“…to every lawmaker out there: No longer can you take money from the N.R.A., no longer can you fly under the radar doing whatever it is that you want to do. Because we are coming after you, we are coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action, demanding that you make a change.”

Delaney Tarr, Student Activist

The New Normal?

Do you remember your time as a high school student? The anxiety of AP exams and standardized tests. The fear of uncomfortable social situations. The pressure of applying to colleges. The disappointment of a failed relationship. You know, standard teenage fare. These were expected stressors during our four year tenure at our local high school.

You know what’s not supposed to be part of an already difficult stretch of our lives?

Scrambling for your life, ducking bullets left and right, and witnessing the untimely and tragic death of 17 members of your school community. Such a terrifying scenario should be relegated to works of fiction.

Sadly, that nightmare became the reality for the students, faculty, and staff of Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14. The mass shooting forever upended not only the lives of survivors and victims’ families, but also the idyllic nature of Florida’s “safest city.”

We can’t allow these mass shootings in schools to become the new normal in America. Unfortunately, our country has become desensitized to these cowardly attacks. Many citizens have seemingly accepted a future sans the installation of new, sensible gun laws. However, I believe that, now more than ever before, there’s hope. And that hope lies with student activists such as the incredibly resilient survivors of the Parkland shooting.   

Students Refuse to Relent

“Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not.”

Emma Gonzalez, Student Activist

 As a result of the frequent nature of these horrific shootings, news coverage of these crimes tend to only last a handful of news cycles before it’s on to the next story. Because we tend to move on quicker, we’ve been unable to slow down, process the events that have occurred, discuss how it could have happened, and brainstorm ways to fix the identified problems. Instead, it’s the same process time and time again:

Tragic event -> “Thoughts and Prayers” -> Pivot to new story -> Move on without meaningful discussion and action.

It seemed as though we were destined to remain on this path of status quo. We had become apathetic in our willingness to fight for a cause because we felt the attempt to be futile.

And then the brave students from Parkland, Florida raised their voices and refused to relent.

Smear Campaign Begins

They were first accused of being paid crisis actors. Then, they were called political pawns, unknowingly doing the dirty work for the left. Now, they continue to be called out for simply being young, naive, and misinformed. Just take a look at some of the comments they’ve had to endure since surviving the ninth deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history:

From NBC News

However, it’s clear that these young men and women are capable of much more than their dissenters are willing to admit. They aren’t going anywhere. The voices of these future leaders have been amplified. Marches are planned. Conversations are happening. Actions are being taken. And it’s the result of a group of teenagers from Parkland, Florida calling B.S.

And because of that, there’s hope.

A Teacher’s Perspective

As an educator, I couldn’t be more proud of these teenagers and their irrepressible resolve. From the teenagers in Parkland to the young men and women fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement, students from all over the country are saying enough is enough. It’s awe-inspiring to witness.

You see, due to the nature of being an 8th grade teacher, I work to ensure that my students enter high school ready to beat back the multitude of challenges that’ll inevitably test their willpower.

In my classroom, there are four things I want my students be able to do upon starting their freshman year:

  1. Question unapologetically.
  2. Research thoroughly.
  3. Analyze critically.
  4.  Respond logically.

While certain political pundits may be quick to dismiss the thoughts and actions of teenagers, as an educator I’m beaming with pride.

Students are listening and learning in our classrooms. They’re paying attention to the world around them. They want a bright future for themselves and for generations to come. Students are displaying the grittiness it takes to make a difference in the world.

Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted to see from our students?

So, buckle up. The youth of America have found their voice, and they deserve nothing but the highest praise.

After all, they’re simply the global citizens we hoped they’d one day become.

Until next time,

Ryan