By: Hannah Ryan
“Yes, I want my children to understand injustice and the mechanisms through which it persists,” says mother and author Elissa Strauss. She explains that it’s important for everyone to understand systematic injustice in our government as well as how it is executed. However, she later explains that she doesn’t want her children to fight against this injustice. She argues that it will polarize the country further if parents raise their children to be activists. Strauss makes the assumption that a sense of morality and will divide the country into good and bad. This divides every topic into black and white, neglecting a grey area. She wants children to be able to hold a conversation with someone of a differing opinion without getting very upset. Strauss further argues that teaching children a sense of activism will teach them anger instead of compassion. She states that teaching kids to be activists gives them conservative or liberal values depending on their parents’ views. This idea, she believes, will give kids a sense of fairness instead of right and wrong. Caroline Paul, an author of a book of activism for children, argues that “We shouldn’t be teaching kids how to fight. We should be teaching them how [to] engage.” But, if there is anything we have learned from history, it’s that justice has to be fought for.
It is very important for everyone to understand injustice and how it is executed throughout our country and the world, however, we should be taught how to fight that injustice. Today, there are so many kids and teenagers taking the activism reigns from adults in certain political debates. Teenagers have taken the lead in the fight for gun control and the fight against climate change. Greta Thunberg has led the world in the fight for the climate crisis. David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, and others, have led the country to fight against gun violence. A young girl, Little Miss Flint, Maria Copeny, has even taken the lead of the fight for clean water in Flint, Michigan. All of these topics are directly affecting the youth and minority groups of our country.
As a child, I don’t deserve to live in fear. I shouldn’t need to be afraid to go to school; I shouldn’t have to fear for my planet; I shouldn’t be scared that my drinking water will poison me, but I am. Us kids are scared for our future. In general, adults don’t have the same sense of urgency about these topics as we do. They aren’t directly impacted by these things as much as children and teenagers are. Since they don’t always feel the same, we can’t rely on them to fight for us. The only way to combat our fear is to fight it. Activism is the fight against that fear.
When I was very young, my parents taught me the difference between right and wrong. I learned that doing the right thing was being kind to everyone and everything. When I was a little older, I learned about injustice. I learned that minorities in our country and around the world were mistreated throughout history. If there is anything we have learned from history, it is that justice is a battle. These battles would never have been fought without teenage and child activists. We shouldn’t have to be activists, but we are. When no one sees what is happening to the youth and minorities in our country, they have to fight for justice. Children need to know what justice is, and need to be equipped with the tools to fight for it.