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#StudentsSayNo: The Kids Speak Out

Updated on April 9, 2019
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

The Students Have Their Say

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Ford Nation, Are You Listening?

On April 4, 2019, Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson said, "I want everyone in Ontario to know that we are prepared to take action to give parents peace of mind that no one will use our children as a captive audience or bargaining chip as part of their union's political games."

This was immediately following the student planned provincial walkout, entitled #StudentsSayNo, that was done to protest the proposed changes to education that Thompson announced March 15.

Now, I have a teenager at home, and I train with several at the karate school I've been attending for much of the last decade. None of them would ever appreciate being told that they were incapable of thinking for themselves, and none of them would ever appreciate being told that they were, in effect, being used as someone's pawn. This is ultimately what Thompson said to the public about the student-organized protest that occurred April 4.

What's incredible about this walkout is how very well organized it was by the provincial organizers - did I mention they were students? Rayne Fisher-Quann, Natalie Moore and the other members of the provincial organizing team for #StudentsSayNo are all still in high school, and their website has an official walkout organizer's guide in English and French, a guide for teachers, and a school registration list. This was not some hastily-arranged "stunt;" it's clear that these students took the time, researched what they were concerned about to make sure that they had legitimate grounds for concern, and their emphasis was not just on informing students about what was happening. The organizer's guide says very clearly, for instance, that school walkout organizers should discuss their plans for a walkout with administrators, and the teachers' guide also asks that some consideration be put into plans for that day so that students who plan to walk out don't miss assessments or homework.

In short, it's pretty obvious for anyone who takes a look at the #StudentsSayNo website that quite a bit of time was put into what the kids wanted to say, and it's clear that the kids took what they have learned in school to date about civic engagement and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - both of which are mentioned in various locations throughout the website - and applied it. They used what they probably learned in the various technology courses that they've taken and made sure that the website they created looked professional and not hastily put together. The messages that they conveyed throughout the documents that they posted were expressed with clear, thoughtful sentences and care to ensure that the grammar was well done.

In other words, these kids took the time to make sure that the quality education they have received thus far in Ontario was put to good use in hopes that the leadership of the province would see that the students meant business and wanted to be heard.

Instead, they were effectively dismissed by the education minister, who is the MPP for the riding where the #StudentsSayNo movement originated.

They were dismissed by Premier Doug Ford, who instead wants to convey the message that these well-organized kids had nothing to do with planning the walkout but were instead union pawns.

How insulting.

I know when my own children pull off something big, they are incredibly proud of themselves and want to know that my husband and I saw them and are also proud of their accomplishments. While obviously Thompson and Ford are not the parents of these students who organized themselves and other students in the province so well to pull off the largest student-led protest in Canadian history, they are adults who by all accounts should be impressed by what these kids pulled off through their own tenacity and through the education that they have all received to date in Ontario.

That's the same education that is being threatened right now by Ford and his government.

Instead, Ford and his government are choosing to insult the youth of this province by insisting they couldn't have organized themselves this well. They are instead focused on changing Ontario's logo and license plates, buck-a-beer (did I mention that's not really working, either?), fighting the federal Liberal carbon tax, and legalizing tailgate parties.

It's sad that students in this province are being dismissed by the current leadership. It's sad that the current leadership doesn't seem to care or realize these are the people who could keep them in power. It's sad that this current leadership places so little importance on education.

Ford Nation, listen to these well-educated students. They are fighting for what they deserve, and you need to step up and be a leader instead of a bully to them.

These kids deserve better than what you and your government is currently giving them.

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