The Importance of Student Activism

By Rishi Shah, Opinion Editor

Student Activism in America has been a influential and effective means of political and social change for many generations. Most remarkably, civil rights, educational reform and nuclear weapons have been subjects of massive protests and gatherings by American youth. Although our generation does not bear witness to the power of our own abilities, history proves that we, as America’s next generation, have the voice it takes to create change.

Why does it seem as though activism is a thing of the past? The answer to me is simple. We live in a more connected and media controlled world. This creates an environment of what I want to call “false and misconstrued” activism. When we rally over Tweets and shared posts, what is really changing? Are we just preaching to the choir? I cannot deny that social media is a key driver and has the influence to change the world in remarkable ways. But, I want to acknowledge the true influence that student activism could have and I strongly want to advocate for our generation to go out and witness the spectacle it is to take part in major movements.

We need to take a look at how universities in the past were petri dishes of activism. There are many examples of students rising up and changing the world and most of them are found in the 60’s and 70’s with the Civil Rights Movement and educational rights. Universities like Howard and Columbia barricaded dorms and protested relentlessly until Black students were given the same rights as their white peers. France and Poland had massive protests similarly fighting for student rights. Even with massive pushback from administration and government officials, the changes made then are still seen today. Such change was created by the students and impacted the students directly.

We have not seen such a dramatic rise in activism in years and our generation has not had the chance to voice their concerns until recently. This trend seems to be reversing and with last year’s Women’s March being a nationwide spectacle and  with a new group emerging in 2018. The movement is March For Our Lives.“On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today.” (Marchforourlives.com). High school students affected from the Parkland Florida shooting have created a movement that has spread nationwide and is gaining traction. Many students are even speaking to congress and other politicians demanding reform!

Changes are coming. Although government officials seem to be put in a tough position, many major businesses and media outlets are taking change into their own hands. Dicks Sporting Goods, Walmart and L.L Bean have raised the age for purchasing guns to 21, this was major news for those advocating for stricter gun regulation as it represented a victory.

We as students have the voice needed to create influential change. It is our time to use it and be a part of movements that extend beyond our short lived years as students. We should focus on issues that impact us now and will continue to impact the generations after if we do not step up and take responsibility like our past generations have.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 20th print edition.

Contact Rishi at

rishi.shah@student.shu.edu

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