Boston high schoolers test their own power. For a day.

I am fascinated by yesterday’s well-organized walk-out in Boston public schools.

What would happen if all the high school students in the nation refused to go to school? It’s logical that they would not want to go to school. They are infantilized. High school is pretty much living hell for most kids.

But conditioning for high school starts in preschool, when children feel little sense of power or independence. So by the time high school comes, the kids have been brainwashed to feel powerless over their own lives; they do whatever they’re told.

What if that were not the case? What if kids realized they have more power than the adults? If kids stopped going to school we’d have to deal with them. We’d have to genuinely address their concerns. Which, for now, are relatively small. But that’s only because the kids in Boston are experimenting with their power.

Our society is dependent on kids being locked up for most of the day. We are not set up to deal with them in any other way. But we think the risk is small that high schoolers will walk out en masse because we’ve scared kids into thinking their life depends on getting good grades.

This reminds me of risk management in business.  Look at the business model for a place like VoucherBin. Coupons. If everyone who shopped at a given store redeemed coupons there would be a problem. But that doesn’t happen. Or Dylan’s Candy: Super crowded every time I go there. If all the people in there decided to steal candy at once, no one could stop them. The candy is so small. We juggle such risks all the time in the business world.

Usually nothing terrible happens. But GroupOn’s stock price tanked when too many people used their coupons and put small companies out of business. So it’s possible. Those Boston kids really inspire the dreamer in me.

If kids understood their power, they would push for more than school funding, as the Boston kids want. The power of high school students is army-level. I hope I get to see them discover that and use it.



24 replies
  1. Suburban Homestead
    Suburban Homestead says:

    We hold all the power, if we want it bad enough. But we are lazy. So many people support hot topic issues like education reform, tighter gun laws, and more transperancy in our food system, yet very few of us do more than just whine about it on social media. If every kid marched out of school and refused to return until our system changed, change would happen quickly. If a million moms and their children decended on the Washington mall and camped out until the gun show loophole was closed, it would be done in a week. We don’t march, we don’t write letters and we barely vote. We are like frogs in a pot of water on an open flame. Shame on us.

    • mh
      mh says:

      The gun show loophole is pretty much a myth.

      On the other hand, I would participate in National Buy A Gun Day. Who couldn’t use another long gun, after all?

      It would probably bring the background check websites to a crashing standstill.

      My family participates in shooting sports. Please don’t presume to speak for me.

    • Donnajean
      Donnajean says:

      I am a mom with 5 kids and I strongly feel our 2nd ammendment right to self defense with guns should not be touched.

  2. jessica
    jessica says:

    This just has me thinking and believing Gen Zers are going to have a pretty wild ride changing everything and demanding/ getting the respect they deserve at younger ages. It seems like it will happen by default, because they realize early on the only gatekeepers to their futures are themselves. Case in point- that photo.

    More and more kids are starting businesses (like the pre-corporatistion era) and diving in, under the guidance and lessons of boomers, xers, and millenials. Powerful stuff. Gen Z is going to do so much good for themselves and future generations.

  3. Teach By Type
    Teach By Type says:

    I’m not sure I would describe their concerns as trivial. Below is a list of their concerns.

    What kills me is the school system my older two are part of gave back 10k last yea, because they didn’t need it. While these schools are forced to cut autism programs, the one and only language program and so much more.

    Boston Arts Academy
    • Losing $367,000 plus $187,000 that the BAA foundation is working to raise (Total being raised by Foundation is over $2 million dollars – almost the entirety of the arts education budget)
    • Losing 1 teaching position
    • Losing Health and wellness staff and support
    • Losing administration staffing

    Boston Community Leadership Academy
    • Losing over $800,000
    • Losing 5-7 teaching positions, including librarian, theater teacher
    • Losing free SAT prep course
    • Advanced Placement classes
    • Losing teacher of the leadership program
    • Cuts to autism program

    Boston Latin Academy
    • Losing $492,000 despite an increase in enrollment
    • One 7th/8th grade math teacher retiring, will not be replaced
    • Arabic program eliminated
    • History Dept. Director eliminated
    • Arts Dept. Director eliminated
    • no supply budget.
    • If any cuts happen next year, then electives will be cut.

    Boston Latin School
    • Losing $705,000
    • A teacher in each department (7 teachers)
    • Larger class sizes (up to 31)
    • Eighth Grade Science (an MCAS Requirement)
    • Reduction of Support Services
    • Reduction of AP Courses, including a proposed an AP African American History Class

    Boston Teachers Union (BTU) K-8 School
    • Losing $339,000
    • Losing two teachers: one middle school and one learning specialist
    • Field trips cut, Spanish cut.

