High school students across the country have been protesting the
reform proposal to make illegal immigration a felony crime.
Anyway, that's what we have been viewing on television and reading
in the newspapers. Today I will attempt to tell another side to
the story, and to state my objections to students using school
time for political demonstrations.
belong in school. Monday through Friday, that's where they should
be. Parents, teachers, and society count on minors being safely
supervised on school grounds. Teachers and other school officials
are responsible for their welfare. When students leave school
without authorization, who is to blame if they get hurt? Parents,
some of whom supported the student protests, would probably blame
the school if their child broke his ankle or got hit by a car.
When hundreds of students are determined to walk out of school,
and they do so without warning, there is little that school
officials can do to contain or protect them.
Those students who
left their classes disrupted their education and the steady flow
of the school day for their classmates. The protesting students
were not there to turn in homework, take tests, or participate in
class projects. Those who were suspended as a consequence of
their actions will have a gap in their day-to-day studies. When
you get behind in academic work (normally due to illness), it is
difficult to catch up. If you are already struggling in math
class, for example, you might become so frustrated that you will
never catch up.
Exactly who were
the student protestors? What grades were they in? I would not
be surprised if many of them were high school freshmen. Seniors
have much more to lose than freshmen. A college-bound senior
cannot afford a suspension for disruptive behavior. A freshman
or sophomore might feel there is plenty of time to absorb any
consequences for breaking rules. A freshman could even repeat the
year, and still look forward to graduation and a job.
Although I believe
some of the student protestors were serious and dedicated to a
cause, I expect that some of them took advantage of the situation
to ditch classes. Judging by what I saw on television, the
protests had the aura of a football pep rally. I also expect that
some students joined the protest marches due to peer pressure. It
must have been extremely difficult for some of them not to go
along with their friends. Peer pressure was probably further
complicated by a need for cultural identity and loyalty.
Yet, many students
remained in school. In fact, it appears that more students stayed
in class than left class. Most news reports have estimated
protestor numbers between 50 and 400 at each of the various
schools. That means most students were NOT protesting. This is
the real story, and it has been neglected by television and
newspapers. Most students, including those in predominantly
Hispanic schools, were in class and fulfilling their education
requirements. It seems logical that these students formed a
different kind of relationship with their teachers and classmates
than the protesting students. The unreported question is: what
went on in the classroom during the day(s) of marching? Was there
learning? Camaraderie? Understanding? Bonding?
There are alternate
ways to express political opinions and promote change. High
school students might consider the following.
Study American history and government.
Study immigration law.
Analyze the complex issues of the current immigration situation:
political, social, and psychological.
Write letters to your elected officials. (Learn grammar and the
skill of persuasive writing in your English class.)
Organize protest marches after school or on Saturday.
Find a trusted adult and discuss any anxieties you have about
your future or about the wellbeing of your family members.
Seek professional counseling if you need it.
Nobody in America
wants to deprive young people of the freedom of speech or the right
to lawful assembly. Students, however, must follow the rules and
respect legitimate authorities and caregivers. The immigration
issue is highly emotional. Some of these students possibly have
parents or grandparents who are not American citizens. Some may
themselves have been born outside America. Emotional reaction is
understandable, but it must be transformed into effective
communication. The majority of high school students were in class
last week, preparing for their future through education. That's
the huge and hidden story. (Written 04/03/06)
Until we meet