My Daughter Joined the School Walkout, and This Conservative Dad Is OK with That

Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School students Ian Aiken, left, 14, and Aiden Magley, 15, at Market Square, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

On Wednesday, my daughter, along with thousands of other students around the country, stood up and walked out of class to protest gun violence. As a conservative who disagrees with anti-Second amendment activists, I was okay with my daughter’s decision.

About a week ago, I received two emails about the planned walkout. One email was from my daughter’s principal. The other was from the school district’s office.

The principal’s email let the parents know that their children would not be penalized if they participated in the protest. She also detailed the school’s plans to help ensure that the event went off smoothly and safely. The email from the district office contained similar information. Both emails stressed that all staff and students have been instructed to not pressure students into participating in the planned walkout. Furthermore, any ostracization and bullying of students who did not participate would not be tolerated.

I was thankful for both emails, and appreciated the information and overall tone.

My daughter had already informed my wife and me that she would be participating in the protest. At the time, I had a brief conversation with her about her reasons for participating and the reasons why I would not participate if I were a student.

After she arrived home from school this afternoon, I asked her how the protest went. Being a middle-schooler means that she frequently traffics in one-word responses, so after her initial “good” I pushed for more information.

I waited until she was finished telling me a little about it before asking, “Do you think you accomplished anything?”

She looked a little surprised and answered, “Well, yes.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s going to help end gun violence,” she asserted.

I quietly told her that the walkouts would not help to end gun violence. Her face took on an expression of incredulity mixed with confusion, so I continued.

Briefly, I explained to her how guns have been around for as long as kids have been going to school and that gun violence in school is a modern problem. She listened intently and nodded her head as I told her that when looking for solutions to problems, you need to first deal with variables that were introduced around the time the problem began. Guns are not the actual problem, and treating them as the actual problem will help ensure that the problem will never be solved.

She said that she understood that, but that she didn’t like guns. That gave me the opportunity to tell her what I really wanted to tell her.

After asking her if she remembered learning about the student protests during the Civil Rights Movement, I asked her if she thought that what she and her classmates did was similar. She looked confused and unsure of what to say, so I embraced the teaching opportunity. Below is an abbreviated version of what I told her:

First off, I’m glad that you are willing to take a stand for what you believe in. But, let’s be honest, it took far more guts for the students who stayed in class to do what they did than it did for the students who walked out. And that’s the thing. During the Civil Rights Movement, the students who participated risked their lives. In fact, many of them died or were seriously injured for advocating for change. It cost them something. The school walkouts today didn’t cost anyone anything. You and your classmates risked absolutely nothing.

Protests that don’t cost anything aren’t really going to change anything. Everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock is aware that our society has a problem that needs to be fixed. The lawmakers didn’t need students to walk out of class to be made aware of the problem. During the Civil Rights Movement, in large part because of the actions of the protestors, TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers broadcast far and wide the atrocities that African-Americans were suffering under. For many Americans at the time, the discrimination meant very little to them. The images of students and adults being viciously beaten and attacked brought the sobering reality into their living rooms. The protestors’ sacrifices helped propel society to change.

Furthermore, the leftist notion of speaking truth to power doesn’t apply here. Your authority figures were behind this so-called protest. In other words, the power was behind the protests. The power was speaking lies to the pawns. It was an event staged for the theatre of it and to exert control over the minds of students. You weren’t protesting, you were doing the bidding of the authority figures.

So, while I will always support your right to express your beliefs, I do want you to know that today you were merely a pawn in the hands of people who would love nothing more than to see America transformed into a dystopian nightmare. And that nightmare society will be filled with free abortions, more and more gender confusion that denies science, and violent attacks on those who disagree with the system. If the adults behind the protest were really interested in solving the problem, they’d be looking for solutions and not orchestrating pointless protests.

Of course, this will be an ongoing conversation with my daughter. By no means do I believe that with my speech this afternoon I answered all of her questions or cleared out all of the confusion introduced by peers and misguided adults at her school. But I am thankful for the opportunity to have the conversation. And that’s why I’m okay with the fact that my daughter participated in the school walkout.