The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have forever removed three words from our language: “failing public schools”. The critical thinking and articulateness of those 14 – 18 year old students are moving us all. There is no other way to account for the way they are changing the conversation about gun violence in this country other than to say that they have incredible intellectual skills and a work ethic that drives them to excellence.
I know what it is to experience the sudden, traumatic death of loved one. I know what it does to you when your life as you know it disappears in a moment. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have experienced that, yet they have something deep within them that is leading them to think and to act. That something is the education that their parents and their schools have given them.
There have been other loud voices in our society who repeatedly use the words, “failing public schools”. They call themselves “school reformers” and petition state legislatures to use tax payer funds to replace public schools with charter schools. Their goal is to make money for themselves and their selling point to legislatures is that we must rid this country of “failing public schools”. These self- proclaimed “school reformers” use the term “failing pubic schools” to convince well-meaning but uninformed parents to send their children to charter schools that increase their children’s segregation and treat their children as second class citizens, incapable of individuation and critical thinking. I am sure that state legislatures would not spend taxpayer money on charter schools and parents would not send their children to charter schools without the power of the term that the “school reformers” use: ” failing pubic schools”.
The phrase, however, is not true. It is not the public schools that are failing. What is failing is our investment in addressing issues of poverty and racism.
The voices in our society to listen to are the voices of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Their articulate voices are saving future students from the horror that was theirs. Their articulate voices are changing our approach to gun violence. Their articulate voices will make us a better, stronger nation.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are showing us that they are thinkers and doers. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are using the education their families and schools gave them in powerful ways. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are not the products of “failing public schools”. They are the products of public schools that helped them to grow and to learn and to mature into leaders.
I am inspired by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and I thank them.