I noticed that a thread on a recent Get Schooled blog wandered over to the issue of social justice and whether schools ought to be teaching it.
Let’s take a more direct route to the topic today. Last week, my twins and many of their middle school classmates wore black clothing to school to memorialize Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon is the unarmed Florida teen shot to death while walking home from buying Skittles and an iced tea. Trayvon was spotted, trailed and confronted by a neighborhood watch volunteer now alleging self defense in the shooting.
The young man’s death and the failure to arrest the neighborhood watch volunteer has shocked and galvanized hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, so it should be no surprise that the controversy has reached schools in Georgia.
As a reporter, I believe in civic engagement and wish there was more of it. I have covered far too many city council, school board, zoning, planning, county commission and library board meetings where I was one of 10 people in the audience. We know that corruption flourishes when voters take the position that their elected officials are in charge and there is no need to pay close attention or get involved. More civic education could lead to more civic engagement.
As a parent and a journalist, I am encouraged when students respond to events in the news. I was delighted a few weeks ago to receive an email from a DeKalb parent about her son’s efforts to protest the hotdogs being served in the school cafeteria. The child had organized a lunch-time boycott of the hot dogs because of his health concerns.
My children told me that students took the lead in organizing their school’s Trayvon Martin memorial, which was restricted to wearing black so there was no disruption of classes.
I have no problem with schools allowing or even fostering student activism. But I talked to another parent who disagreed. The parent noted that employees at Coke or UPS would not be allowed to stage a similar protest in their offices. Why should schools be any different than workplaces?
The father said that he, too, was outraged by Trayvon’s death and had discussed it with his kids. But he sends his children to school to learn math and reading and doesn’t want classrooms serving as staging grounds for students to take stands on causes, no matter how noble or justified, he said. His kids were free to organize or attend rallies on their own time; he just didn’t want them to do so on school time.
What do you think?
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog