Activism 101

Do we really need a course on how to stage a protest?

As if there wasn’t enough ammunition for the naysayers deploring the state of the current Canadian university, there is now a course teaching activism at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Earlier this month, the Globe and Mail covered the enrollees’ class project, whereby they marched through the streets, chanting and carrying placards reading “You Can’t Eat Money and Less Cash Cropping = More Hunger Stopping,” to raise awareness for global hunger issues. The event was worth 15 per cent of the students’ final mark.

No word yet on how the classes entitled “Explorations of Why Not to Stick your Finger in an Electrical Outlet” and “Dreadlocks and Social Conscience: An Intimate Relationship” are coming along. In the meantime, Prof. Robert Huish is leading the class of 70 students as they explore aspects of social activism.

While the concept practically begs skeptics to cast a pitiful sigh, there seems there are some functional benefits to be reaped from such a class. Students, for example, are instructed how to compose a press release, contact a member of Parliament, and obtain street permits for events. Of course, the same sort of information could be gathered from a few Google searches. On the theoretical end, students enrolled in the development and activism course also explore the history of activism and theories related to social change. As of yet, no unit on how to torch a police cruiser.

Irresistible jabs aside, the real demerits of such a class are few and largely irrelevant. Is it ideologically skewed? Probably, but find me a politics or sociology course at the higher level that isn’t. Will it fuel students’ radical energy? Maybe, but at least they’ll be taught the tools to go about their endeavors legally and perhaps from a pragmatic perspective. Campuses are hotbeds of political restlessness anyway; this course isn’t going to ignite anything new. And those who are committed to urinating on statues or staging sit-ins at presidents’ offices will do so anyway.

Personally, it’s not how I’d spend my tuition dollars–to me, university is about more than placards and hollers.


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