Why Students Should Protest and Teachers Should Teach - National Council of Teachers of English
Back to Blog

Why Students Should Protest and Teachers Should Teach

This is a guest post written by Christian Czaniecki.

christianczanieckiYesterday, I watched on the news as students from Blair High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, were joined by students from two other Montgomery County schools in a walkout to protest.  Today, 200 students walked out of my school to join in a protest in Washington, DC.  As I watched both of those events from a distance, I had a renewed sense of clarity about my position as a teacher. Students were exercising their collective will and their rights under our Constitution to make a statement about their beliefs and feelings.  I was also made keenly aware of the critical responsibility that falls to teachers.

As a teacher, I could not have joined my students in their walkout, nor do I think it would have been appropriate to do so. I can, however, continue to educate them and hopefully provide the context and information they need to make the best decisions for themselves. Whatever my political, social, and personal feelings are on the issue they were demonstrating for, I as a person—and we as a profession—need to remain objective. We need to let our students know that while the world may not be the place we want it to be, it is the place that we have, and if they want to change that they should work toward the ideal they want to see.

I have heard a number of criticisms of the student demonstrations: the students should be in class, they don’t fully understand the issues, they need to accept the results of the election. All of these criticisms are easily addressed with one word: NO.

As a teacher I can’t talk about the Civil Rights Movement, the War for Independence, the Harlem Renaissance, the Vietnam War protests of the ’60s and ’70s, or any other point in American history where one group disagreed with another and made that disagreement known, without supporting my students in their choice to protest.

What I can and will do is be there to provide an objective accounting of history, of life, and of the world, as a teacher should, so that they are armed with the knowledge and the perspective to face the world they live in, and work to make it a place that they believe is just and free and inclusive.

Christian teaches Creative Writing and English at Roosevelt SHS in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Outside of the classroom, he is a big fan of life, the universe, and everything.