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Getting students fired up about inequality is fairly straightforward. If you can convince them inequality is real and affecting themselves or people they care about they will decry the injustice. But how do you get students to do something about it? Earlier I discussed how to show students the way to make change in their community, but how can you encourage them to actually step up and do it? In many ways I am still, and will forever be, answering this question.

Part of the solution is in getting students to take social activism for a spin in your class. Make doing something in their community a graded assignment. I have my students during the last week of class write a letter to one of their political representatives (The directions for this activity can be found here). Students bring a stamped, addressed, handwritten, and unsealed letter about an issue of their choosing. I allow students to write any public official about any topic they like. The letters are handwritten because this communicates to the political representative beyond any shadow of a doubt that it was written by a human and not a computer. Also, the letter is unsealed so that I can ensure they wrote the letter.

Letters Written By My Students

This is only a small step. Students may write about frivolous topics unrelated to or even counter to the lessons of your course, but at the very least they will practice taking action in their community. The point is to get them to take action. If you forced them to write on a list of topics or worse force them to write about topics that you talked about in class the way you talked about them in class you will appear to be a political ideologue and you will be reviled by most of your students. You have to let the students draw their own conclusions.