The successes of the walking out protests

Some students walked out of school today in response to the latest shooting. Some people, primarily non-students, are very upset about this. A run-down of the bad arguments I’ve seen levied against the walkout, and why each one is ridiculous. Put together, they reveal the opposition is people digging their heels into the ground for entirely selfish reasons.

Bad argument #1: The kids are just walking out because they want to ditch class.

Why it’s ridiculous: Pretty much anyone who wants to ditch class already ditches class. Nothing about a protest magically creates the ability to leave the room. Any day of the year all one has to do is stand up and leave. Or just not even go.

Also, the walkout lasted seventeen minutes. That’s not even a full class period. I’d be surprised to see anywhere it’s even half a class period. If the goal was getting out of class, some other length of time would have made more sense. As would doing something more fun than protesting.

Bad argument #2: Teenage texting and driving is a much bigger problem than school shooters.

Why it’s ridiculous: The most obvious reason is that we can care about multiple things. There are more car crashes than homicides, yet pretty much everyone is on board with taking measures to prevent homicide. Being kidnapped off the street and tortured is worse than having your place burgled at night, but you still bother locking the door.

This bad argument reveals a truer motive, though. The people making this argument are largely not involved in schools anymore. But they are on the roads sometimes. So to them teenage texting and driving is a bigger problem than school shootings. I don’t have any argument against such grotesque selfishness, but they will have no principled objection to being robbed, so I advise anyone to take advantage of their moral permission to have their stuff.

(A subordinate problem: This argument usually relies on death toll alone. It ignores the other effects of each. For the most part, people still drive just fine despite people texting on the roads. However, education is itself thwarted when the students are too afraid of a possible attack to focus on learning. You may as well send the kids home.)

Bad argument #3: Walk UP not OUT.

Why it’s ridiculous: There are several ways this is ridiculous. The first is that it’s just a continuation of the selfishness from before. A societal problem exists, and the people making this argument want to push all of the work of fixing the problem onto the students. Nevermind whether the solution actually makes sense. But let us consider why it doesn’t make sense.

Many of the people shooting up schools are terrible people. Possibly all of them. You have bunches of people who are exemplars of pernicious sociopathy and the incel subreddit. People who demand a right to abusive relationships lest they start killing people are not the people to spend much time with. Asking someone to enter an abusive relationship with someone else for your own benefit is another level of ridiculous.

On the other side, this argument itself is harmful. There are a lot of quiet kids out there who are quite peaceful. In fact, most kids who are content to sit in the corner and read a book alone have no desire to shoot anyone. Yet the propagators of this argument are scare-mongering about them, making their lives worse. Stop it.

Bad argument #4: Those are seventeen minutes they should have spent learning.

Why it’s ridiculous: See the subordinate problem to #2. Learning requires a healthy state of mind. Nobody worrying if they’re about to die is paying attention to fractions and chlorophyll. If you care about learning, you care about having an environment in which learning can be done. This argument is just another expression of wanting to not have to deal with even the slightest discomfort over a problem that does not directly affect oneself.

A success or two: At the very least, the protests have kicked up a lot of dust. These four bad arguments, and others, have been forced into the light where they can be seen as the ridiculous selfishness that they are.

Many schools have issued punishments for the students who took part in the protests. For the most part, I see people lamenting this (or continuing to spew vitriol toward anyone who dares question any element of the status quo not directly harming themselves, but I will ignore them here), but the opposition reveals the success of the protest. If the protest had no opposition, it would be pointless as a protest. Either everyone would already be in agreement and so no protest would be needed, or the protest would fail to attract enough attention to do anything.

Some people simply do not like the discomfort of possible change if the change isn’t directly benefiting them. We see it here. We saw it when people kneeled during the national anthem at football games. We see white people denying racism because they haven’t experienced it themselves. But now they are uncomfortable with the status quo. And of course their first move is to whine. Then they lash out against anyone daring to demand a better world. But, somewhere along the line, movement happens. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. And hopefully the kids sitting in detention recognize that their punishment means their protest is working.

Watching the development of protest strategies has also been, in a way, pleasant. Posts have been circulating with directions on how to present the protest. Because some stubborn asses are prone to attacking the character of the protesters, they’ve designed the right way to appear in such a way that the asses have no ammunition to use. (Mostly ammunition for BA#1.)

Perhaps the biggest actual problem—and I don’t think it’s that big right now—is a lack of concrete demands. Right now the demand is to do something about gun violence in schools.  That’s great for getting the ball rolling. But if nothing concrete is figured out, it may fizzle like OWS. (Of course, concretization will also lead to new arguments. For example, if they go for gun control, all the the arguments against gun control will come out against them. Right now any time someone tries to dive into gun control, one can point out that the protests are not calling for gun control, but for something to be done. That move will stop being available.)

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