Garfield students are tired of walkouts. I don’t blame them. Our walkouts are rising in frequency and diminishing in passion. They have transformed into self-congratulatory parades which fail to get anything done.
Take the recent Climate Change March: there was a clear goal of fighting global warming as well as a tactic of worldwide walkouts, but what did it achieve? How do these walkouts initiate change beyond “raising awareness”?
I support the cause, but I worry that this movement is following a similar trajectory to other large Garfield walkouts such as the 2018 “March for Our Lives” or the 2016 walkout in response to President Trump’s inauguration: well-intentioned walkouts are planned and executed by large numbers of students, but the zeal withers within days. The cause that we rallied around remains unadvanced.
The core of this issue is that no one stops to question whether our walkouts are actually creating change. In our polarized political climate, there is a big difference between a movement that riles up its own base and a movement that convinces other people to join up.
Additionally, walkouts can hinder our ability to make change by devaluing our education. While this is not to dismiss youth led movements, if we continue to skip school, we dismiss the idea that our education and minds may be the best tool in solving these issues. Furthermore, by walking out of school, we demonstrate that we do not value our public school education. If we are willing to skip school in order to protest, shouldn’t we also be willing to make sacrifices outside of school?
If Garfield’s walkouts consistently fail to make change, why do we continue to participate? Some students participate in activism solely for self-serving reasons; they want to be seen as activists by peers and college admissions offices, but do not care deeply about the issue. I think these activists are a small minority. Most people do care, but effective activism is tiring and often demoralizing. It’s easier to push systemic injustices to the back of our minds, especially if they do not impact us personally.
Limited to preachy Instagram stories and routine walkouts, our student activism needs to change. If we want to continue with walkouts, we should reduce the frequency. Then, we should look to organizers like Black and Brown Minds Matter. Their walkout on the first day of school was a good example of an effective walkout, as they were protesting something directly related to schools and had clear demands. We should also take a cue from last year’s Garfield Sexual Assault Awareness Club which used non-walkout methods to initiate and direct a district wide overhaul of the dress code policy.
We are at a crossroads: we can continue with “woke” Instagram posts, or we can choose to advance our causes through deliberate action. Garfield can live up to its reputation of being a school of activism.