Civil disobedience is a student right

We are taught to praise those that commit acts of civil disobedience: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry David Thoreau. But when students at our school and around the country emulate this lauded behavior, the public eye turns into a glare.

Civil disobedience, as defined by Merriam Webster, is “the refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government.”

Civil disobedience is not meant to be convenient– that would defeat the point. Causing trouble gets attention. Complying without issue does not precipitate change; if you are not bothering anyone, you can be ignored. In a way, civil disobedience is about being a pain in the neck. In reality, change can only happen when the people annoy the lawmakers into compliance.Those who do not act on the causes they believe in are complicit in the very causes they stand against.

To the people who reject civil disobedience, where would we be without it? The Civil Rights Movement, the Boston Tea Party, Women’s Suffrage, are the LGBT rights movement are all examples of civil disobedience. We owe future generations the effort to upend current problems in our society. We have an obligation to break laws that are unjust. Schools lay the foundation for the values of the future generation. If schools tell students not to walk out, they are telling them that they should not fight for the future and that they are not a valuable part of the democratic process. When the number of voters in the 18 to 24 age bracket is the lowest, schools should be doing everything in their power to ensure students vote.

Some say that it is not a student’s place to defy laws and rules in an act of protest. But that teaches our students to sit on the sidelines of history, to never participate and create change.

History looks upon the student-led protests against the Vietnam War in a favorable light. No one says that these students should have just shut up and dealt with it without bothering anyone with their political justice. Why should it be any different for current students?

Students today deserve just as much of a chance to participate in acts of civil disobedience without being minimized and shut down. The push for change today should be treated no differently than we treat it in history.

A key part of civil disobedience is accepting the consequences that come with breaking the rules. While it is important for students to understand this, it is equally important for people in positions of power to show respect towards those who choose to participate in this process.

Voting and protesting are the two ways of bringing about change. Since students are not old enough to vote, people assume that they do not have anything meaningful to say– this is not the case.

Schools should be the places where students are encouraged to use their voices the most. Whether or not schools agree with the students, it is their responsibility to support their right to stand up for their beliefs and take action.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *