Having heard about it serendipitously, I attended the student-led event held at Stanley-Deming Park on Fri., Apr. 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. The students chose to be part of an ongoing nationwide student-led campaign to end gun violence in schools.
If these young people are any indication, the School District can be very proud of the job it is doing in preparing our children for full participation in a democratic society. They organized a peaceful, moving memorial for those who have lost their lives to gun violence in schools, putting together the logistics for many students to express their concerns and support.
One speaker after another articulated why they were taking this action, the urgency they feel for society to take effective action to ensure safety from guns in schools. They demonstrated critical thinking and public speaking skills, compassion and caring for victims of gun violence and for each other in taking this very public stance, using their talents in service to a broader need as they see it.
Impressive and inspiring to this 73-year-old grandmother with my own concerns for grandchildren in another school district. Impressive and inspiring to those who might fear for the state of public education in America. At least here in Warwick someone is doing something right. Kudos, at least in part, to the classroom teachers and to the leadership of board members and administrators.
I understand there was controversy about these young people leaving school and conducting this event. Be that as it may, what an opportunity for the whole community to examine what it means to be a responsible citizen in a democracy. What does that look like? How do we prepare our young people to take on that responsibility, to engage with the issues and processes? How do we nurture their leadership, their ability to work cooperatively across controversy? Indeed, how might we learn from them? We may call them children, but some of these students are turning 18 and on the verge of voting. I hope to hear how the school district is taking advantage of this very teachable – and learnable – moment.