Student climate strike: in a crisis, what are the limits of the “student voice”?
For students who dropped out of class on Friday, May 21, the School Strike 4 Climate protests aim to extend their voices beyond the suffocating grip of schools. It is time for school leaders to recognize that young people exercising their democratic rights are citizens, not citizens in waiting, write Dr George Variyan and Fiona Longmuir of Monash University.
2020 was a year when our politicians and the press were concerned about the pandemic, and rightly so. However, for most young people, the climate crisis has remained a lingering and uncomfortable reality.
Growing up in times of climate crisis has been proven to have serious consequences for the mental health and well-being of many children and youth. These impacts did not diminish in 2020 but rather COVID-19 has added another layer to their anxieties. Yet even so, as we step out of the pandemic restrictions, it appears that young people are again ready to lead the revolt and demand that attention be returned to the climate crisis.
– Anna Prytz (@annaprytz) May 21, 2021
the School Strike 4 Climate Movement, which took place across Australia on Friday, was initiated in 2018 and made famous by the activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. In Australia, hundreds of thousands of young people have already joined these demonstrations as an outlet for their concern and dissatisfaction with political responses to the climate crisis.
For students who have dropped out of class, these protests aim to extend their voices beyond the suffocating grip of schools. Indeed, youth activism is a phenomenon of overflow that escapes the limits of schooling itself, even if it is only for one day.
How can school principals hope to engage authentically in the face of this imperative? After all, education systems, arguably strongholds of the status quo, are one of the many institutions that have helped us fall asleep in the climate crisis we face.
“… It is time for school leaders to recognize that young people who exercise their democratic rights are citizens and not citizens in waiting.”
The educational policy and the hidden agenda of individualized hyper-competition and student docility upon which typical educational practice is based ready-to-use graduates rather than active and engaged citizens who are loud about their environmental concerns. Again, young people are not fooled.
For school leaders, perhaps now is the time to understand more radically what the voice of students is. While experts love Pasi Sahlberg argued that schools and governments must support students in their strike action, school leaders are clearly caught in a delicate balance between supporting students, managing the perceived expectations of their school community and the general public, and meeting their bureaucratic obligations.
However, if there is any hope of escaping the youth voice education, then an obstacle to overcome is the way in which principals place limits on the free will of students when they reflect on routine notions of “student voices”.
– Debabrata Routh (@routh_debabrata) May 21, 2021
Narrow frameworks of what might otherwise be considered active participation in democracy construct distinct spatial and temporal boundaries.
Like the politicians who suggest that “during school time children should be in schoolSchool leaders could also think of student voices through the lens of current arrangements in their schools. Framing youth civic activism through these educational perspectives establishes normative boundaries within which rebellion can be contained more comfortably, if not symbolically. In this sense, as sociologists have understood it for a long time, whoever supervises wins.
Let’s be honest, as a form of civic engagement, climate strikes are a political act of disobedience. Climate strikes are not about asking for permission, but about interrupting everyday life. Indeed, typing is not limited to “Express one’s feelings»But also on blocking the offer. In this calculation, if you’re not rubbing feathers, you’re not doing it right.
So what now for school principals?
Perhaps it is time to recognize that we are in a common fight for the survival of our civilization. This is really it terrible.
Yet beyond this urgency, it is time for school leaders to recognize that young people who exercise their democratic rights are citizens and not citizens in waiting. And even more, for young people, it is more than an act of political citizenship, it is an act of self-preservation.
Instead of giving in to despair, discouragement and resignation, young people find their voice and their free will. Youth activism needs to be understood in these broader terms, on wider grounds and beyond the timetable.
Helping young people to express themselves, to take action and to make a difference must be a priority for educators. For school leaders, to do less is to fail the moral test of our time.
This article was co-authored with Dr. Brad Gobby, Senior Lecturer at Curtin University.