NEAR the end of February, a student was accosted by an armed robber at the bus stop looking to steal his Airpods not even 500 feet away from school property. When he resisted the attempted theft, the robber struck him in the face with their gun and made off with the earbuds while the student was trying to collect himself. A gunshot rang out within the span of this incident and the assailant’s escape; it was loud enough to startle nearby students participating in extracurricular activities hosted inside of the school.
During the previous month, shots were fired into a bus four blocks away from my school. Dozens of students were on that bus headed back home.
In the second or third week of March, three teenaged attackers robbed a student of his basketball sneakers at another bus stop at which young people are known to congregate. It was a busy intersection. Oddly, people walked by without acknowledging the robbery or calling for help. Even the student’s friends made no effort to stop him from being jumped. He was forced to journey home in the biting chill of winter in his socks.
These examples of recent incidents that occurred within proximity to my school, though still rather frightening, are nowhere near as detrimental as what others have faced at schools in more dangerous neighborhoods than mine or at education institutions outside of Washington DC—such as the recent Nashville shooting that resulted in three dead teachers and three dead elementary students. They are gone all because they dared to show up to work and receive an education respectively on the wrong day. And to add insult to injury, the identity of the shooter is being emphasized more than the victims of their actions, as has been done in the case of many other school shootings.
So, within the context of the plight the rest of the nation is facing, I’m lucky. With only one month of instruction left until my K-12 career is officially over, I am overwhelmed by the feeling that I’m fleeing the education coup just before it officially collapses—or rather, before it burns itself from the inside out.
The more I learn from my Dual Enrollment course about just how unstable, discriminatory, and exploitative the American education system is, the more I’m afflicted with a sort of survivor’s guilt. I wonder, if I were a few years younger, would I be subjected to the same terrors I’m sure orbit the minds of my younger counterparts? I think about how unfair it is that they are being subjected to a less safe, less quality education than I was afforded. And I worry. Dear God, I worry.
I worry for the many elementary and middle schoolers that will enter the workforce a decade or so after my arrival ill-equipped because their education was politicized, used as a means to an end. I worry the increased acceptance of negative student behavior enabled by parents and the education system will drive away the remaining educators who genuinely want to see the next generation succeed. I worry that the petty robbers on the streets will become younger and younger, having abandoned the education system long before they realized it would soon abandon them. I worry that more innocent young lives will be lost due to entirely preventable problems.
But still, I have hope. Because children—the main ones victimized by the current state of American education—are truly smarter than adults give them credit for. When those young bright minds mature, with them will come the solutions we need to rectify the many problems plaguing the system. When there’s a will, there’s a way. Despite all the wrong that currently plagues our nation, I know that inevitably, right will follow and I await it with open palms and an open heart.
Philomena Stone is a high school senior and freelance writer based in Washington DC.