Jonathan Zimmerman says students should go on strike to win gun control

Historians in the News
tags: Second Amendment, guns, gun control, NRA, gun rights, activism, Gun Violence, Parkland



Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author (with Emily Robertson) of “The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools.”

... There’s a rich history of student strikes in this country, too, dating to the Great Depression. And it reminds us how much power kids can wield, if they resolve to stay together — and, most of all, to stay out of school.

In 1936, students in Alameda walked out to protest the firing of a popular school superintendent. They picketed City Hall, while a local hotel sponsored a dance to help them raise funds for gasoline and other “strike supplies.” Three days later, the superintendent was reinstated — and the students returned to school.

The Alameda strike made national news, inspiring other walkouts around the country. In St. Helens, Ore., students struck to protest the dismissal of their own superintendent. “Alameda students won, why can’t we?” they chanted.

The next great round of student strikes occurred in the 1960s, echoing nationwide protests surrounding civil rights and the Vietnam War. In 1962, 200,000 African American students walked out in support of school desegregation; two years later, half a million students in New York City did the same.

As the decade continued, strikes focused more on schools’ curricula and rules than on their racial composition. In 1967, African American students in Philadelphia marched out to demand instruction in black history and the right to wear Afro-style clothing; the following year, 20,000 Chicano students in East Los Angeles walked out to demand Mexican American history. They also insisted on the right to speak Spanish, which was prohibited everywhere except in Spanish class.

By 1969, 59 percent of American high schools — and, more remarkably, 56 percent of junior high schools — reported some form of political “unrest.” Not all of these actions involved strikes, and not all of them succeeded. But they were more likely to succeed if they involved strikes, which forced the hand of officials like nothing else. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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