Editorial: Disruptive Activism?

Editors discuss the merits of climate strikes during school hours.

Lyle Griggs

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On September 20th, several Seabury students participated in a global climate strike popularized by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and organized locally by the Sunrise Movement. Although it was called a strike, students only left school for a few hours to participate in a protest in front of Lawrence City Hall. On the morning of the strike, Dr. Schawang gave his blessing to participating students, asking only that they sign out before leaving for the protest. Schawang explained that he approved of such activities so long as they were not frequent. This past Friday, however, students participated in a second strike, and in the coming years, the Sunrise Movement and other organizations hope to hold more frequent strikes.

The issue with a strike of this sort, however, is that students who participate are not protesting the actions of the school; normally, participants in a strike protest the actions of their employer. Students may, however, inconvenience their teachers or classmates by leaving school in the middle of the day. If, as I hope, a majority of the Seabury student body participates in a future strike, the unintended effects of the strike on the school might be significant. This begs an important question: should students “strike” for climate action even when they do not oppose the school’s actions?

The answer, in my opinion, is yes. Given the urgency of climate action, students should do whatever they can to voice their concerns loudly, including participating in climate strikes during school hours. So long as students attend to make-up work and obtain parental permission, the virtue of action outweighs any slight consequences. The youth of the world, to whom the threat of climate change is neither new nor distant, is the group with the greatest potential to catalyze a global reaction against governments committed to inaction on climate change. The youth must speak out publicly. I encourage all students to participate in climate strikes whenever possible.