Editor’s comment: Teens did themselves proud

Students protesting outside St Aloysius College. Picture: LUCAS CUMISKEY

Students protesting outside St Aloysius College. Picture: LUCAS CUMISKEY - Credit: Archant

Ironically, the sight of 100 schoolchildren demonstrating against the leadership at St Aloysius College is a fantastic advert for the school.

Anyone who has ever put together a surprise party, never mind a picket line, will appreciate how difficult it must have been for its young organisers to marshal scores of teenage children into an agreed formation, ensure they did not block the road, clearly communicate their demands while managing a large crowd, stick to their guns when faced with the threat of punishment, and force grown professionals to step outside the safety of the building and discuss their concerns in the open.

These are engaged citizens standing up for themselves and their teachers – and that is a real testament to the upbringing and education they have received.

A similar debate was had earlier this year when students across the UK walked out in protest at the government’s catastrophic failure to take climate change seriously. Some praised their independence and political awareness; others called them truanters. Given that the protest wouldn’t have been necessary but for the selfishness and incompetence of our (grown-up) leaders, I fell very much into the first camp. When adults behave like children, children are forced to behave like adults.

It isn’t for me to say whether or not the students’ interpretation of the leadership at St Aloysius is fair or accurate. Some of the students’ concerns may be the fault of funding cuts beyond the head’s control; some may be based on misinterpretation (though this could equally be an indictment of the school’s ability to communicate).

But calling parents and threatening them with exclusion did somewhat prove the point about excessively strict rules. Time will tell whether the school honours the concessions offered, and whether those who went on strike are unfairly penalised.

In order to protect young children, we tell them their elders know best and should not be questioned.

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As they grow up, children realise first that this is a lie; later, that it is a necessary one.

But respect is different from authority. St Aloysius needs to win back its pupils’ respect; to do that, it must show some of its own.