A teachable moment

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It has been a long time, since perhaps the days of the Vietnam War, that young people in this country have become politically engaged. Years went by as each generation felt that getting engaged would do no good. It wouldn’t change anything. They felt the same soulless leaders both at the local and national level would keep getting elected beholden to special interests.

Getting engaged would not affect their lives.

This all seemed to have changed on Valentine’s Day when 17 people were slaughtered by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It was a pivotal moment in the gun violence and gun control debate. Students, who had watched for nearly 20 years since Columbine, countless shootings at places of learning had had enough.

They felt they needed to speak out. This past week, young people in the Santa Clarita Valley and across the nation were unified in speaking out against gun violence in 17-minute “walkouts”to honor the 17 killed in Florida and to raise awareness that a debate is needed on how to stem gun violence in this country.

Whatever side you take on gun control, all of us no matter our age, should be enthused about this youth movement and should nurture young people’s own enthusiasm about getting their voices heard whether you agree with their views or not.

It’s called democratic involvement. That’s what our country has been based on. It’s a real-life lesson on something that is taught in the classroom.

This is a time for the adults in the room to spark discussion with the younger people on how to constructively get involved in the political process.

Encourage them to vote when they are of age, support candidates whose stance on issues they believe in and support organizations that push issues constructively through the political process.

That’s how you get things done and spark change if that is what you want.

For the most part, local school administrators both at the district level and at individual schools, supported Wednesday’s “walkouts.”

The local high school district created a sanctioned 17-minute window, which is certainly a worthwhile lesson plan. However, several students reached out to The Signal to indicate their campus wasn’t as supportive as they felt it should have been, several students going so far as to say their teachers threatened them with repercussions to their GPAs.

Some other schools throughout the country actually gave detention to hundreds of students who participated.

The administrators and teachers who didn’t support this political engagement should be ashamed of themselves and look for another job.

They are clueless about seizing a teachable moment. They put zero trust in the students that they would behave appropriately and that “order” would not be disrupted.

Let’s hope that the involvement of our youth is not a fleeting thing. Sparking change takes time and hopefully they don’t get discouraged. Part of the lesson will be that you don’t always get everything you want. Compromise sometimes is necessary.

But those adults in the room, whatever their viewpoints, must encourage and mentor the younger people to stay engaged. We need their input.

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