Graffiti is not the answer

Dear vandalizer…


The words “DROP OUT. ALL OF YOU.” appeared in white spray paint on the F Building school bulletin board on Thursday

By Mark Lu

For this piece, I would like to directly address the student who sprayed those white words across the bulletin board on the F building wall this week, and I hope he or she is reading this right now:

I have no idea what pushed you to write those words where the whole school could see them as students walked to class. I have no idea what led you to believe that a high school experience is better dropped than seen through. I have no idea why you are so passionate in your beliefs that you would risk your permanent record and potential future job or college acceptance to get your message out there.

However, I do understand the basis of what drove you to put up that message.

As students in one of the most vigorous school districts in the country, we all encounter an innumerable amount of day-to-day difficulties, all of which are individually unique to the person experiencing them. The predicaments that befall us may seem distant, sudden and overwhelming.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that 54 percent of responders were dissatisfied with the general quality of K-12 education.

Another Gallup poll showed that 34 percent of high school students nationwide answered “stuck” to the question: “Are you hopeful about your future?” The full report can be found here.

I understand the results of these polls. Public education is not perfect. At times, it fails to engage students in its curriculum. It is held to government-set standards, and it sometimes lacks proper funding and facilitation.

But if you give up your high school education, you’re handicapped for life. Without a high school diploma, you’re less likely to be accepted into college, less likely to get a job beyond flipping burgers and less likely to experience the life of a free-thinking, intelligent young person who is both happy, hardworking and hopeful.

The intention behind public schooling is to instill in the minds of young people principles upon with which they base their future off of so that they eventually give back to the society that raised them.

But I also understand that if society wants you to contribute to a world that was  forced upon you, the “giving back” design of the whole system makes it all seem a bit self-interested, doesn’t it?

The public schools of America encourage a questioning of the system more so than anywhere else because in this country, a student who can think critically is more valued than a student who blindly follows a lead.

Questioning the establishment is a symbol of our freedom as well as a true display of creativity and intelligence. The world is better today than it was fifty years ago because of the encouragement for us young people to think, to contemplate and to question.

However, spraying a wall with paint isn’t the right way to convey such questioning. It doesn’t make a point; it simply makes you a criminal.

In a country where free speech and the right to protest are guaranteed, putting graffiti on school walls is one of the less efficient things to do if you’re unhappy. When concerns about a school’s methods, environment or population arise, and they will arise, the wrong thing to do is to break the law. What separates us from uncivilized neanderthals is our ability to converse using good communication and discussion.

I have a solution for you, vandalist.

If you are experiencing something in your life at the moment: depression, loneliness, financial troubles, family issues, academic-related problems or if you really do believe that a high school experience is detrimental to the wellbeing of students, contact me. I will give you a voice and put your concerns about your own experience on campus, the school environment, and/or the public school system in The Epitaph for everyone to read without revealing your name.

I am under no obligation to report you to the administration nor am I inclined to release your name online or in the paper, and I won’t. I don’t believe that someone would risk so much simply to crack a joke or mess with the administration, and I want to know more. Spray-painting a deprecating message across a bulletin board on private property should not be your go-to method of action when you’re an intuitive and insightful student with the right to free speech and protest.

One of the things that has bothered me my whole life is when people decide that an individual who has either committed a crime or gotten pregnant while drunk is all-bad, that they are responsible for their own bad choices and that they don’t deserve to have their story told. There is always a story, and our job is to chase it.

You have something to say. And the newspaper, not the paint can, should be your voice.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Mark Lu

[email protected]