Editorial: School staff blocking democracy

Discouraging kids from walking out also discourages them from ever speaking up

Teachers have been conducting rotating strikes around the province, walking off the job a day at a time to protest the lack of progress in their ongoing contract dispute with the province.

This week, student organizers, as they have in previous disputes, felt it was time they tried to make their voices heard.

But though over 10,000 students across the province said they would participate in their own strike Wednesday in support of their teachers, when 9 a.m. rolled around, there was disappointingly low turnout at many schools, including Penticton’s.

We say disappointing, not because we think students should be missing any more educational time than they already have through the teacher’s walkouts, but because the low turnout was due in part to a campaign by school administrators to discourage the student strike, in some cases actually blocking students from leaving the school.

Voting rates among young people are at an all time low. What better way to convince a group of high school students that their voice won’t matter when they too get to voting age than to squelch their attempt to exercise the rights of free speech and lawful civil protest.

It’s unlikely the student protest would have any effect whatsoever on the teacher’s contract negotiations. But that isn’t the point; the important part is the student initiative to attempt to make their voices heard.

School administrators shouldn’t have encouraged the student protest, but they could have chosen to step back and not interfered. At the most, the students on walkout would have missed a class or two, but they would have learned a different kind of lesson.

And, after all, the students’ voice is important: their education, and that of following generations, is what is really at stake here.