    Charlestown High
    • Losing $600,000
    • Losing Diploma Plus program, an alternative ed program serving 70 teen who are behind grade level, many of them living in extreme hardship and crisis. Program helps them rapidly catch up to grade level and graduate high school. Described as a “family” by current students and graduates.

    Chittick Elementary
    • Losing the specialist that Chittick got to make ELT work last year; going down to 4 specialists

    Dearborn Academy
    • No information about the budget. Principal also doesn’t have access to the budget as they’re run by an outside operator, the Boston Plan for Excellence

    East Boston High
    • Losing $680,000
    Edison K-8
    • Losing one K0 teacher and one K1 teacher

    Excel High
    • Losing $500,000
    • Losing technology class and art class, JV sports cut

    Fenway High School
    • Losing $134,000
    • Losing Career and College Readiness coordinator
    • Languages cut so students can’t fulfill language requirements for college/graduation requirement
    • Losing SAT prep program

    Guild Elementary
    • Losing $151,238
    • Cut 1.3 esl teacher , cut .6 specialist , cut. 8 resource too and very low supply line

    Jeremiah E. Burke High School
    • Losing $300,000
    • Librarian, technology teacher, social worker, Spanish teacher cut (only language

    JFK Elementary
    • Losing $150,000
    • Losing 1 teacher, 1 para, 2 lunch monitors, limited field trip budget and $0 for supplies

    John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science
    • Losing $339,782
    • Losing 6 positions
    • No foreign language instruction ( a requirement for most colleges)
    • Loss of computer technology department
    • Reduction of library hours
    • Reduction in health and wellness services
    Lee K-8
    • Losing $253,000
    Lyndon K-8
    • Losing $253,000
    Manning Elementary
    • Losing 5.1%, or over $91,000
    • Losing two part-time resource specialists, which is the equivalent of one full-time position.
    • Losing library services, dropping the librarian from 1.0 FTE to 0.8 FTE.
    • Losing Playworks and music program

    Mather Elementary
    • 2 positions cut, 2 positions hours reduced
    • Loss of funding for playworks and ANET materials.

    Mendell Elementary
    • Losing $85,000
    • Losing Playworks coach
    • Potential loss of interns who support inclusive practice in grades 1-5
    • Lost lunch monitor
    • Supply budget cut to $0

    Roger Clap
    • Losing $53,000
    • 4 Inclusion classes only .5 resource teacher

    Roosevelt K-8
    • Losing $319,000

    Snowden School
    • Losing $370,000
    • Elimination of Japanese program
    • Losing part time librarian, calculus teacher, registrar, guidance counselor, Reduction of 2 English teachers to part time

    Tech Boston
    • Due to weighted student funding cuts, they have no music or art. Other cuts unclear

    West Roxbury Academy
    • Losing $500,000

    West Zone Early Learning Center
    • Losing $108,000

    Young Achievers K-8
    • Losing $470,000

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      You’d almost think the school budget wasn’t going up. But this is what it looks like when they only get an increase of 13 million. 1.03 billion and counting buys you high schools from which graduates will not be eligible for college admissions.

      The BPS administration is like a roach motel for money.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Just out of curiosity, what are the enrollment trends since 1980? And how many adminstrators have been hired since that time? What is the ratio of administrators to classroom teachers? To students? Ho has that rate changed since 1980?

  4. James
    James says:

    Cannot believe you find this positive. Why not budget cuts for teachers or raise their parents taxes or lower the superintendents pay. They feel entitled to foreign languages? How about a decent classical education first? Reading writing math. These guys took an excuse to ditch school. Why don’t they offer to clean the school? Great. The young people and entitlement. We don’t have enough of that in colleges. Let the charter school kids picket so they get support for alternative Ed. There’s NO competition so schools can fail. Unions buy off politicos. And on and on

    • jayson
      jayson says:

      I agree with you, James. The kids had a choice to sit in class or go have fun outside chanting. Easy decision. Everyone in the system is motivated to demand as much money as possible and to spend all funds received. No cuts will be allowed and taxes will be raised or bonds issued to kick the can to the next generation.

