"Eighteen today. Dead tomorrow.” Though this sounds like it could be a chant from last week’s National Walkout Day, this is actually a chant from the Vietnam War about the age of the draft. The battles were different, but the sentiments are chilling. What the Vietnam protests and the gun control protests do have in common is that they were both largely student-led and organized.
Youth protests are not something new. They have been happening since the Middle Ages all over the world. And they will continue to happen as long as there are ills in society that need to be remedied.
But, do students marching to tell the military to stop the draft or stop meddling with other countries really change anything? Or, do students leaving their classrooms to congregate in front of where policymakers work really change gun control laws?
Maybe. It certainly puts pressure on the government. Students are no different from other constituents voicing their concerns and part of the job of lawmakers is to understand the concerns of their communities. They are voicing their concern with good reason.
Still, there are some people that will say that students should keep their mouths shut and know their place. But, how can they keep silent when they feel threatened and when school shootings are happening in the place where they are supposed to feel the safest?
Students all over the nation are just asserting that they are sick of empty words.
That they are sick of thoughts and prayers. That they are sick of hearing about “one of the deadliest mass shootings” time after time. Just because lawmakers are staying silent does not mean they should.
Even if these student walkouts don’t have a direct impact on gun laws, these students do. In the near future, not only will they be voting for these laws and the people that make them, they will be the lawmakers and enforcers.
National Walkout Day is also an indicator of what is in store for the future of student civic engagement. Students have always and will continue to protest and speak up about things that matter to them. Perhaps, the biggest change in the way that students organize is how they organize. Social media has definitely made organizing easier. However, it has also made engaging and learning about relevant issues more convenient and fast.
One of the most important takeaways from the National Walkout is that we have an engaged, sympathetic, and persistent population of student leaders.