One of the conundrums of teaching conflict resolution is that we can become really, really good at explaining why things are such a mess. We have thousands of theories and empirical studies to help explain our conundrums and many reasons to just put our heads in our hands and give up.
Unfortunately, when studying problems you can forgot how much power and voice you DO have.
That's why, this semester, half-way through a masters class at the University of Baltimore on Ethnic and Cultural Factors of Conflict, I decided students needed to be reminded of their power by cultivating their voices.
The Extra Credit Assignment
I offered students the following extra credit assignment:
1. Write a letter to someone in power (could be a politician, business owner, etc)
2. Tell them what you're concerned about
3. Tell them why it matters to you
4. Then tell them exactly what you want them to do about it.
I wanted to share this with folks, in case you have students and can assign this as well. If every student in graduate or undergraduate school wrote a letter, can you imagine the amount of voices we would have active in this country?
Nawal Rajeh, co-fouder of By Peaceful Means, Baltimore's free Peace Camp, knows all about this power of engagement. Her campers repeatedly and successfully protested the closure of the pools in their Baltimore neighborhoods. They were not even teenagers!
If you have folks you can assign this to, for credit or extra-credit, please consider doing so.