Category Archives: Pedagogy of Social Movements

Pedagogy of Social Movements: Round 2

As promised, we have lined up several more great essays on the issues related to teaching social movements.  The new group of essays address the “value free” question, teaching to an ever-changing constituency, and other challenges, while providing practical advice and examples to inspire creative solutions to these issues. We thank the distinguished scholars who haven taken time to contribute to this round of posts:

Kim Dugan, Eastern Connecticut State University (essay)
Lyndi Hewitt, UNC Asheville (essay)
Kelsy Kretschmer, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (essay)
Pamela Oliver, University of Wisconson (essay)

Editors in Chief,

Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Dan Myers

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Value Free Social Movements Courses?

By Kim Dugan

If “value-free sociology” was YOUR Facebook status (and we were “friends”) sorry to say I would not “like” it. So too it goes for the so called value-free teaching of social movements. I view it is as impractical, if not impossible.  The guiding question then is: To what extent do we faculty advocate for a position or for change?  Three things I find guide my pedagogical approach to teaching of social movements:  1) to have and maintain an awareness about which/whose values I am actually promoting, 2) clearly articulating and being transparent about those values, and 3) reaching students where they are/asset-based student learning.  Continue reading

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Teaching Social Movements through a Writing Course

By Kelsy Kretschmer

The original posts for Mobilizing Ideas on pedagogy in social movements were insightful and thorough. I recognized many of my own pedagogical struggles in their posts, especially the problems of satisfying activist students while also engaging students who are unfamiliar with and usually perplexed by the activism of others. As a follow up to those great posts, I thought it might be useful to write about my experience in constructing a writing intensive course on movements, including what worked and what didn’t work in engaging both kinds of students.

In the fall of 2011, I took a one year position teaching in the writing program at Wellesley College, a small, all-women’s institution in Massachusetts. Continue reading

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Quandaries in teaching about social movements

By Pamela Oliver

I don’t feel that I’ve ever mastered the teaching of the undergraduate social movements course. I initially begged off on this blog assignment for this reason, but was told that giving voice to my problems would encourage others to reflect on the issues. I started writing this while traveling on August 1 and then read the first five wonderful contributions to this series. I am blown away with admiration at the very different but rich and thoughtful approaches they offered to the course. I know I cannot provide a better positive model. So instead I will discuss some of my frustrations and failures with the course. If this has value, it will be because the tendency for us all to be silent about our mediocre or bad teaching experiences both intimidates struggling instructors, making them feel isolated and alone in their misery, and makes it difficult to improve, since we are often too busy covering up our inadequacies to get the information or help or perspective we need to improve. Continue reading

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Employing Backward Design Toward Movement-Relevant Teaching and Learning

By Lyndi Hewitt

Many of us began studying social movements, at least in part, because our own experiences with activism in one realm or another called us to develop a deeper understanding of how social change happens. Having found fulfillment in such pursuits, and recognizing the significance of both the theoretical and the political in our own journeys, we might hope to pay it forward by fostering the intellectual, political, and moral development of the students in our social movements courses. But are we thinking carefully enough about how to do this in the classroom?  While calls for greater attention to movement-relevant scholarship and “useable knowledge” have (re)intensified over the past decade (Bevington & Dixon 2005Croteau, Hoynes, & Ryan 2005CBSM workshop 2011), conversations about movement-relevant teaching have been less consistent.

In a CBSM section newsletter a few years back, Rob Benford shared the impetus behind his decision to revise the content of his upper level social movements course to reflect more applied goals rather than solely theoretical ones. Continue reading

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August Essay Dialogue: Pedagogy of Social Movements

This month’s dialogue will focus on the teaching dimension of being a social movement scholar.  As professors across the country craft their syllabi for the new academic year, it’s worth asking some analytical as well as practical questions about the challenges of teaching social movements in an academic setting.  Our goal is to provide fresh ideas, perspectives, and even inspiration to faculty who are gearing up to teach movement courses during the coming academic year.   We asked our accomplished contributors to address such questions as: Must our pedagogical approaches be “value-free?”  How can studying social movements on the undergraduate level contribute to the goals of liberal arts education more generally?  Have you developed any innovative pedagogical approaches to the study of social movements that you would like to share?

The contributors to this dialogue were highly recommended by their peers for their excellent performance in the classroom.   We thank them for sharing their pedagogical insights.

David Cunningham, Brandeis University (essay)
Nancy Davis, DePauw University (essay)
Peter Dreier, Occidental College (essay)
Dick Flacks, UC Santa Barbara (essay)
Brian Obach, SUNY at New Paltz (essay)

We will have a second round of essays, so be sure to check back in mid August.  Also, if you have some insights of your own to share, we invite you to leave those in the comments section of any of the posts in this dialogue.

Editors in Chief,

Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Dan Myers

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Social Movements: How People Make History

By Peter Dreier

Back in 1900, people who called for women’s suffrage, laws protecting the environment and consumers, an end to lynching, the right of workers to form unions, a progressive income tax, a federal minimum wage, old-age insurance, dismantling of Jim Crow laws, the eight-hour workday, and government-subsidized health care and housing were considered impractical idealists, utopian dreamers, or dangerous socialists. Now we take these ideas for granted. The radical ideas of one generation have become the common sense of the next.

How did this happen?

Social movements transformed these (and many other) radical ideas from the margins to the mainstream, and from polemics to policy.   The 20th century is a remarkable story of progressive accomplishments against overwhelming odds. But it is not a tale of steady progress. Continue reading

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