Activism (or just action) for high school students in the US
November 9, 2016 1:25 PM   Subscribe

What programs, field trips, organisations, or anything else can highschoolers get involved in to take the power back from old white men? My friend is a high school teacher in a majority non-white school in New York, and in her words "I want to give my students knowledge and action (and if possible, a sense that maybe not every person in this country hates them)".

At the moment her students (mainly African-American and Latino, and with a large number of recent arrivals to the USA) are both terrified and hopeless. The fear had already been growing in the runup to the election, and she promised them beforehand a plan of action if the worst should happen. Now it has, and she wants to show them that there are things that they can do.

Additional info:
- I realise that there is some overlap with this question, but quite a few of the suggestions (like donating to causes you support) aren't really things that these kids can do.
- She doesn't need lesson plans; things like the Civil Rights movement are already incorporated into her teaching. It's things that the kids themselves can do that she's looking for.
- This may not need saying, but this is a school in a deprived area; she's already putting her own money towards some pretty basic classroom supplies, and the kids and their families have very little to spare, so even things like travelling across town to attend a free event are going to be stretching budgets.
posted by Vortisaur to Education (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I hate to be cruel, but sit through a city council meeting, or, probably better and more productive, some city commission meetings? As I start to get more and more involved in local politics, I'm realizing that there's both a huge amount of need for local involvement, and that it's a good microcosm of how it works on a larger scale.

And show up at a couple of city commission meetings and someone on the commission will start a conversation.
posted by straw at 1:30 PM on November 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Adding to straw's suggestion, if local political meetings occur too far away and/or at awkward times, you can likely view video archives online, which would also give the teacher the opportunity to pause the video to pose or answer questions.

If the teacher wants to expand upon this, she can have the kids write responses either in support or opposition to an item on the agenda, either to discuss in class or present in person, or submit ahead of time, if they can't make it in person. She could also invite one or two of the city councilors or commissioners to talk to the students during class.

Similarly, she could invite some local advocates to talk to the students, which could give the students other venues to get involved. Or instead of selecting a speaker, she could have the students read about local advocacy groups and agree on which they'd like to talk to the class.

All that would probably have to get approved through her school, if not also get approval from parents to travel to the meeting.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:07 PM on November 9, 2016

Practice inclusive, supportive language. Practice showing disapproval and even disgust without anger. Let them practice these things in the classroom, make signs and posters that have messages celebrating tolerance and diversity that speak directly to situations in their community.

Have them work on messages that address their own privilege: let the boys make posters about feminism and against rape culture; let the white kids work on projects that address racism; let able-bodied children speak out for inclusion of those with disabilities; let Christians describe the importance of religious tolerance.

There's the option of a showcase for their work: a school presentation, a website, posters displayed around the community. But the key issue is for them to learn the language of inclusiveness, so that when someone in their own group throws around dog whistles about some other group, they're ready to say, hey, that's not right, and I think your prejudice is ugly.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:15 PM on November 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

The most important thing she can do is to convince them nothing is as important as being educated and to treasure knowledge. The world needs smart people, now more than ever. Stay in school, kids.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:55 PM on November 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get the book "Children with emerald eyes." Read it. Decide what to do with that info in terms of applying it to your classroom setting.

Part of the book is about her teaching a classroom of kids who were basically all outcasts. You might get a lot out of what she chose to do.
posted by Michele in California at 4:44 PM on November 9, 2016

I would encourage them to get involved with a community organization (or form one of their own) BEFORE trying to get involved in local politics. Becoming a part of a community of engaged people is likely to give her students more immediate emotional support and validation, and create a social safety net for them that will have its own value (plus, they will have more power when they do try to take action). They can see the value and power of working together with people to fight for something you value.

Depending on your location, some starting points could be BYP100 (Black Youth Project) groups, a local branch of Showing Up for Racial Justice, National Immigrant Justice Center, or the Detention Watch Network.
posted by thelastpolarbear at 5:01 PM on November 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Knowledge and connection:

I have been doing an Oral History project connecting youth of African Heritage with elders to simply record their life stories. i got a grant through the state, they're being trained by a professional oral historian and a grad student. All the kids involved and the grad student are Black young women. The main issue is getting access to good recording equipment, which can be done through the anthropology department at a local university. Their work will be donated to the state historical society, and they (and the interviewers) are also being paid out of the grant. ($15 per hour for kids who are 15 yrs old works well to get them engaged.)

We are interviewing people who have been activists and community participants for their whole lives, and the kids' takeaway has been really amazing. I was worried--that the girls were too immature to take this seriously or to really engage with older people, but they've each gone through one interview, and they've each come away positively glowing with hope for the future and pride in their abilities.
posted by RedEmma at 9:57 AM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Years ago, I read the book about The Clemente Course in Humanities telling the story behind it. I am a huge fan of a proper humanities education. Liberal Arts were originally called that because they are liberating and empowering. I can testify first hand that poverty is much less problematic if you are educated in the right way and know how to get things done.

Real poverty is not merely a shortage of money. It is a whole raft of psychological and sociological barriers to achieving all kinds of things. If you merely have limited funds, that is not at all like what goes on for people with multi generational poverty.
posted by Michele in California at 10:13 AM on November 10, 2016

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