After Parkland, Students Choose to Participate
As students take action after Florida's school shooting, introduce a framework for civic participation in your classroom.
In the days following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that took seventeen lives, a remarkable movement gathered momentum. Students who survived the shooting raised their voices to demand greater safety in schools. Emma González, the Stoneman Douglas senior whose anguished, impassioned speech at a rally following the shooting was viewed more than a million times, said,
“This is the way I have to grieve…I have to make sure that everybody knows that this isn’t something that is allowed to happen.”
In Florida and around the country, young people spoke out: writing op-eds and tweets, planning walk-outs and teach-ins, talking with reporters and lobbying elected officials, and organizing a nationwide demonstration to press for changes to American gun laws. According to Washington Post reporter Philip Bump, it’s no coincidence that students are leading this outpouring of activism: as young people who have grown up with the fear of mass shootings and regular school lockdown drills, they are at an age of dawning political awareness but not yet cynical about the possibilities for change, and they understand how tools of mass communication like Twitter can amplify an individual voice.
As you do the difficult work of acknowledging the terrible events in Parkland with your students, answering their questions and processing their concerns, you can also address the ways that young people are choosing to participate as upstanders and civic agents. Use the articles linked above, or others that will emerge as this story develops, to focus a class discussion.
Explore questions like these:
You can also introduce your students to powerful frameworks for thinking about civic participation and social change. The 10 Questions Framework developed by political theorist Danielle Allen and the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) can help students examine youth activism in the wake of Parkland and can inform their own sense of agency around any issue they care about. Allen suggests that when people choose to take action, they should consider ten important questions:
After introducing the 10 Questions Framework to your students, discuss:
Legal scholar Martha Minow took another approach to analyzing how people can make change. She observed that one of the biggest barriers that individuals face in getting involved is that it is hard to know what actual steps to take: “Often times we see something that's unjust and we wonder, ‘Where do I go? What do I do?’” In an effort to help individuals identify concrete actions to take when they “choose to participate,” Minow developed a “levers of power” framework to map out the organizations, institutions, and technologies that can enable us to strengthen the impact of our voices and our actions. The levers include:
After introducing the levers of power to students, and perhaps coming up with examples for each, discuss:
To conclude your lesson, ask students: