Walking Out on Walkouts

Walkouts do far more harm to a system than they’re worth.

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Photo by Jake Mock

Sage Creek students participate in a walkout in February 2017.

Drake Trent, Staff Writer

The first ever academic walkout took place at the University of Paris in 1229 and lasted for two years. The protest was sparked over soldiers from the government attacking students and their immunity from royal prosecution being removed. It ended by the government caving in and allowing the students to be exempt from prosecution once again. Ever since that event, students and citizens have found increasingly obscure and bizarre reasons to protest; in 1766, Harvard students hosted a walkout protest for butter quality. Every year, it seems the number of protests goes up and contentment with the government goes down.

In 2017, Sage Creek students held a walkout over President Donald Trump’s travel ban. It was intended to be a show of solidarity with immigrants and those who could not come to the country. Ultimately, it did not achieve much beyond disrupting class and letting some students off campus early. It appeared short-sighted and useless; the meaning and intention were there, and they were noble ideas. However, these “noble ideas” did not redeem the protest beyond a stunt pulled by students. If more students truly understood what was being protested and didn’t view it as a way to get out of class, the outcome would’ve been different. If you’re going to disrupt someone’s education, you better make sure it’s publicized and going to have the desired outcome.

Recently, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a Colts football game in protest of their protest. In this instance, the purpose was to protest their lack of patriotism and respect for the flag. The entire thing seemed to be planned and not a spur-of-the-moment action. This has its values, but between the costs of travel and security for the vice president (at the expense of the taxpayer), it just makes the entire thing seem childish, not to mention that protesting other citizens’ First Amendment rights to disagree with the justice of our country is incredibly backwards, bordering on moronic.

The continuing walkouts, kneels, protests, and counter-protests only serve to shove a political wedge in our country. They have not had much effect in changing legislation, locally or nationally. While it can be argued that it’s due to bias and stubbornness in the system, maybe it’s time to consider that the wrong things are being protested in the wrong way. Protesting to show disagreement with a movement does little to further a cause. Protesting in the name of and directly for a cause is what achieves change. The SCHS walkout being an example of the first, and the East L.A. walkouts being an example of the latter.

The East L.A. walkouts were organized by Mexican American students who felt they were being treated as second class students in the education system in California. They were not centered on one school, rather many schools across LA county, with more than 10,000 students participating by the end. The movement itself was independent for a cause, not in support of someone else’s cause; it drew national attention, it spurred change, and, additionally, it offered inspiration for future Chicano/a movements.

There is an argument that the NFL taking a knee and Mike Pence walking out were successful protests because of the attention they garnered. If that was the sole measure of success, then by all means that would be a correct statement.  However, that is not how anything is measured. Protests are often measured in how well they did in achieving their end goal. Which neither the kneeling nor the walkouts achieved, unless its goal was to divide the nation. Too often is this country split into two separate camps over seemingly meaningless disagreements. If you protest, it should be to unite the people over an issue, not divide the country. While there will always be people who do not agree with a cause, there will always be division and there will also always be a sense of unity in the cause― something that both the walkout by Mike Pence and the walkout at Sage Creek lacked.

People tend to think that disruption is the best way to achieve their goals. I, for one, feel it’s the subtle things, the things that you may not notice are different, but are and nag at you throughout the day; it’s the small things that make you uncomfortable and wonder if there really is a different way. While this is not the only way to protest and achieve change, because there have been successful protests that really did change the world, like Martin Luther King Junior’s marches, but he too used small acts of protest that were not inherently distracting or loud unless people brought it to that point (for example, sit-ins at diners or sitting at the front of the bus).

Overall, walkouts and kneeling and marches and many kinds of protesting have lost their luster. By no means should people stop protesting things they believe are wrong. However, in such an interconnected world where everyone sees everything, people have become desensitized to the stereotypical protest. They are no longer the tool of the influencer or change-maker, they’re the tools of people who want to complain about anything and everything on both sides of the political spectrum. Maybe walkouts should be given a rest, until they’re no longer commonplace. Innovation is the key to success.