The school strike for climate change led by teen activist Greta Thunberg took place all over the world on September 20, 2019. Both young students and adults could be seen out of school and work and on the streets fighting for drastic measures to be taken against climate change. Among the protesters in Boston were several of Frontier’s own students on a field trip with Frontier history teacher Mr. Tebbetts. While it is encouraging to see young people taking a stand for the environment, one has to wonder if a school sponsored trip can really be considered civil disobedience. Is it really a strike if you get an excused absence?
The idea of a strike is that if enough people refuse to work or go to school until a certain goal is met, or in this case action is taken against climate change, that people in power will be forced to concede to the demands of the people. Students from New York to London to Melbourne skipped school to bring attention to the climate disaster. Several students from Frontier joined them without actually having to skip school by attending the strike as a field trip. While the intentions are honorable, giving students who otherwise would not be able to attend an event a means to participate in the strike and be a part of the movement against climate change, the idea of a strike is to take an absence from your school or work to bring attention to an issue. According to one student I spoke to who participated in the trip, these Frontier students received an excused absence for the trip. This student also told me that many of the students on the trip cited not wanting to attend class as the main motivator for attending the strike.
If students are receiving an excused absence for a trip that they are abusing by participating only to get out of attending a class, does this defeat the purpose of the strike? Firstly, for the students who participated just to skip class, this demonstrates a desire for the instant satisfaction of a day off with no regard for their grades similar to large corporation’s desire for fast profits with no regard for the long term effects on the environment. Secondly, the students who participated in the strike who actually did were taken advantage of, talked into believing they were taking a stand but not actually being allowed to take a risk.
The idea of sponsoring a climate strike to support students taking an active role in society and advocating for change is honorable, but lazy students taking advantage of that opportunity and the nature of the trip robbing the absence of its power degrade the sentiment of the strike. While attending a rally is often wonderfully empowering, students could have created a bigger impact by staying home from school, attending local rallies and informing the school that they would be absent in observation of the global climate strike.