James Croft, Outreach Director, was quoted in the Clayton Patch article Clayton High School Students Stage Walkout Over Gun Violence.

James Croft, outreach director of the Ethical Society of St. Louis — part of the American Ethical Union — has lobbied for stricter gun laws, and called the rise in student activism encouraging. Such civic engagement, he said, is important to the development of young people into responsible adults. Croft holds a doctorate in human development and education from Harvard University.

“Young people have a right to autonomy,” he said. “Some people are concerned about young people leaving their schools and classrooms to participate in these protests. But my perspective, as a former high school teacher, is that it’s extremely important as part of their civic education to actively participate in the political process. It’s profoundly educational to participate in walkouts like the ones happening today. I believe it is so important at this moment for young people to make their voices heard.”

He said the best way for students to learn autonomy is to create something of value in their communities, and he praised the efforts of students at Clayton High School and elsewhere in working toward that goal.

“What these students are doing is trying to change the society in which they live, a society in which they have a stake but not a vote, so they’re coming up with creative ways to bring attention to the issues that are important to them,” Croft said. “I think that demonstrates a high level of maturity, and I think it is to be respected and supported.”

(Archived copy)