue. Talking to other students at the walkout can make people more informed and interested.
Annika: Being knowledgeable about the cause is critical, because many adults are looking to discredit teen activists right now. If students aren’t respectful and purposeful during these demonstrations, it proves these skeptics correct. For these protests to be successful, they need to be more structured and have a set agenda.
Sarah: Some students may not have a purpose for walking out, but there are many more who are actually informed and passionate about the cause. The Conant walkouts are being organized by students, which shows that there are people who care enough to take action.
Annika: Students who care to take action would be better off showing support in other ways. Voting is the best way to create change. Students can look up the NRA rating for different candidates, and make decisions based on that.
Sarah: That’s a good way for seniors to get involved in politics, but most high schoolers aren’t old enough to vote. Taking part in walkouts and other protests lets all students voice their opinions. Protests can also send a message to politicians who are currently in office rather than waiting for an election year to take action.
Annika: Students who aren’t old enough to vote yet can still get involved by becoming a campaign volunteer. Also, rather than participating in a walkout, which may or may not get noticed by a politician, you can directly contact your local representative to advocate for your views.
Sarah: Even if there are other effective ways to influence politicians, protests still provide a sense of unity and show solidarity with the efforts of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students. Activism is stronger when people stand together and show unity, and walkouts are one way to express this.