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New Year, Same Disenfranchisement Issues(Unless You Let It)

Students walk out of classes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re protesting in-person learning at this time. Many teachers also happen to agree. (photo source:

Happy New Year to all! I wish I could provide these salutations at a better time, but work needs to be done and we’re the ones who can make that happen.

Obviously disenfranchisement of youth is still an issue, but so is COVID-19. One may think that the two issues never overlap. But because of how ageist governments are sometimes set up, apparently even the experiences, hope and fears of the next generation of leaders is nothing but a drop in the bucket among many, even though youth are just as exposed to the dangers of the Coronavirus as their older counterparts.

With the new year, many schools have started up again. Although at the time of this writing may be a three-day weekend for many in the United States, the last few weeks have been challenging- students and teachers have needed to make a return to the classroom with another guest- the COVID-19 virus.

The disconnect has been so prevalent with regards to safety that a new phenomena has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic- students walking out.

Not only have gaps between the rich and poor become more noticeable during the pandemic, but that of the young and old- schools run by older individuals trying to get younger individuals to attend school. In some cases, even teachers have sided with students regarding the safety and rationale for in-person learning when the COVID-19 pandemic continues on.

However, unlike their older allies that can form a teacher’s union, there’s very little power for students on their own, and are dependent on the help of endorsements of the latter group to make any noticeable difference. The balance of power could be shifted if school boards lowered their voting ages. Even more so if it were municipal wide, as several school could fit into one district, much like it is in Chicago where much of the educational unrest has centered on.

One could argue how could voting on school boards by students have helped? Grievances could have been heard louder, and ways to determine if in-person learning would have been sensible. However, when the voices of students are not taken into account, there is proportionate inequality. Students are not only risking their health to go to class, but those of their family members. Even with vaccines are available, people can still remain at high risk for transmitting COVID. If students were given more of a voice, perhaps in-person learning could have been delayed, rather than students depending on a teachers union to express their thoughts on their behalf. If students are at equal risk of getting COVID as their teacher allies, they should also have a say just as much as those in a teachers union, as both groups are in a classroom setting.

Students who are walking out of in-person learning with regards to unsafe learning conditions should get the full support of everyone, and we as supporters of expanding enfranchisement should encourage these moves until we can get them the vote on school boards and cities so they can make their own voices heard.

Jеstеr Jеrsеy


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