|On Friday 20 September Synergistiq staff participated in the #schoolstrike4climate to support students across the globe demanding effective action on climate change. Synergistiq is a consultancy committed to nurturing systemic improvements in social justice. Much of our work is focused in the education space, providing evaluation, strategy and support around policy and programs. Our work with and for schools and students forms part of our vision for social improvement. Under the State Government’s Education State, student agency and voice are considered important to student learning. The global movement for action on climate is driven by a strong desire amongst young people to have a voice on this issue and influence and create change. Their frustrations around climate have manifested in a series of increasingly well attended protests and strikes, designed to demonstrate to government the severity of their concerns and the urgency of the issue.|
|Students and young people have a long history in spearheading action for social change. The ‘Paris Spring’ of 1968 led to nationwide strikes in France and flowed into other movements for change already afoot regarding the rights of women, people of color, and here in Australia Aboriginal rights. This century, environmentalism appears to have captured the most consistent, organised, and widespread support from students across the globe. This speaks to something both profound and frightening; young people perceive the situation to be very bad, and young people are prepared to stand up for action.
There have been may criticisms of the students taking part in these actions, especially from some individual politicians. These assertions include that students are too young to understand what they’re doing, that they should remain at school to honour their learning, that they are being unduly politicised by parents and the media, and that the issues are far too complex for them to understand. Complementing these criticisms are arguments that students cannot vote and so their action is irrelevant or futile. These arguments serve to undermine the integrity and urgency of the climate issue by minimising the voices articulating it; essentially, that children should be seen and not heard. These arguments are worth interrogating briefly.
Students are honouring their educations by listening to science, taking decisions to speak out and to act upon its conclusions. Emphases on student voice and student agency in curriculum is about cultivating active citizenship, an important feature of well functioning democracies. The skills of active citizenship do not simply kick into play at 18; they must be cultivated, explored, and exercised through childhood and adolescence. A critical education teaches young people that active, thoughtful and critical participation in democracy means expressing a view loudly but peacefully; these protests certainly reflect such an approach. And if students are influenced by parents, teachers, the broader community and the evidence, how can this be a bad thing? If young people are to inherit the planet, then whether or not they are able to vote right now is incidental to the impact current action or inaction will have on them. The world has seen action from many disenfranchised groups whose contributions has brought about change.
Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ brought the science of global warming to many audiences previously asleep to the issue. While there continues to be ill informed debate around the scientific consensus, most governments now publicly concede the fact of man made global warming. Their defence of slow action is that environmental imperatives must be weighed with economic imperatives. Young people are being clear; there comes a point where action is so slow, it cannot be counted as real or meaningful action. It’s their planet and it’s their future. We marched on Friday because inhabiting a safe, clean, inclusive, equitable planet is a fundamental human right. These are not young people acting like ‘sheep’; these are young people taking a thoughtful, critical, and yes emotional stand to create change that is necessary. They have asked for our support. It is important to give.
Words by Dr Melinda McPherson.