The Montgomery County Maryland school board is expected to approve a proposal that would allow high school students to take three days off from school to engage in political protests and other forms of “civic engagement.” These days off from school would be “excused absences.”
From this report in the Washington Post, I gather there are two main rationales for the new policy. First, students and parents have expressed concern that different schools have different approaches to whether students can get days off for protesting. Second, receiving days off will enable students to be engaged in the democratic process.
The first rationale is an argument for a uniform policy, not for three days off. No days off for protesting would be a uniform policy, and a better one.
The second rationale is specious. Students are free to protest on weekends, when most protests occur, and during the summer. They thus have ample opportunities to “engage” in the democratic process. There is no need to let them skip school for this purpose.
Because the articulated reasons for the policy change make little sense, we’re entitled to wonder what the real reasons are. In part, I suspect, it’s simply an attempt to pacify students.
There may be more to it, though. The left-liberals who make up the school board know that Montgomery County students are also overwhelmingly left-liberal, albeit incoherently so in most cases. The new policy provides shock troops for left-wing causes. Indeed, it provides the best kind of shock troops — ill-informed and easily manipulated.
School board members probably also recognize that participation in protests facilitates radicalization. Marching alongside like-minded teenagers and listening to demagogues give speeches will tend to move these impressionable kids from vague anti-Trumpist to full-fledged, inflamed leftist.
Montgomery County public schools also tend to facilitate radicalization, but much more slowly. Three heady days of protesting can accomplish what it might take a year of studying AP U.S. History to achieve.
The other objection to the proposed policy is, of course, that it costs students up to three days of schooling. That’s no great loss if we’re talking about, say, History and English as they are presently taught in Montgomery County. But it does matter some if we’re talking about foreign languages, Math, and Science.
One school board member defended the new policy on the theory that it will help train students to lead. Actually, it will train them to be what they become when they protest — a mob of followers. If this isn’t the purpose of the policy, it’s a happy byproduct for those advocating it.