Teens must arm themselves with knowledge first

Andrea Silveira, Staff Writer

Mary Beth and John Tinker—13 and 15 years old respectively—from Des Moines, Iowa, were part of a group of five public school students who were suspended on Dec. 16, 1965, for wearing black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam war.
These teens peacefully expressed their disagreement with the Vietnam War and fought for their voices to be heard, and they were suspended for it.
The Tinkers sued the school for imposing on the students’ First Amendment rights and the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The court ruled that students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they walk on campus, and therefore the Tinkers were warranted in their protest.
This development gave students a voice they had been too timid to exercise.  Every student should learn from these teens: with perseverance and confidence, adults will listen and begin to understand, and laws can be changed.
High school U.S. history books are filled with examples of countless movements that greatly stirred America and changed the course of history.  We need to learn from them and choose our actions and words carefully.
If we look at other successful protests and use the same tactics, our voices will be heard.  The next step is to educate ourselves on politics and our rights.
“You don’t get it; your generation always thinks they know everything.”
I’ve heard those words multiple times from my father on the topics of gun control and protesting since the Parkland, Florida, shooting.  Why is that when we teens speak our mind, people tend not to listen?
In discussion or debates, teens find that their biggest weakness is their lack of knowledge.  We want to be heard, understood and recognized as young adults with valid opinions, but what prevents us from receiving this ultimate gift of respect is our own ignorance.
Now is our time to learn.  Even though it’s already our full-time job, we must use knowledge as a weapon to promote change.
Studies show about 60 percent of young people aged 16-24 utilize social platforms, which often distort stories or are very biased, as their form of news.
Schools should be showing us news and teaching us about government and politics at the beginning of our adolescence.  Education on current events and politics is another addition to the long list of things that school doesn’t prepare us for.
However, if we’re introduced to the world of politics at a younger age and presented with divisive views and taught how to analyze new sources more critically, then maybe forming our own opinions would be more realistic.
Another problem is that many may just not care.  Surveys show that 21% of college students said they agreed with the statement that the 1st Amendment was “outdated.”
How many more horrific events need to happen for people to actually care?  We could start with class discussions and stirring a passion in the younger generation.
Along with politics, our basic rights should be taught earlier too.
Seniors in high school are learning some of their basic rights for the first time in their Government class, and they aren’t the only ones who want to make change. Why wait until a student is 17 or 18 to teach about how local, state and national elections are determined?
Students are being set up for failure with how little they know about their own rights.  With all the walkouts being planned, it is crucial for everyone to know their rights and how to plan a proper protest.
After the Parkland shooting, students have been organizing their own walkouts and protests in hopes to make the community and its leaders listen.
On Feb. 23, students at Lincoln, Edison and Stagg High Schools participated in a walkout to protest gun violence, which unfortunately led some students to turn to violence.
Five students were arrested and charged with battery on an officer, resisting arrest, taking an officer’s baton and vandalizing vehicles, including patrol vehicles.
“It’s sad that kids are trying to do what they feel is right, and a small group turned it into something that it wasn’t supposed to be; it’s unfair,” senior Cassandra Barragan said.
Once these protests turn violent, we as a generation lose the attention and respect of politicians.  Other Bear Creek students have taken part in local protests.
“Participating in the March For Our Lives in San Jose was amazing,” sophomore Devyn Inong said. “Being able to see thousands of people take time out of their day to show their support in trying to reduce gun violence was astonishing.  To me, the protests don’t mean take away the Second Amendment.  This movement is trying to fix issues with gun control laws that have somehow allowed more and more school shootings to happen.”
Countless protesters across the country marched with signs saying things like “Never Again” and “Protect Children, Not Guns.”  The March For Our Lives movement has started a website where people can register to vote and learn how to start a local activism club.
It’s time to make change, but we have to start with our own knowledge.  Knowledge is power, and with this tool we may be able to win over the votes and see change in gun regulations.
The elimination of ignorance will let teens explore their opinions and gain the respect of adults.  Let’s educate ourselves on history, politics and our basic human rights to go the extra mile so we don’t have to live every day worried about another school shooting.