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Frankly … social
How to be rightly wrong

Fridays for future
Photo (detail): Daniel Dohlus; © picture alliance/ZUMA Press

The fundamental principle of the Fridays For Future movement is truancy. But when’s the right time to leave school? And should it be school kids or parents explaining it to the teachers?

The fundamental principle of the Fridays For Future movement is truancy. But when’s the right time to leave school? And should it be school kids or parents explaining it to the teachers?

By Maximilian Buddenbohm

Demonstrations by the Fridays For Future movement are still a hot topic, and they aren’t exactly getting smaller either.  So it seems fitting to pick up on an associated theme, because there are lots of details to observe and consider, as is the case with any large-scale movement. Who knows, at the end of the day it might even mean you’ll already be contributing to the history books.

As we all know, Greta Thunberg’s original principle is truanting school. Truancy means unauthorised absence, so there’s no doubt there that we’re talking about a breach of the rules, breaking the law, school attendance is compulsory. So it’s no use the teachers supporting the campaign. You can’t just not go to school.  If a large number of children make a concerted effort not to attend, making arrangements and stating their intent beforehand, then it brings up questions that no one has ever asked before. Some of these questions seem a little absurd, for instance when you’re pondering how you can possibly break the law correctly. It’s imperative that we take a closer look at this.

All-day truancy – or just individual lessons?There are essentially two truancy options, the whole day or just for individual lessons. If the child is absent for the entire day, it begs the question as to whether the school has been notified of their absence. So some parents deliberate whether to write a letter excusing them in advance or afterwards – for something that by definition needs no apology. But isn’t that something you’d do anyway? To ensure provision of information and clarity, regardless of the legal situation? Despite the fact that this notification changes nothing anyway, the child is absent without authorisation and from the school’s perspective it doesn’t matter where they are.

And on the other hand, what if the child only skips the odd lesson because the demo doesn’t start until noon, how exactly does that work? Do they pack up their stuff and their placard, stand up in the middle of class and leave? Do they tell the teacher where they are going? Doesn’t that precipitate a discussion and can a child even handle that sort of thing? After all, teachers are better equipped with argumentation skills than kids, one would suppose. These are some of the questions that require clarification before a demo, and maybe they are questions that don’t get asked in quite the same way in every country. We do like to have everything in order here, it’s true to say.The riot begins promptlyIncidentally the question stated above as to the correct way of leaving school illegally in the middle of the day led to the realisation that children would have to make their exit from school as soon as it was break time – that would be the only way to ensure it all went smoothly. After a little consideration everyone was clear that that was the most straightforward solution. So students wait it out for the first few periods and then leave after one of the bells during the school day, timed as closely as possible for the start of the demo.

In other words this is wild truanting in a space devoid of law and order, it truly is an act of rebellion on the part of young people – but you can set your watch by it. Maybe we do need to start gradually adapting our understanding of the wild concept of riot a little. Times are changing..

“Frankly …”

On an alternating basis each week, our “Frankly ...” column series is written by Maximilian Buddenbohm, Qin Liwen, Dominic Otiang’a and Gerasimos Bekas. In “Frankly ... social”, Maximilian Buddenbohm reports on the big picture – society as a whole – and on its smallest units: family, friendships, relationships.