Douglas High School and the Fight Against Dystopia

If you walk into my daughter’s room, you will see that she has amassed quite a collection of books. They are not for decoration. They are for reading.

And re-reading. Just look at the spines if you need evidence.

Among the bookshelves are her Harry Potter books, tattered from consistent use for over ten years, and multiple series like Divergent and the Maze Runner. In fact, on Friday she went to the theater to see the last Maze Runner movie just released. Today we went to the book store for her to purchase the next book in that series.

I believe that most young adults who read what may be called dystopian literature find worlds that they would work very hard not to be actualized.


My daughter is not one to dwell on what the future might pessimistically hold. She is one who knows what she does not want the future to be like.

She reads the news. She keeps up with current events. She volunteers. She speaks her mind.

She is aware.

While we have certainly had conversations about the massacre at Douglas High School this month around our dinner table and around the house, she probably has had as many chances to talk about it in venues her mother and I are nor present at. And that’s a good thing. I want her talking about issues like that and feel comfortable forming her own opinions and seeking the viewpoints of others.

She is not that far from being 18 years of age. She will then be able to vote. She will be able to buy cigarettes. She will have been old enough to legally drop out of high school. She will be old enough to enlist. In some states, she could legally buy an AR-15.

Many young ladies will have become mothers at 18 years of age.

But she already has a voice and has a vision of what she would like her world to be like. And she is witnessing young adults her age start to use their voice to affect change in their country and in their world in a very direct manner.

When I walk in the halls of the school where I teach, I come into contact with young adults who as experts of their own lives have experienced events and challenges that would simply baffle the middle-aged man writing this post.

Yes, our schools need more guidance counselors. more social workers, more security, more psychologists, and more resources. We need a lot of things to help make sure that what happened in Parkland, FL is not repeated.

Our schools also need to remember that students have voices. We need to give those voices authentic audiences.

When you are a teacher who views the profession as a calling and an avocation, then you know you have a love for what you do and the connections that you have with people day by day help build the humanity of the world you actualize.

I wonder if the teachers at Douglas High School have any idea how much in awe teachers like me are of their resilience and their dedication. Even more so, I am in absolute astonishment of what kind of school culture they are helping to establish when the very students who have survived this horrific ordeal have the voice, support, and the drive to instantly take action and make sure that something like this does not happen again.

It’s as if these young people have read those same books on the shelves of my daughter’s book cases, lived through an ordeal that would break me in so many ways, and fought to avert a future that would allow this to happen again.

It’s as if they have been given opportunities to speak for themselves in classes, been allowed to question things, and given chances to develop and show leadership.

Great schools are not defined by walls and physical boundaries. They may be identified by a mascot or certain colors, but what defines a school is the community and culture that pulses there.

A school is defined by its people.

And they are growing and strengthening that community by reaching out over state lines, age differences, and political affiliations.

What is happening in this country right now is not directly from a book, but it sure will be written about in years to come.