should college students protest?
I’ve got a short article in Go Teach, the official magazine of the Future Educators of America. The topic is whether college students should protest. The essay is aimed at high schoolers. First, I try to demystify protest:
The protests themselves are fairly routine events, unfolding like a play. People are told to gather at some place that has a symbolic or strategic importance. At Indiana University, where I teach, an Occupy student group showed up at the business school because they were fighting corporate greed. Once people show up, they often hold up signs or other props that express their issue. Then, near the end of the rally, there are often speakers who come and rally the protestors.
Near the end:
Protest is like everything else in life. Most of the time, protest doesn’t matter. Just as most companies go out of business, protest often goes unnoticed and unrecorded except in the student newspaper. College protesters, in particular, are in a weak position. Students graduate and seek jobs, and they may not be around for the long term. As students, they have little authority or influence over the administration or faculty.
But that doesn’t mean that protest is pointless. Once in a while, college protests do have an impact. Sometimes, they have a massive impact. College protest often spills out into the rest of society. America would be worse off if students from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina hadn’t sat down at Greensboro lunch counter in 1960. The conservative student protesters of the 1960s, the Young Americans for Freedom, became the Republican Party activists of the 1980s.
Protest isn’t for everyone. A recent study by Catherine Corrigal-Brown of the University of Western Ontario shows that only about one third of Americans have ever participated in a protest movement. Most Americans don’t attend rallies or marches. Voting is a much more common way to register one’s opinion. But still, that doesn’t mean that protest should be avoided. Rather, protest is a choice that reflects how we see ourselves and the opportunities available to us. Sometimes, stirring up trouble is the most effective way to the make the world a better place.
Check it out.
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