When did it become acceptable for adults to bully children? It’s happening, and in my opinion, a society that allows this means we are basically one step above cavemen.
Everyone knows that civil discourse is rapidly disappearing from daily American life. Spend a few minutes on social media, and this view is rapidly reinforced. It’s one thing to negatively engage with other adults, it‘s another thing to attack our youth.
This past week, hundreds of thousands of teenagers across the nation participated in National School Walkout Day on the one-month anniversary of the Florida school shooting that took 17 lives. Each school marked the day in their own way. For the most part, the schools allowed the students to express themselves by either walking out or by participating in various activities like writing letters to the students in Florida or holding prayer vigils. The events lasted 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost. Students then returned to class and continued with their day.
We had news crews stationed at various schools. At the school where I was in Cary, the students came outside and stood solemnly for 17 minutes. Others engaged in a small prayer vigil nearby. This followed small group discussions in their classrooms about school safety.
I interviewed several very thoughtful students who talked about how profound it was to honor the students killed in Florida. They talked about really listening to the concerns and feelings of their fellow students, and even if they disagreed, respecting their views. They talked about how important it was to them that adults, and especially the administration at their school, allowed them to have a voice. They were diplomatic and mature in their measured responses to what has become an incendiary topic.
Yet, when I looked at the comments on social media regarding our coverage, I was frankly appalled and embarrassed to see adults making personal attacks on the teens, attacks that had nothing to do with the content of what they were speaking about. As a parent, as a journalist, and honestly, as a human being, this made me feel so hopeless about where we are in this moment in history.
How low are we going to sink?
We should be able to spare 17 minutes to let young people express themselves without fear of personal attacks from adults who should know better. Teenagers need our support, not our criticism and judgment. If we want them to grow up to be leaders, we need to lead by example. This starts by elevating our discourse, getting it out of the gutter, and treating all people with respect, especially young people who are trying to find their place in a complicated and confrontational world. So, let’s build them up, let’s celebrate their passion, their voices, their need to be heard.
Like your mama said, if you’re going to pick on someone, pick on someone your own age — leave the kids alone.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the . Find her here on Mondays.