Last Friday's staff editorial criticized the efforts to organize a student walkout from classes in opposition to a U.S. war against Iraq. The argument of the editorial, however, disregards the importance of public action, especially by students, in influencing government policies.
The primary criticism from the editorial is that the demonstration would conflict with education in the classroom. "The impetus for prioritizing pressing political matters over, say, Art History, is plain enough, but that doesn't mean the two debates can't coexist." To say that the walkout and teach-in stifles academic debate does not make sense. The demonstration calls on students to abstain from attending classes for one day, on March 5, in collaboration with a number of other schools across the country, to publicize widespread opposition to war and discuss current political issues. Missing one day of class does not silence any debate within the academic world. What we gain in the classroom becomes more important to us if we utilize it in our lives as students and participants in society.
The staff's assertions, furthermore, emphasize discussion over action. A democracy, however, only speaks for the people when citizens actively participate. Discussion is certainly necessary for individuals to reach well-reasoned decisions, but it is not sufficient to influence government. People must both vocalize their opinions and take action in order to play a role in government policy. This is the primary role of protest.
Finally, the staff claims, "Any responsible student should place a premium on classroom learning." This may be true if we are understood only as students and nothing else. We are, however, also citizens and residents of this country. Every responsible citizen should, when appropriate, express his disapproval of government actions and intentions through grassroots democracy. Citizenship confers on us the responsibility at times to step outside the ivory tower and place importance on political action over the affairs of the classroom, despite the immense value these classroom experiences provide.
No War in Iraq urges those students who oppose war in Iraq to participate in the student walkout and teach-in to voice their opinions. There are decisions we make as a nation with consequences so grave and effects on human life so devastating, that their realization deserves our full attention and reflection, if only for one day.