Ask Learning For Justice

Advice From the Experts

TT answers your tough questions. This time, advice on helping students see their agency in an unjust world.

Teaching Tolerance illustration of student picking leaves from a tree
Illustration by Keith Negley

Q: Our 12-year-old son is taking a class on race. While we have always talked openly about inequalities and white privilege, the class is hitting home quite hard. His comment is, “I’m only 12. There’s nothing I can do to change this.” I’m looking for ideas to help him see that he can take action and be part of the change he wants to see.

Being informed means being overwhelmed sometimes, especially when learning about systems of inequality. Remind your son that even small daily actions, such as standing up to biased comments, can have a ripple effect. Encourage him to read first-person accounts by activists who had to overcome the same sense of discouragement to achieve progress. Connect him with change makers in the community who are trained in youth development so he can find age-appropriate outlets for his social justice urges. Inspire him with examples of youth activism that you read about in the news. (Be sure to check out our “Youth United!” video series here.)

Ultimately, your son’s journey will be his own. Encourage him through your words and actions. It may take some time for his mind to catch up with his heart.