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I admit, I like the theory behind the walkout that happened at Garfield high school on November 30th. However, I had some serious problems with their methods. Let me be explicitly clear: It is excellent that students are telling the state that budget cuts to education are unacceptable. It is. I completely agree that our current system has serious problems. However, that said, there is a distinct irony in leaving class to protest the fact that it is underfunded. I’m sorry, but I just can’t endorse it.
This kind of irony in a protest tends to undermine its credibility. Certainly, were I a state senator, my first question for the Garfield students would be this: “The heck? You guys want more school, but you’re willing to do mass walkouts because you’re unhappy? No way am I sending you guys more money.” This is a very valid concern, and one the Garfield students have not really addressed. While they have stressed that the point is not to skip class, but to call attention to the issues regarding school budget cuts, one cannot but wonder.
Thus I say Garfield students (and students everywhere) should make time out of school to address this problem. Write your senator or representative. Go to a protest, outside of school hours. Above all else, rock the boat. Just don’t do it during the school day, when you should take advantage of what the state does provide.
Also, I have problems with the manifesto of the Garfield protesters. While I recognize that issues specifically relating to their school are more immediate for them, I feel that they could have made more of an effort, and had a stronger protest, if their manifesto had addressed more systemic problems. Instead, it focused mainly on issues specific to Garfield. This was one of the main reasons people at my school cited for not participating in the protest.
Finally, I find it to be unfortunate that the Garfield protesters did not better advertise their intent to their peers at other schools. While they were joined by students from other schools, namely Nathan Hale and West Seattle, I feel that many more students would have participated if they had had the chance to plan for it. Instead, many students, like myself, learned of this protest the evening before, without enough time to verify and organize at their own school.
Therefore, I believe that there are three things the protesters should have done. They should not have protested during school hours. They should have made their aims more universal. Finally, they should have notified students at other schools of their intent so as to allow them time to consider and join.
–Aidan, Teen Center Advisor, 16