Part of the role of teachers is to engage students with the global community; to teach them about what is going on in the world, and to give them opportunities to reflect and respond to events and issues. So what should a teacher encourage as far as action by students? Is there such a thing as being too engaged? That is a very good question. Where is the line between teaching students to be active citizens and to be activists?
The video below is of a young girl voicing her concerns about the Harper governments actions (or rather non-actions) towards women and girls in Canada. Does this go too far by allowing a student to become a social activist and voicing her concerns on a public platform?
While some might argue that a young girl doesn’t need to make such statements, and that maybe she doesn’t really know what she’s talking about or is being fed information by her parents or teachers, I beg to differ. If, as teachers, we dare to broach “touchy” subjects (as I hope to be able to do) like Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women, or the Syrian refugee dilemma, or poverty in our own backyard, and encourage student participation, give them projects, writing prompts, then why does a video like this go too far? Are the other conversations and activities we have our students do just fake? If we tell students to write letters to their MP about a concerning issue, after they’ve written them do they just get recycled? Or, do we truly let students have a voice and send those letters, publish those projects, and let their messages be heard (with parental permission of course)!
Sure, not all students are mature or responsible enough to make a convincing enough argument as the young girl in the video, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t contribute to a conversation, or participate in a project to work towards social change. Schools are intended to educate and motivate our youth so that they can grow to become engaged citizens, but if we don’t give them the opportunities to be actively engaged as students, how will they ever learn? I think the line between teaching students to be active and to be activists is really in the hands of the student. A teacher (and parents too) can help students become actively engaged and willing to seek out information and become informed about a topic, but it is the student’s own will that will lead them to becoming an activist for any given project. Hopefully though, they will have the support of their teacher and parents to make their voice heard.