Sept. 20-27 has been dubbed by several activist, special interest and lobbyist organizations as a “Global Climate Strike and Week of Action.” The idea is to convince a bunch of people to walk off their jobs, block traffic, picket offices and businesses, and generally disrupt the rest of the citizenry from being able to function in their daily lives — effectively holding peace, tranquility and freedom of movement hostage in exchange for a radical “Green New Deal” type agenda.

The big problem here is the shock troops in this strike are expected to be public school students who will march out of class in order to participate in the mayhem. In many cases, if not most or all, the kids will be taking part with the encouragement and facilitation of teachers and administrators on the public dime. This is not OK.

First of all, the kinds of demonstrations being called for, along the lines of what we’ve recently seen with the blocking of the Strolling of the Heifers parade, shouting down business on the floor of the State House and stopping traffic in Montpelier, are illegal. Those taking part are subject to arrest. It is totally irresponsible for public school officials to aid and abet their students in breaking the law.

In addition to potential legal jeopardy, instigating physical confrontations with people and machines, which is what you’re doing when you block traffic or otherwise stop someone from going from point A to point B, can be dangerous. Some activists could take things too far, or unwilling victims of the protest might overreact, resulting in violent injury. Again, school officials charged with keeping children safe should not be involving students in this kind of activity.

And lastly, what we’re witnessing here is the abandonment of an educational mission in favor of political indoctrination. It’s not just climate change. Over the past year, we have seen elementary, middle and high school students encouraged by their teachers to walk out of class over gun control, racism, gender politics — anything to get out of learning (and apparently teaching) algebra.

If these students were being exposed to all sides of these issues, weighing the evidence pro and con, reaching their own conclusions and then protesting on their own time, that would be one thing. But that’s not what’s happening. They are being told one side of the story, and other arguments are either absent or, worse, being mocked by the people in charge. That’s not education, that’s propaganda.

What we will witness on Sept. 20 and the following week is public schools being willingly co-opted by special interest groups so children can be exploited by adults in order to push a partisan political agenda. This comes at the expense of the children’s real education. They are not being taught how to think, they are being told what to think and then what to do.

Is this really what we are paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation and, by some estimates, $22,000 a year per child for? Brainwashed children pouring out of their classrooms to disrupt our daily lives on behalf of political lobbyists? For parents and taxpayers, there’s a hefty combination of insult and injury wrapped up in this equation. For the children, it’s just a sad waste of their true potential.

The solution to this problem is statewide, parent-driven, school choice with the money following the child. If you want a school to turn your kid into a left-wing activist playing in traffic, fine. But if you don’t, as a parent, you should have the right and the ability to choose a school that reflects your values and priorities. Parents who think schools should be focused on teaching their children reading, writing, math, etc., (and are wondering why our student proficiency levels stink) should speak out and demand the right to move their children somewhere else.

The public school system is a monopoly, accountable in reality only to the politicians who control the flow of tax dollars into its coffers. This unhealthy dynamic is at the root of why we are seeing an increasingly political agenda replace traditional education in our public schools. It’s time to break up that monopoly and make the schools accountable not to politicians, but to parents and students through school choice. Something to think about when you’re stuck in traffic on the way to work because a dozen eighth-graders have chained themselves together in the middle of the highway.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

(2) comments


What happens during the early years is of crucial importance for every child's development. That is why understanding the need to invest in very young children is so important, so as to maximize their future well-being. Some parents want specialized courses such as montessori sensitive periods for their children. They believe in them and want to prepare for their future from an early age.

Bob Messing

on “Education or Indoctrination?”

Rob Roper said in his 9/21 commentary: “Is this really what we are paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation and, by some estimates, $22,000 a year per child for? Brainwashed children pouring out of their classrooms to disrupt our daily lives on behalf of political lobbyists.?”

But I too, have been convinced by the climate science news. I don’t consider scientific reports to be politically motivated, though it’s what may motivate political stands. It’s not political to say the planet is warming up and it’s hard to discern left from right when it becomes clear that it is both possible and necessary in a most profound sense, to take action that will change the course of climate change.

School children have never been in a world with this sort of possibility lurking in their immediate future. Is it responsible for educators to ignore this matter, and if they do tell it the way the vast majority of scientists see it, is it right to treat it as purely academic? If the message to all, regardless of political affiliations, is to look at the science,. how distorted by political motives is that?

And faced with these realities, presented by the scientific community and impacting all of humanity everywhere, how are school children to react? They are a special group; they are the ones who will experience the brunt of this carbon intensive history.

It won’t do to just throw epithets like “brainwashed” and to try to call out schools for permitting their students to voluntarily march in protest. Sure, there are risks, but there are risks in most outside extra-curricular activities. This is not a daily activity. All the subjects Mr. Roper is concerned that the students learn will be taught regularly and will support their ability to understand what is truly ( look at the science) a threat to their future.

Perhaps there are schools out there that do not consider important real world events and only concentrate on academic “reading writing, math etc.” ( would “etc.” include history and science?) School shootings and gun control, racial injustice and gender politics—are these subjects to be avoided?

I believe it is hard to isolate students these days from the events of the world. To do that is more like brainwashing and in the case of climate change--letting them see the science and that people all over the world are alarmed and ready to do something-- is that not an appropriate part of their education? In fact, one demand of an early student protest in Montpelier was that they be educated about climate change.

The climate crisis is a different class of event from all the others. It threatens the survival of future generations. To deny that, Mr. Roper, you must prove it wrong, and you need science to do that. And why does protesting the climate crisis look like left wing politics to you? The “Green New Deal” is one proposal. Come up with a better one.

Bob Messing


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