Playing hooky from school is generally frowned upon, but what if students are skipping class to pressure adults to do something about climate change?
It's the question that schools around the world are scratching their heads over today — and it's not going away.
From Sweden and Germany to Japan and Hong Kong and more than 100 countries, thousands of protests are happening around the world.
These strikes are part of the Fridays for Future protest movement, led by students that want adults — particularly those in the halls of government — to get serious about saving the planet.
It started with a single person
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who turned 16 in January, started striking in August 2018, following a series of heat waves and wildfires in Sweden. Each day for two weeks in the lead-up to a Sept. 9 election, she camped outside the country's parliament in Stockholm and handed out leaflets that read "I am doing this because you adults are [expletive]ing on my future."
When asked why she wasn't in school, Thunberg would retort, "I have my books here. But also I am thinking: What am I missing? What am I going to learn in school? Facts don't matter any more, politicians aren't listening to the scientists, so why should I learn?"
Logically, the argument may not flow, but rhetorically, it soars.
Following the election, Thunberg returned to school except on Fridays. On Fridays, she returned to the parliament building to continue her protest. Those weekly protests have evolved into the Fridays for Future protests. Students from the United Kingdom, Uganda, France, Poland, Thailand, Colombia and other countries have organized their own Friday protests, skipping the classroom to march and to protest government inaction regarding climate change.
The popularity of the movement made Thunberg something of a celebrity activist. She gave a short but searing speech in January at the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of industrial, financial and political titans rubbing elbows in Davos, Switzerland, in which she told the upper crust elites, "I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act."
You can hear the full speech in the video below.
Thunberg has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. "We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees," Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy André Øvstegård told The Guardian. "Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace."
Adults don't get it
Demanding that adults act is the only recourse younger people have. They're not allowed to vote — a lowered voting age is one of the protesters requests, and who can blame them? — and they're not treated with a great deal of respect when they try and make their voices heard.
British Prime Minister Theresa May's office dismissed the British protests, saying: "Everybody wants young people to be engaged in the issues that affect them most, so that we can build a brighter future for all of us," a spokesperson for May said. "But it is important to emphasize that disruption increases teachers' workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for. That time is crucial for young people, precisely so they can develop into the top scientists, engineers and advocates we need to help tackle this problem."
But it's hard to swallow that sort of "Children are our future (but only if they behave)" response when scientists tell us we only have 12 years to save the planet.
Meanwhile, New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes has warned that students and teachers who participate in the March 15 protests will be punished if they leave school for the rallies. Thunburg was decidedly unimpressed:
The March 15 protest was announced March 1 in a letter published in The Guardian. It will be the first globally organized event of the Fridays for Future movement. The date is a fitting choice; March 15 is the Ides of March, a date that lives on as the day Julius Caesar was assassinated. It's also the day in which ancients Romans settled debts. What bigger debt is there than the theft of a future not plagued by wildfires, rising sea levels and increased severe weather?