A Short History of Student Activism and Its Legacy Today

Empowered Voices: The Vital Role of Student Activism in Shaping Society"

Wherever people are educated, they can relate more strongly to the dynamics of their world. When a society invests in the education and learning of its people, those people become more informed and empowered to make decisions that will better guide their society. Because of this, universities often become hotbeds of social activism, as people in their late teens mingle and socialise, and are thrust into the adult world - often gaining deeper understandings of issues they had only ever heard about before.

Studying for a Graduate Certificate in Education will likely open student’s eyes to the inequities of the education system. A political science student would delve into the world of political relations and find the shortcomings of the geopolitical landscape. Every area of study leads into some facet of the world in which there is controversy or at the very least, room for improvement. It is here that the most dedicated and spirited students turn to activism, attempting to lead the charge in change for the better; and where one student rises for a cause, others will do the same.

From the Beer Crate…

When discussing the history of student protests, it is important to remember that the dynamics between universities and the cities or towns they were in were very different to this day and age. In the medieval era, scholars were vaunted social figures, akin almost to religious leaders. Universities received financial and legal support from the Catholic Church, then the most powerful institution in the world. This was because universities were the invention of the Church, as they were seen to be essential for educating future clergy.

It can seem odd then that one of the first major uprisings of a student body is the St Scholastica Day Riot, or “The Bad Beer Brawl.” The riot occurred on the feast day of St Scholastica when students were drinking at the local tavern. Two students complained about the poor quality of the drink, to which the tavern’s owner responded harshly. A drink in the face later, and soon the conflict escalated into full-blown armed violence and lasted three days. The brawl resulted in injuries, maiming, and the discarding of corpses in the local river, gutters, or even piles of manure. By the time the anger was quelled, around ninety people had been killed.

Fortunately, as time went on, social dynamics changed. The animosity between the church-backed scholar society and the relatively uneducated communities they found themselves part of died down as power was slowly removed from the church, and universities embraced a more scientific rather than liturgical worldview.

This change in the dynamics of tertiary education bodies led to students taking more agency. In the 1600s, Harvard students took the college’s first head of school, Nathaniel Eaton, to court over the beatings they received as disciplinary measures, and in 1766 they protested the quality of the butter at mealtimes.

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…to the Soap Box

Time went on, and as students continued to understand that they had the power to weigh in on the paradigm between themselves and their educators, students developed their sense of empowerment to move their commitment to the betterment of their education faculty to the improvement of the world. Social issues grew from the obscurity of those they affected and spilt onto the streets.

The Civil Rights Movement of the '60s was spearheaded by younger generations, people more open to the possibilities of the future than their traditional-minded forebears. Montgomery students helped win the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Birmingham students shored up the Birmingham civil rights movement, and South African youth helped liberate the oppressed populations there.

Additionally, students in 1968 occupied university campus buildings to protest segregation and the Vietnam War, having to be forcibly removed by police. The spirit of student protests continued around the world, including the famously violent Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

The Modern Age of Student Protest

Students continue to be the voice for change in a world that is becoming more and more open about what the youth wants the future to look like, and the current social and geopolitical landscape provides no shortage of opportunities for people to express themselves.

Born in 2003, Climate Change activist Greta Thunberg’ became a leader in the ongoing Climate Crisis issue as a teenager, owing to her Skolstrejk (school strike) movement, which would later develop into Fridays for Future, a climate change activism organisation. The Fridays for Future gathering started from the roots of Thunberg’s Skolstrejk and is one of few movements of pre-university-age students advocating for large-scale change.

Today, with two massive geopolitical conflicts occurring concurrently, students are continuing the tradition of being the voice for action and change. As Russia continues its hostilities in Ukraine, students are protesting support of the country in trade and arms. Meanwhile, Australian students are echoing sentiments in America, as pro-Palestine student elements protest their government’s support of the war in Gaza and the Israeli annexation of Palestine, as well as the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

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The Children Are Our Future

It is a sad state of affairs when children are encouraged to pursue higher education all their lives, then when they finally do the way that education influences their politics is criticised. The perception that the university produces left-wing thinkers has been around for a long time, and it shows little signs of slowing down. However, maybe that’s a sign in and of itself, that when people go somewhere to get an education they emerge with a certain set of beliefs.

There is a reason that students protest. They observe and learn, and much of what they’re learning are atrocities of the past and/or present that one way or another, they feel responsible for. Whether it’s to make up for the mistakes of their ancestors, or to try and secure the future they want, students at all stages of the education system are imperative to the wellbeing of humanity. If they protest, they do so because they now understand the power they have to elicit change. There is little more mighty than that.

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This content was first published by KISS PR Brand Story. Read here >> A Short History of Student Activism and Its Legacy Today

Website of Source: https://studyonline.canberra.edu.au

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