(UPDATED) Generation Z, Ready To Change the World
As it is for millions of high school students across the country, it is also “back to school” time for the Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School.
But it is “hardly a back to normal” school return.
While high school students were enjoying a respite from homework and studies, many MSD High School students – survivors of one of the deadliest school shootings in our nation — were participating in marches, rallies, conferences, radio and TV appearances pleading for their right to receive an education without the danger of being killed, injured or traumatized in the process. Some met with the president and members of Congress.
To many they became “advocates, activists, leaders, mourners, celebrities, political figures…”, to some they became “pariahs” or immature “antifas.”
Read here what some of these young people did this summer and how they are returning to campus with fresh hopes, but also with anxieties and concerns.
Some will not be returning to MSD. They have now graduated and will continue to fight for a better world through the ballot box and through civic and political involvement.
In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas mass shootings, hundreds of thousands of high school students from all over the country organized, marched and spoke up demanding that they be allowed to attend school without the fear of being gunned down.
These young people refuse to accept the status quo, the “business as usual” attitude, and demand much more than the perfunctory “thoughts and prayers” when it comes to their right to peacefully pursue an education – more important, their right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Some claim that these youngsters are immature, that they don’t fully grasp the issues at hand because their brains have not fully developed yet.
Of course, many others think otherwise. They firmly believe in the legitimacy and soundness of their opinions, especially when their very lives are at stake.
Then, others – including sociologists — believe that people born around the same time often develop “a consciousness or awareness about themselves that define their political outlook for the rest of their life.” Such a “generational consciousness” can be “triggered by some major event in adolescence that defines a set of political values that shape the views both initially in youth, and approximately 20 years later when that group matures and assumes leadership positions when they can act on their beliefs,” according to David Schultz, a professor of political science at Hamline University.
Kristin Soltis Anderson, a GOP pollster, puts it in a more simple way, “When you are young, your political views are being molded, and the things that really stick with you tend to have an echo over time.”
Thus, regardless of whether the brains of the Parkland, Santa Fe and other High School students exposed to gun related traumatic events are “fully developed” or not, there can be no doubt that they experienced a horrific triggering event, a horror that was and is shared by millions of high school students across the nation.
But how will these “adolescents” translate these fears into political action?
Of course, the answer is at the ballot box.
At least one million high school students across America will turn 18 in time to vote this November. Several more million will be of voting age for the 2020 general election.
While these “teens” or adolescents will have an impact on the upcoming elections, one cannot lose sight of the facts that they are just a part of a “generational consciousness” wave that includes an entire generation where the “gun issue” is but one of many issues and problems these young people are interested in, knowledgeable of and involved with: A generational wave that could wash away “politics as usual” and forever change American politics, hopefully for the better.
Whether called Generation Z, Post-Millennials, the iGeneration or by any other name, the “generational wave” in question (those born in 1995 or later) makes up 25.9% of the United States population, the largest “generation” in our country, one that by 2020 will encompass one-third of the U.S. population. Certainly not a group to be ignored or even downplayed.
Generation Z members not only envision constructive changes in gun laws. They also want to see positive changes in other critical issues such as health care, immigration, social and socio-economic issues such as justice, race relations, diversity, police brutality, economic equality, etc.
They are also more politically educated and motivated, more civic-minded and “liberal” than their “predecessors,” the Millennials.
Generation Z is active and committed. They are aware of causes, lend their voices to make change and volunteer widely. In fact, 93 percent say they give their time in some capacity, ranging from helping family and friends (72 percent), to participating in organized events (65 percent), to actively donating time to a cause (45 percent). And they do so intentionally – 82 percent cite “educating myself” as an important way they support causes.
Back to the gun issue and paraphrasing something I read, “The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a respectable number of Generation Z votes.”
The kids have come to save us.
They have come by the hundreds of thousands to the capital, or to the streets of their home towns — just as kids across the country, my daughter and her classmates among them, walked out of classes on March 14 to protest school shootings.
Most important, they are coming to the polls in November, the beginning of a generational wave that will upend our politics.
And they are going to get what they have come for.
The kids — millennials and those following, Generation Z, born since the mid-1990s and just coming of age — are going to save us from ourselves.
And don’t let anyone tell you that these “children” are not ready, that their brains are not fully developed yet, because even if that might be halfway medically or physiologically correct, they will remember and they will be ready and fully “developed” when they get to the ballot boxes.
Photo: Courtesy author’s grandson, a member of Generation Z