We’ve heard it all before. Regardless of the era, the youth generation always ends up garnering the same stereotypes — lazy, ignorant and apathetic. Back in the 60’s, the hippies were regarded as jobless and out of touch with reality. Since then, there has been Generation X, angsty 90’s teens, and now Millennials (the generation ruining the economy with their laziness).
And then there’s us, Generation Z: the generation that makes a movement out of consuming Tide pods but won’t get out and vote. The generation that would rather Snapchat away their life than live in the moment. But change is here, and through tireless activism, high school students around the nation are rewriting our generation’s narrative.
While students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Florida were preparing their Valentines Day Feb. 14, an armed gunman entered the school, killing 14 students, and three teachers. Less than a week after this tragic shooting, the kids from MSD mobilized a nation of angry, frustrated and mourning students into a movement. Less than one week after the most traumatic event of their lives, students from MSD were holding politicians accountable by forcing town halls, testifying in front of congress, planning nationwide protests and walkouts and taking on the National Rifle Association (NRA). This is the movement of teenagers, and they are not alone.
According to the youth branch of the Women’s March movement, as of Feb. 24, exactly ten days after the shooting occured, over 1,150 student-led walkouts have been planned nation wide, and over 150,000 students have RSVPed to a protest, walkout or rally on Facebook.
Thousands of students from MCPS walked out of school to D.C. to protest Congress’ consistent inaction regarding gun legislation. This walkout was covered by dozens of news outlets from local sources such as Bethesda Magazine and WUSA9 to national media such as Buzzfeed and CNN.
Spearheaded by the courageous survivors of the Parkland shooting, high school students nationwide have already enacted change and held politicians accountable in ways that previous generations have not. Despite all of this, people are still going to great lengths to discredit teenage activists.
Political pundits everywhere have been using their platform to questions these students authenticity. Already, dozens of accusations have been made by high profile personalities accusing the Parkland survivors of being “actors” pushing a false narrative in order to enact gun control legislation. After a picture was released of some of the survivors crying due to a gun legislation bill that got shut down in congress, political commentator Dinesh Dzousa claimed it was the worst news they had heard since they were told to get summer jobs.
Many pundits have intentionally questioned and attempted to discredit intelligence and passion of these teenagers.
This disrespectful and counterproductive. It is time for naysayers to come face-to-face with reality. This is not the first time that students voices have changed the world and it will not be the last.
Student voices have been at the forefront of social change for generations. Back in the 1960s, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organize sit-ins, walk outs and marches, many of which spearheaded the civil rights movements of the ‘60s. Additionally, student protests, most recently, to ensure that Black Lives Matter, have all done more to create change than many members of congress.
As the Parkland survivors continue to inspire millions of adults to listen to the children and let us guide the way, one has to remember, students have always been guiding the way. We have always been the change that the world needs to see. As monumental as this movement is, it is not surprising to those who have been paying attention.
Many will claim that teenagers shouldn’t be the ones leading the charge on gun control, or any movement. After all, it may seem implausible that students who have not even completed four years of history and government would have a full arsenal of knowledge on how the laws work.
This mindset is frankly a historical. Anyone who has in depth conversations with teenagers know that we care. It’s time for the stereotypes to stop. As teenagers, we’re not lazy; Mar. 14, MCPS students are organizing a second county wide walkout in D.C. As students, we are not apathetic; we have been having political discussions since well before Trump entered office. As Generation Z, we’re the future. And adults, it is time to accept that the future is bright.