The past few weeks have been rather riotous. College students in France rioted, and there were riots in the southwestern U.S. over the new immigration bill.
Though I am interested in the issues surrounding these riots, I’m concerned about something else: As I watched news coverage of the immigration riots, the channel I was watching played footage of school students participating in the riots. The students were marching through a street — a very busy street. They walked right in front of cars, meandered through the traffic, and crossed the street as if no cars were there at all.
Maybe the students were rioting to support their cause (though I’ll bet that some of them used the riots as an excuse to skip school). But what were they thinking? Their actions were just not smart. They remind me of a certain historical event:
The event, which occurred more than 700 years ago, is called the Children’s Crusade. At that time, Western Europeans wanted to retake the holy land, Palestine, from the Muslims. In the Children’s Crusade, more than 1,000 children assembled to invade Palestine. The children reached the Mediterranean Sea, expecting that God would part the sea for them and lead them to Palestine. In the end, most of the children died or were sold into slavery.
That’s a sad story. I don’t think that the students’ participation in the immigration riots is completely analogous to the Children’s Crusade, but some points are similar. Both groups were reckless; the children thought they could take over Palestine and that the sea would open for them. The students endangered themselves by walking through traffic. The children in the Children’s Crusade were misled, and they certainly deluded themselves. The students in the immigration riot may or may not have been misled. But I doubt that they stopped to think about whether their views were correct, or whether those views justified rioting. If you’re going to walk through a busy street, you’d better have a good reason.
Young people have a tendency toward idealism. I’ve learned this through studying history, and I met an overly idealistic student last year. But as a teenager, I know from experience that young people can be idealistic. Sometimes, I think I have this great idea, usually regarding physics or philosophy, that settles some difficult problem. Then I read a few sentences about Descartes or quantum mechanics, and my idea goes splat. I end up a little disappointed, but I’m glad to learn.
Young people might also have more passion or drive than the older generation. We sometimes think that, with our determination and “new