As a teacher, I believe the #walkupnotout campaign, though perhaps well-intended, is deeply flawed. It implies that students can end school shootings by being kinder to one another.
As students organized school walkouts on March 14 leading up to this Saturday’s march for stronger gun regulations, a counter-movement emerged with the Twitter hashtag, #walkupnotout.
This movement encouraged students to skip the school walkout and instead reach out to classmates who seem lonely or alienated. “Walk UP to someone and just be nice!” read a campaign poster.
Out of context, that’s a perfectly pleasant classroom instruction. As the only response to the Feb. 14 Parkland massacre, the fact that gun-control laws have not been tightened, and the near-certainty that another school shooting will occur, “Walk UP to someone and just be nice,” has a distinctly dystopian ring to it.
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As a teacher, I believe the #walkupnotout campaign, though perhaps well-intended, is deeply flawed. It implies that students can end school shootings by being kinder to one another. This isn’t logical. We don’t consider students mature enough to participate in civil disobedience, yet we encourage them to effectively diagnose and address the severe mental health needs of their peers? Peers whom, apparently, the psychologists and counselors employed by the school have failed to notice or get them professional help?
If your toddler split his head open and came to you gushing blood, would you offer him a Popsicle and a cartoon band-aid because you wished he hadn’t hurt himself?
We cannot change our reality just by wishing it away. Our current laws value the personal preference of gun owners over student lives. Denying this only deepens the tragedy.
I understand that, logistically, a midday walkout is a school administrator’s nightmare. I understand that walkouts are scary and uncomfortable for many parents and teachers (and even students), and #walkupnotout has a soothing, uplifting ring to it. It feels safer to tell ourselves that just by being nice, we can solve this issue. However, in doing so, we lose sight of our purpose as educators.
Many teachers will remember that during the Common Core rollout some years back, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge was implemented as an assessment of effective curriculum. The assessment breaks student tasks into four levels. Level one involves basic recall. Level two, utilizing basic skills, like organizing or comparing. Level three calls for strategic thinking, such as comparing and assessing. And level four calls for “extended thinking,” asking students to design, critique and create. The goal, of course, is to move our curriculum higher up the scale.
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Here are a few of the Level Four Depth of Knowledge descriptors, as explained by Dr. Karen Hess:
• “Include authentic problems and audiences.”
• “Apply information from more than one discipline to solve ill-defined problems in novel or real-world situations.”
• “Organize/conduct a community service project or school based event.”
• “Synthesize information across multiple sources or texts in order to articulate a new voice, alternate theme, new knowledge or nuanced perspective.”
Students utilizing higher-order thinking skills to attempt to address a problem in a new way? Sounds a lot like organizing an act of civil disobedience to me.
I don’t mean that the walkouts should be cause for celebration in the education system. The impetus behind them is far too tragic. Still, as a community, I believe our role is to encourage and empower our future leaders to advocate for their safety and well-being, not censor their responses for the sake of our immediate comfort.