  5. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    To James:
    I think it’s great the students are getting involved. They have every right if it’s their time and futures on the line. They are upset about loosing language programs because most colleges require a minimum of two years of foreign language on your high school transcript. If your high school doesn’t offer any foreign language options, you graduate from high school without the option to even apply to the college you wanted to go to making your diploma sub standard. Of course they should be concerned. I’m sure the arts and music programs probably went way before language did. And I don’t consider those options entitlement either. Budget cuts for teachers? Did you not see the 0$ supply budget lines above. That means teachers who are already over worked and underpaid to begin with have to supply ALL the materials to do their jobs out of their own pockets. When I was teaching at a Title One school in Texas I spent about $15,000 of my $50,000 salary a year on basic supplies and curriculum plus required training and continuing education programs just so I could make a decent attempt at the job I was hired to do. I kept doing it because it was ‘for the children’ but I ended up frustrated and angry. I finally realized my own kids were suffering in the same failing education system as well as suffering from neglect from me working all the time. Smaller staff and bigger classes meant longer hours for Teachets who stayed the course. We were constantly fed the notion we had to do more with less, work harder or else. I quit and we homeschool now. My teaching background is being used for the future of two students not two hundred anymore. But not every kid or parent had that option. By the way property tax dollars where I live are maxed out. So the schools can’t just raise taxes to get more funds……

    • mh
      mh says:

      Melissa, why couldn’t the students take a foreign language off site for credit, if they choose to do so? The public school systems locks out “non-accredited” delivery systems, then blackmails the taxpayers for more money by threatening important programs.

      • kt
        kt says:

        That’s so cute! Kid: gets up at 6 to help get sibs ready for school. Goes to school, required by law. After school, 1 hr of after-school activity, maybe, or a job, then gets home at 5 or 6, needs to cook dinner because mom is working, get sibs fed, do homework, mom gets home at 8, kid is tired because kid is teenager who needs sleep… and you want this kid to take an off-site language class for credit? From where?! with what money?

        If this kid is being required to be in school all day, and it’s a sensible choice because parents are working and can’t afford to homeschool living in Boston on a low wage, then school ought to be delivering, say, classes, on, like, stuff. What else is school there for? Of course the kids are protesting. The whole point of school is to provide education that the parents can’t provide due to time and/or ability, and if they’re not doing that, the kids are wasting their time. The fact that you have to pay for off-site education in your “free time” to get an education is why America is not great, it’s a place where people with money get ahead and people without, don’t.

  6. Teach By Type
    Teach By Type says:

    I don’t perceive this as entitlement. They’re advocating for themselves.

    So what if they skipped a half day of school. Is school too important for the kids to take a day off, but not important when it comes to allocating tax dollars to meet the acceptance criteria for colleges?

    The city is filled with expensive private colleges – tax exempt – taking over more and more public housing in their domain. Those schools should be forking over some money to help fund the public schools.

    The school system should be required, by law, to meet the college acceptance requirement.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Teach by Type, I agree.

      One way to address this funding gap is to have college tuition be taxable, at the state sales tax rate.

      Another is for non-profit organizations to pay property taxes on the land they occupy.

      Still another is to eliminate non-profit status for any institution with an endowment over $10 million or so.

  7. Katrina
    Katrina says:

    American compulsory schools are dinosaurs. Here in Savannah GA we have serious managment issues. Their administrators know that the system is a dying breed but keeps it on life support to bring in money for E-SPLOST building projects. Then have no budget for enough teachers or programs to use the building efficiently. The system is literally a money pit. The goal is not to be too successful so support money can come in while being successful enough to not have local control taken from school boards.
    The Homeschooling movement is picking up speed for many realize the system is NOT set up to fulfill an individual’s needs. Schooling is a rigid manufacturing process to create as many workers that do the same thing over and over. The education of an individual is expansive and flexible and as self directed as possible with mentors concerned about what the individual wants to learn, not society.

  8. mh
    mh says:

    Where I live, in a mountain west state, school enrollment has declined to a level last seen a decade ago.

    Ten years ago, the local school district operated twelve fewer schools.

    But to close twelve schools to bring facilities back in line with enrollment? Out of the question. Out of the question.

  9. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    “What would happen if all the high school students in the nation refused to go to school?”

    That would be impressive and courageous.

  10. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    And the students win. The mayor ordered the Super (in Boston, the whole School Committee serves at the mayor’s pleasure) to roll back all cuts to high school programs.

    The bulk of the plan for financing this is robbing elementary school Peter to pay high school Paul. They can’t walk out, I guess.

    This walkout was entirely organized by the students. No external group invented or backed it.

    I hope they don’t just declare victory and forget about it. There is so much else wrong with our school system. Maybe there’s a sequel.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      CA students are doing similar things here. There was a brief victory before the governor appealed the decision in Vergara v CA which would allow an easier path to eliminate bad teachers. Students Matter and Stuvoice are organizations helping students get some rights.

Comments are closed.