A recount of a student's protest experience from inside the building
The announcement comes over the PA system and all at once, the students rise, grab their backpacks, purses and other accessories, and walk out of the classroom. The protest begins.
For the five students who stayed in David Whitacre's cultural anthropology class during the March 20 anti-war protest, however, the number of remaining bodies was too few to continue with normal class. And so, these students walked out as well, but their journey took them only as far as a neighboring classroom.
As the protest proceeds despite the unfavorable weather conditions, inside, some classes continue as normal while others turn into an hour and ten minutes of brain stimulation of the non-educational kind.
According to an informal Silver Chips Online survey taken on Mar 24 and 26 of 95 Blazers who stayed in school during the protest, 46% continued with normal class, 23% watched the news or talked about war, 5% had a study hall, and 25% participated in non-educational activities ranging from watching the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament to playing games.
In this classroom, the whole range of the spectrum can be seen. In one corner, students crowd around the television watching the intense game between NC State and California. In another, students chat about the goings on of their lives. In the back, others play a game of connect four on the white board with green and black pens.
The protest effectively halts school for the majority of these seventeen students. Yet amongst the relaxed giddiness of an absence of schoolwork, some education and enlightenment persists.
In a small pocket of the room, three chairs turn inward to allow conversation about the war on Iraq. Of course the discussion between Whitacre and seniors Benjamin Gaddy and Katie Lowe shifted topics throughout the period from the Sep 11 terrorist attacks to the school system, but the main focus was the war at hand.
"I've read the newspapers, I've listened to Bush on TV and I haven't found a clear reason for going to war," Lowe says, commencing the discussion. "I feel tricked by Bush," Gaddy adds later. "If someone gives you one reason, they're telling the truth. If you give hundreds of excuses for something, you're lying."
Both seniors are against this war but made the decision to remain in school during the protest because they value their educations. "I don't think leaving school is a way to protest," Gaddy remarks. "You could have a protest any time of the week."
Whitacre, who grew up during the Vietnam War and had friends and a brother who served, is glad to see that students care about current events, but hopes that they keep pushing to get their opinions heard. "Protesting is good, but then you have to take it a step higher," he says. Whitacre suggests that students connect with others with the same ideas or join organizations.
Still, Whitacre recognizes that many students promenading to the beat of the drum just outside Blair's doors are there just as an escape from school. "Some of these kids are just, ‘I want out of here' and leaving," he explains.
For those teens who find comfort in other alcoves of the room, the reasons for refusing to protest range from the weather to supporting the war.
According to the survey, of those students who declared themselves "anti-war" or "unsure" (69%), 45% cited the frigid and wet weather as reasoning for not grabbing their packs and walking out of classes. "I would have gone, but it's raining," sophomore Carrie Cox says.
Twenty percent stayed to continue with their education or because they had tests to take, 18% found no point to protest or were against the protest, 12% were ambivalent and 5% cited other reasons.
"The war already started, so it's not like they are going to stop it," senior Beira Romero says, explaining her reasoning for remaining in the noise-filled classroom. However, nearby senior Chiquita Serpas, who cites weather as her reason for remaining, quickly responds to Romero's comment. "Even though [the protest] won't have any impact, it still lets people know we care. That's not stopping us from changing what we believe," she replies.
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