The students who survived the school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida this past Valentine’s Day reaffirmed the belief of many in the power of young people to make a positive difference in this world. This tragic incident also reminded us that educators have the potential — and responsibility — to prepare and empower the next generation of leaders to identify and solve the problems our society is grappling with today, and will face in the future.
Political theorist Danielle Allen acknowledges the unique opportunity that our current generation of young people have to make our world a better place. She believes that young people today “see the shape of our world presently…I think they have a better understanding of it than any other generation.”
Allen believes that the first and most important thing for us to do is to activate young people as “‘diagnosers' of what’s wrong with the world around us.” Then, she asserts, the policy makers can come in and work with them and bring their expertise to bear as they find solutions to those problems. But first and foremost, we must listen to and hear the voices of youth.
As Angela and I were writing Hack 9: Inspire Activism, we discussed how teachers might create classroom environments where students feel supported in exploring issues important to them, and make their voices heard. We agreed that teaching for social justice begins with empathy, where students are inspired and activated by causes that reflect their needs and interests. As Allen says, we must empower them to be “diagnosers” and then support them with the tools and resources they need to be social activists.
As you dive into this hack, and read about examples of some young people making change, we invite you to consider the following questions:
How might we teach for social justice in our own classrooms?
How might we facilitate exploration and identification of issues and causes that are important to our students?
How might we empower and equip them with the tools they need to become engaged citizens, active community members and positive changemakers?
On Wednesday, I will be back to offer reflective questions for exploring Hack 9, as well as additional resources to support you as you inspire activism and teach for social justice in your classroom.
Please feel free to contact us, Tweet us @EllenFeigGray and @AngelaStockman or join our Compassionate Classrooms conversation on Facebook. And if you want to access the free resources that we’ve gathered for our Hacking School Culture Book Club members, they’re archived on the Book Club page of our site.