Youth Voices Matter

This year’s my 30th class reunion. I’ve now been teaching for 25 years. At 48 I certainly see how impulsive teens can be and how prone to they can be to drama. But I also know how reflective & insightful they can be.

When I was a Junior and Senior in high school the Supreme Court handed down their decision on Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. I was on our school newspaper at the time, and this case was about a principal censoring stories in a student newspaper about teen pregnancy. That case helped many of us Gen-Xers to realize that teens (us, at the time) are capable of critical thinking and responsible speech.

This weekend hundreds of thousands of teens and young adults participated on more than 800 “March for our lives” protests across the United States and the whole world demonstrating that youth can pick up the torch of leadership and speak out on important issues.

While that Hazelwood case gave school administrators greater editorial power over the student press as de facto publishers and reasserted the “en loco parentis” doctrine established in “Tinker v. Des Moines,” it also stated that teens do indeed have the same First Amendment Rights as adults. Freedoms of speech, assembly and petition for redress.

Yet some adults are complaining that they’re too young to purchase firearms themselves, yet they want to influence laws affecting the second amendment rights of adults to buy weapons.

It’s barely been six weeks since these kids were hiding from a gunman in their school trying to kill them! 17 of them were killed by one shooter with an AR-15. Four more than died in the Columbine massacre in 1999 by two shooters.

I’m not the first adult to point out that if they’re old enough to die or be shot & witness 17 of their classmates be brutally murdered- they’re old enough to have an opinion about it.

How calloused, cruel and without empathy can anyone be to accuse the victims of being villains? Yet people are making comments and posting and sharing graphics claiming that the survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman school shooting are propaganda tools, indoctrinated by the left-wing media elite.

Ask yourself who’s being indoctrinated when even a majority of NRA members want reform that will prevent the sale of automatic (military grade) assault rifles.

This is not about revoking the 2nd Amendment, (that for 200+ years was interpreted as being about a “well regulated militia,” ) it’s about reform meant to save children’s lives!

As a History major, one of the things I studied about in college was the “Children’s Crusade” in Montgomery in 1963. Junior high, high school & college kids WANTED to oppose injustice.

Of course white segregationists accused MLK, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, & the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of being “outside agitators” led by New York Jews & millionaire trying to brainwash the “colored” children.

This isn’t Dem vs Rep. It’s not even Trump vs. anti-Trump. It’s preventing school shootings vs. an industry lobby group (the NRA) trying to hold on to profits.

Surely any reasonable adult can be both intelligent and compassionate enough to see that. I would hope they could see that ALL Americans, no matter how young or old have the right to speak out for what they believe in. Most of all I wish people could see what poor taste it is, how heartless it seems, to attack shooting victims and children who lost friends and underwent such a trauma.

I for one am proud of America’s teens and find hope in the future and encouragement from their voices being raised. We can all be confident that as tumultuous as our times are, democracy is alive and being exercised.

For weeks now a song has been running through my head. I first heard it in junior high on Billy Joel’s Russian Concert album, but Baby Boomers know it from it’s original author, Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan:

‘Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is

Rapidly agin’.

Please get out of the new one

If you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin’.

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