Am I Next? School Shootings and Student Protests

Student strikes and walkouts have led to real political change in the past. Can they force politicians to finally do something about gun violence today? We talk to historian Jon Zimmerman about powerful protests led by previous generations of students, and what made them so effective. And we hear from student leaders who are organizing protests right now, speaking up and walking out of their schools, in order to try to force a change on an issue that affects them so directly.

2 Comments

  1. Great episode. Thanks.

    Although it is ancient history, I can personally attest to the education a high school student gets from collective action. High School student engagement in direct nonviolent political action, was, for me, life changing and formative. It sparked a life of activism and an expectation that I could and should take stands for justice and that my action or inaction, made a difference. I am delighted to see the students today taking this intractable problem of gun control, head on. They are raising consciousness, organizing themselves and motivating all kinds of folk to action!

    Back in the day ( Alright, waaaaaaaay back in the day) Student anti-war activism in 1970s often had both national and local foci. The national demands and local actions were often intertwined. Before “intersectionality” was a word we made connections between poverty and the military industrial complex, the oppression of women, racism and the Vietnam War Some of the student leaders did have older mentors in their lives. We read a lot ! Like the current activists, though? We were fiercely independent and typically took orders or direction from no one.

    In May 1970, the day after the students were killed at Kent State, students activists called a meeting of the whole school of 1700 students to vote and decide whether to join area colleges and universities to go on strike for a week. The mandate to strike won by a 4 to 1 margin after very heated debates. While out of classes we turned our gym into a clearing house for anti-war activity, anti-war educational materials and teach-ins. We passed petitions and went to speak at elementary schools. We met, coordinated, discussed and strategized.

    Just as the week long strike for Kent State was ending, black university students were killed in Mississippi. Not only I was able to participate as an ally in a demonstration for respect for our fellow African-American students, I was able to take African-American History as an elective in my senior year in high school. At my high school, the Black Caucus, student leaders of color, demanded that we have a Black History course along with the Latin American and Asian history courses we had asked for previously, guided by our very aware and progressive Social Studies department. African American History 101 was quite a class. But that is another story. Suffice to say I was deeply affected by what I learned.

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