Digital activism: I was afraid of speaking up

Katia Hildebrandt suggests that it is educators’ “responsibility to risk [their] privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk”. Her statement is powerful. I have the privilege to give voice to anything; I have a blog, I have a Twitter account, and I am an educator. Do I want to risk my privilege to help people who don’t have the same access to online communication that I do?

Exactly two years ago, I attended a talk about North Korea at the University of Regina. History and geography are not my strongest skills, so (surprise, surprise!) I had never heard about the issues North Korean people are facing before that talk. I came back home in shock. I started making donations to this cause, and I read as many blog posts, articles, and books about North Korea that I could find. However, I was afraid. I did not know if it was okay to try to help North Korean people. I did not know how having the two words “North Korea” attached to my name would affect my career as an educator. I was not sure if helping people escape from North Korea was the best way to help North Koreans. Slowly, I stopped reading things about North Korea, and I cancelled my monthly donations. When we were talking about social justice and the use of technology to support social change, I thought about my desire to help North Koreans. I may not be able to help them directly, but I have the privilege to give voice to this issue and help other people become aware of what is happening in this country.

Image via JimmySW

After our last class, I thought, will I have the courage to attach the two words “North Korea” to my new blog and make this stroke on my digital footprint? Well, here I am. I decided it is time to rethink how I am using my privilege in the online world. It is time to choose the causes I want to give voice to. It is time to remember that my digital presence is an important piece of the wisdom of crowds. According to James Surowiecki, collective wisdom shapes societies. The things I choose to write about here, and the things I choose not to write here, say a lot about how I want to engage in social change.

Tayler is asking herself if she could be doing more online than checking the news. Shelby reflects on educators’ responsibility to model online activism. Let me know how our last class influenced your decision to engage in digital activism. Are you afraid of speaking up?


4 thoughts on “Digital activism: I was afraid of speaking up

  1. I really enjoyed reading your honest and meaningful blog. Many of the concerns you shared mirror my own. I’ve always wondered how much I would like to have attached to my name? To be honest, the answer is usually not a lot. I find the internet a tricky place to voice opinions because you never know how things will be interpreted or who might find it. Thank you for giving me more to think about in terms of spurring social change and speaking up for what we believe in.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed your blog post! Very honest, and in reality sounds just like me! There are lots of times I think, I should be doing something, but can I? How is this going to affect my future as an educator? I’m only 5 years into my teaching career, settled, yet not enough to feel like I can take a lot of risks, but at the same time, am I not a part of the teaching generation that should be making these changes and advocating for a new type of education? It’s all very confusing and scary. I could, but what would the backlash be from my school division, or the families of students’ I teach? Your blog was insightful because it gives me the idea that I should be doing more, and start small with something you’re truly passionate about, as you are with North Korea!


  3. It’s tough. Really though. I think about how I hesitate to speak up from time to time and that’s even after considering my incredibly privileged position as a white, male, hetero, tenured, full professor (and it goes on) … and then I think about my students, in often much less stable/privileged positions, and how they often take up the good work of social justice and online activism. I’m always inspired that if others can speak up, I certainly can as well.

    Thanks for reconsidering and for sharing your thoughts!


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