A lesson or two for student protesters

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I was a high-school sophomore when the Persian Gulf War broke out in 1991. Within hours, a handful of students staged a lunchtime war protest in the campus quad. Even more students then mobilized in support of the war: yellow ribbons and American flags on backpacks, “Free Kuwait” and “Saddam Sucks” scrawled on book covers and binders. We debated our teachers about the merits of the conflict, learned quickly about Patriot and Scud missiles and salivated over hunky TV war correspondents. Some students even began minting buttons, ranging from George H.W. Bush’s photo to the message “Kill Saddam!” Political fervor was at fever pitch. Never once, though, did school officials have to lock the gates or tell us to stay on campus – not like we wouldn’t have taken any opportunity to get off campus and out in the California sun. So it was curious to watch the thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District students – along with many others across the state and country – feeling a need to link protest with ditching school. Perhaps they had too many teachers still tripping from their Woodstock days, hanging glam shots of Che Guevara in class and encouraging some civil – or uncivil – disobedience from the younger generation. Perhaps Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s immigration bill – which didn’t garner the same protest when it was actually passed by the House of Representatives in December – was just an excuse for a long-pent-up, in-your-face nationalism display (the feted nation not being the United States) that actually stems from ethnic conflict on LAUSD campuses. Perhaps – and I will bet this accounts for a lot of the freeway-walkers – it was just an opportunity to cut class en masse. “We just walked out because we didn’t want to be at school,” a Dorsey High School senior told The Los Angeles Times. “But we also believe (the legislation) is wrong.” I would challenge these students to accurately detail HR 4437, which is broken down into 125 sections. I would encourage kids to read and understand the legislation before picking up a picket sign, instead of jumping on the bandwagon and protesting what may or may not be correct because your friends or neighbors have told you that America wants to round up all the Mexicans. The text of this bill is online and can be viewed on computers at libraries or schools. That brings us to the arguments heard over the past couple of weeks that say walking out and protesting is good for the students’ education because it is akin to a live-action civics lesson. Here’s a civics lesson for students: You get a free education. Actually, it’s not free, but provided by taxpayers. Taxpayers aren’t just rich people, but anybody legally working. People who own property are often paying extra taxes each year to build and repair your schools. You have legislators and lobbyists constantly wrangling over ways to pump even more money into your educational experience. You are granted the opportunity to excel, regardless of which school you attend, and work your way into the college system or a vocational field. Stop viewing it as a right, but as a gift. Would such a politically minded student slap the gift-giving taxpayer in the face to run up and down the Harbor Freeway? Clearly one of the best lessons for these kids to learn is that there are consequences for actions. Thus each student who ditched school, trying his mightiest to get around campus lockdowns, should be required to pay the district the amount of state money lost because of his absence. And that’s a lot of allowance. I have much respect for politically motivated high schoolers. I was 12 when I read the transcripts of the Iran-Contra hearings for a book report; I was 13 when I acquired a Bush Sr. campaign sign and arranged a street-corner rally with a friend – to be met by the middle fingers of some Dukakis supporters. But there’s a difference between politically motivated and anger-motivated. Anger usually fosters obscured vision, such as not realizing how good you have it and not respecting that your school district is bending over backward to give you political expression opportunities in the classroom setting. It’s only when you get to college that you’ll learn expressing the wrong opinion to the wrong professor can land you a “C” pretty swiftly. Bridget Johnson writes for the Daily News. E-mail her at [email protected]last_img read more

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