OPINION: Climate protest not a waste of class time

Students gained valuable experience protesting and interacting with government officials

Recently, we have run features about the walkout protest for climate change action conducted by the students of MBSS and Laurie Middle School. This was part of a larger movement around the world called Fridays for Future, inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

READ MORE: MBSS students march for climate action

Part of our job as reporters in the digital age is to manage social media channels; posting and sharing content, staying abreast of the goings on of our communities and the world abroad and, for better or worse, reading the comments.

The stories we share surrounding the topic of climate change always garner a big response. It’s a complicated issue. People are entitled to their opinions and, while the conversations that spring up aren’t always necessarily civil, having discussions about these subjects is important.

Part of the reason this subject becomes so controversial is that when people feel uncertain about something, especially something with a global reach like climate change, they can become doubtful, or fearful even. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering, a wise puppet once said.

READ MORE: Young protestors in B.C. and beyond demand climate change action

Now, although the purpose of this column is absolutely not about whether or not humans have an impact on climate change, the above paragraph matters because these students here and around the world are so compelled by their feelings of fear, anxiety, doubt, anger, etc. that they felt the need to conduct a walkout.

A concern expressed in the comment section on the story about the MBSS walkout was centred around the students wasting class time to conduct this protest. This is what I wanted to address.

Education is important, I will never question that now, though if you talked to me when I was these students’ age I probably wouldn’t have placed attending class at the top of my list of priorities. In fact it would have been be buried by stuff like my friends, partying, my band, my skateboard and a whole host of other things. In my first semester of grade 11 I had skipped more classes than there were days of school; I think my mom had the automated notification message from the principal’s office memorized, much to her displeasure I can assure you. (“A student in your household …)

I also never participated in any form of student action. Here is my point. First of all, it was a protest. They missed class as a way of highlighting the fact that they feel impassioned about the issue. They weren’t skipping class to get stoned in a parking lot or something like that.

Furthermore, they demonstrated the fact that they DO value their education because they very responsibly conducted the bulk of their march on their lunch hour. Some of the students stayed about 20 minutes longer and went to City Hall, but the vast majority missed zero class time. None.

The students that DID miss approximately 20 minutes of class time not only had the full support of their teachers, but in doing so, they afforded themselves the opportunity to interact with their Member of Parliament, their MLA and the energy manager for the City of Cranbrook, who sat down and had a real discussion with them for 15 minutes and then actually gave them a project they could work on.

So if the main concern here was that students shouldn’t miss class ever for any reason, well then my argument here certainly won’t assuage that. I was a terrible high school student, it wasn’t until I was in university that I got my act together, and I commend these young people of Cranbrook for taking initiative and organizing something of this scale.

If however, your concern is that you think climate change is a hoax and that these kids are wasting their time on a frivolous, misguided pursuit, then you should know that their perspectives were developed by this action that they took. They have something tangible to work on. They have a better understanding of the issue as a whole and of how the city they live in is addressing the issue.

Peaceful protests and freedom of speech, as MLA Tom Shypitka told these kids when he addressed them at City Hall, are a key tenant of democracy. Getting to meet your local political representatives and having their support only highlights that, and I think it’s a pretty good use of class time.

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