by Peter Bloch
I think we can all agree that the massacre of innocent children in Parkland, Florida was a terrible tragedy. But the means to a solution on the other hand, is something that I can confirm OES is very torn about.
Wednesday March 14, during Gathering, OES will be holding an optional, 17-minute vigil in memory of the 17 students who died just a few weeks ago with the avowed goal showing solidarity with the families of victims. “We’re not pushing for any sort of political agenda,” commented Jack, “It’s meant to be open to all political beliefs.” I have also been assured that there will be no mention of any second amendment arguments.
Word on the street is that Jack, along with Peter Kraft and potentially Asha Appel will be speaking during this event, but that this time will mostly unscripted to keep the vibe “as organic as possible.”
So now the only question is what will happen if politics are introduced to the mix…
For the past several weeks, I have been conducting interviews with OES high school students, on all sides of the political spectrum, and finally concluded by speaking with our student body president, Jack Morningstar about student activism on the OES campus.
As it turns out, when polled about second amendment rights, Aardvarks are mixed when asked about their opinions. But the meatiest part of my discussions I had with opinionated students went deeper than the data seem on paper. The first response I had for almost every response to “how can we reach a solution?” was “I wish it wasn’t so taboo to talk about it.” Personally, I believe that this is telling of two issues regarding politics at school.
Firstly, it’s incredibly easy to become alienated by our own opinions. As I understand it, this is a fairly normal phenomenon, considering our beliefs are formed by the sum of our personal identities and experiences. Furthermore, we then tie those beliefs into our own identity, so an ideological disagreement can often feel like a personal attack.
But this response also tells us that a solution has to come from a community of individuals. We must understand that a difference in opinion is not a personal attack, and also be respectful of others, regardless of their opinion. One doesn’t need to respect another’s opinion to treat them with dignity, and unless we can all individually decide to respect others, we prevent ourselves from reaching common ground for productive discussion.
Secondly, this most common response also suggests OES students have a want to reach some kind of “solution.” The idea of “solving” second amendment rights might seem daunting or even silly, but my understanding is that we all want to explore solutions that make sense for our community.
The basis of common knowledge on gun control issues was also widely varied with the people I interviewed. Many people were unaware that the semi-automatic ArmaLite Rifle 15 (commonly abbreviated to the AR-15), which was the weapon of choice for our mass shooter, is not legally an assault weapon, and would not be affected by any assault weapons ban. To have a conversation with another opinionated individual is often difficult for people who know considerably more about firearms, and that was another point I derived from my conversations. This distinction in gun knowledge has also been the dividing line on what people call “common sense” gun reform. Many students found it not specific enough to be an effective measure.
So the final logical question is where do politics and education intersect? In the words of former OES history teacher Mike G. “protests will inevitably be political,” and schoolwide rallies, past nonpartisan empathy like we have planned for today, will possibly ostracize objectors. In addition, if we decide to temporarily suspend further school, our form of protest might have a negative effect on school performance–a consequence that is the exact opposite of what everyone’s lobbying for.
An aspect many distraught alumni have neglected in emotional rants on social media is the fact that OES must remain neutral as a nonprofit organization if the school wants to retain the same tax benefits. It would seem that in the advent of all this turmoil, OES, the place for the nurturing and development of ideas along with using “power for good,” is caught between a rock and a hard place.
With nationwide marches planned for the following few weeks while we are away, and the hint of more walkouts and protests on the horizon, I urge you to tread carefully ‘Varks. This one could be a bumpy ride.