As I’m sure that anyone reading this is extremely aware of, social media activism is a huge part of our digital world today. Through this, many people who would otherwise not have a voice in the matter at all, are able to have a place and a platform to speak out on the injustices that are affecting them, and so many others as well. We are no longer living in an age of ignorance, where society is just expected to believe what they are told on the news, what they hear on the radio, what they read in newspaper/magazines, etc. all from one perspective, telling a story that is written for a certain group of people, which intentionally leaves out anything that might make that group of people uncomfortable. Now that those who have been marginalized, experiencing great injustices and oppression are able to speak up, have their voices heard, and their message spread worldwide, there is no choice but for change. With the new technological age that we are living in, people are able to capture horrible injustices which contribute to systematic oppression, on camera and share for the world to see. Even if these instances are not happening in your community, or to your people, and you feel “uninvolved” in the matter, you have no choice but to witness the oppression that people are experiencing through the widely shared first hand accounts. With social media activism being so involved in the injustice/oppression going on in our world, if you have access to the internet, you no longer have the option, or rather, the privilege, of turning your back and just ignoring it, because it “isn’t affecting you”. If you are able to see it, it is affecting you as a member of society, whether you like it or not.
With this, arises the responsibility that teachers have as influential leaders, to contribute to this conversation. I believe that it is extremely important that teachers model active citizenship and anti-oppressive education in digital spaces. Teachers are in a position to influence the minds of young people who will grow up to either contribute to the change for the greater good, or turn their backs on those that need their support. It is important that teachers discuss social justice issues in an informed, mature, and professional way and encourage their students to do the same by modelling proper active citizenship in digital spaces. By talking about important issues in person, or online, this encourages those that look up to you to do the same and demonstrates to them that they are very much capable of contributing to social justice changes. Through anti-oppressive education, teachers must also teach students to be informed/conscientious consumers of information in digital spaces and fact check all resources ensuring that they are reliable before sharing them. The message needs to be reiterated that you cannot just believe everything that you read on the internet or just conform to trends (created in good nature) without understanding and promoting the important message behind them. In participating in active citizenship, students (and teachers alike), must be very informed when choosing what to believe, what to stand for, and what to present to the world. It is very easy for things to be taken the wrong way online, so it is very important to ensure that you never take away from the voices of those directly being affected by trying to be involved. In saying this, whether directly impacted or not, your support to those who are, can make great moves in anti-oppression education for all people. When becoming involved in the fight against injustices and systematic oppression, it is crucial to become informed for yourself and then spread the awareness to others through the sharing of reliable and accurate resources.
As far as any foreseeable benefits for staying silent in the midst of social justice movements dominating our digital world, these are minimal. Staying silent may benefit some in giving them the ability to refrain from presenting a message that they may wish to take back or change later on. One very tricky thing about modelling active citizenship in our digital world, is that once you put something out there, it is out there forever and cannot be taken back. This is where an ability to apologize when in the wrong and correct your wrongs to the best of your ability is extremely important. You should not simply “block” people who question you, or call you out on your wrongs. You should always be open to taking proper criticism, continuously learning in any area that you can, and being a better and more informed citizen because of it. To avoid such instances, it is important to educate oneself first, and then pass on the message in a responsible, mature and professional way. Staying silent in times of significant social justice movements, whatever the reason may be, would present the notion to your audience (students) to reflect such actions and would encourage the same reaction from them in times of trouble. This does not benefit anyone.
If you feel as though you are not educated enough on a topic to speak out about it and have an informed opinion, then recognize this, and do better. It is not enough anymore to just accept ignorance and move on with your life. They say, “ignorance is bliss”, but this only applies to those who have the privilege to choose this option. As we are seeing more and more as social media based social justice movements are making huge waves for anti-oppressive protests, there are many, many people out there who do not have this option. So it is critical that those who do are able to recognize this privilege that they have, but not stop there. They must educate themselves, so that they are able to share resources, educate others, and continue the conversation, for those who need them to. Peoples lives quite literally depend on it. As a teacher you are in a powerful leadership role where it is your job to do this for yourself, and also encourage your audience (students) to do the same. As an article on education post mentioned, “we must commit to teaching in a way that totally disrupts and dismantles the system of oppression”. Present the idea that it is okay to not know enough about something to feel comfortable to publicly speak about it. Furthermore, present the idea that is not okay, to stop there. This is when you must decide to become aware and inform yourself on such important matters, so that you can contribute positively to the conversation, and movement, which alters the existence of our society and all of the systems that make it up, for the wellbeing of all people, regardless of who they are or what they look like. Educate yourself until you can speak up about it. Do it for those who can’t. As teachers we must be the change that we want to see in the world (and encourage our students to do the same).