Are kids entitled to the same rights to freedom of speech/ hold a peaceful protest as adults are granted? If so, are kids exempt from these rights while in school, given the nature of the school’s responsibility in ensuring children’s safety? In “Walk Out”, the show takes on these questions.
Kevin is unwillingly nominated to the student council government as homeroom representative. At first, Kevin’s first meeting for student council stars off on superficial topics, (e.g. a debate on what to include in the cafeteria) until one student proposes the students honor the national moratorium against the Vietnam War by staging a walkout. Kevin initially signs up for the committee that organizes the walk out just to have the opportunity to hang out with the “cool” faculty advisor, Mr. Tyler. However, Mr. Tyler inspires Kevin and his classmates to really understand the meaning behind the protest, and Kevin gets involved and committed to the cause, through spreading the word amongst classmates and collecting signatures for a petition to send to the disapproving school administration. The principal tries to prevent the walk out by threatening those students involved with suspension and a record of that suspension on their permanent record.
As I watched this episode, I kept thinking how as a society we want our kids to be prepared and knowledgeable about the democratic process so they themselves can make a difference when they are adults. However, if schools prevent the kids from partaking in some of the basic parts of democracy – the freedom to assemble peacefully- does that deny kids a valuable and more impactful lesson about government? While the school may be rightfully concerned about kids taking it to the extreme, is there a way for the school to balance the process? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
Aside from raising these relevant questions, I enjoyed the episode for the following favorite scenes:
– Episode Opening: While we see television images of the War in Vietnam depicting people being rushed to the hospital and destruction from bombings, we the Arnold family discussing money, breakfast, and lost items in the house. This scene was a great way to contrast the lives of people living and not living in the war zones, and the impact the continued fighting had on each. As Kevin best summarized it: “In nineteen-sixty-nine, we had the Vietnam War for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I guess it was inevitable that we stopped paying attention.”
– Quotes: Kevin’s one-liners in the episode ranged from thoughtful to comedic:
- On his student council nomination while away from his desk: “Some men pursue greatness…and some men have greatness thrust upon them while in the bathroom.”
- “The true nature of student council was organized whining.”
– First Committee Meeting: Mr. Tyler uses the Socratic method of questioning to get Kevin and other students to discuss why they are protesting the war and to articulate it in their own words rather than using the buzzwords at that time (e.g. imperialistic). The scenes shows depth to how teenagers process events and make moral judgments, and helps dispel the stereotype that teenagers are not aware and are too self-involved