Sociology courses and especially textbooks are very good at identifying and explaining social problems. But not so good at identifying solutions. Many students say in evals that they really want to talk about solutions.
I usually address solutions to social problems intermittently through out the semester, but the last week of classes I do nothing but talk about solutions. I want students to leave equipped and motivated to stand up to injustice where they encounter it. I have created a handout that I give my students called “Creating Change in Your Community”.
The focus of the handout is how the each student can make change in their own lives. While many students appreciate the discussion, some are displeased to find out that they have to personally act to create change. It seems some student where hoping for a program, piece of legislation that they could vote for, or some other external means to create change. I address this from the outset of the handout by talking about internal v. external locus of control. Somehow calling this tendency out by name makes it easier for students to let go.
In our class discussion I always address how hard it can be to take a stand against something you don’t believe in. To encourage students to be kind to themselves while they figure out how to put a voice to their beliefs I share with my students one of my all time favorite quotes from director David Mamet,
“Do not internalize the industrial model. You are not one of the myriad of interchangeable pieces but a unique human being and if you’ve got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you’re learning to say it better.”– David Mamet
To make speaking up even easier, I share with my students the Southern Poverty Law Center’s guide called “Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry”. The guide is a sort of “playbook” that provides students with hundreds of potential scenarios and responses. There are sections on responding to bigotry in your family, at your job, at your school, or in public. This guide is full of useful and practical responses to bigotry. Each scenario begins with a real person’s story of how they encountered bigotry and how they responded. You owe it to yourself to take a look at this.