The Slacktivist Dilemma in Schools

Remember those days where you would walk into your school to find everyone wearing matching pink shirts? As you start making your way to class, you too are handed a pink shirt and bribed to wear it with a sucker. Because everyone else was wearing them and they were in fact for a good cause (and you would get a sucker), you put it on and became a clone of your peers. If this still doesn’t ring a bell, you either never had Pink Shirt Day at your school, or your experiences with that day were more positive than mine.


To begin, I am not against the Pink Shirt Day campaign in any way, in fact, I encourage you to support it. So far, it has raised over $1.2 million that goes towards anti-bullying programs! So where is my seemingly negative attitude coming from? My issues are not with the campaign itself but with how my school neglected it. When it came to Pink Shirt Day or AntiBully Day- as my schooled called it- my school never did anything special. We never had guest speakers come in, we didn’t do activities that raised awareness, we didn’t even talk about bullying. Sometimes teachers would sell pink ice cream floats at lunch and then donate the money, but when it takes an ice cream float to get a kid to give a dollar for a good cause, that isn’t what going in the right direction looks like. When AntiBully Day was done and over all our school had achieved was a good image. Behind that image was just a bunch of counterfeit activists; bullying continued to be an issue within our school that had yet to be tended to.

Another incident where social activism was not used to its fullest abilities within my school was during the boom of the Idle No More movement. In Native Studies, our teacher assigned the class to make picket signs that supported the movement. We never even fully discussed the issue. I only remember being told that Stephen Harper was a bad guy so we are going to make some signs. Once the signs were made, we hung them up in our classrom. They were not discussed or used.

Looking back on these memories, I am left wondering why some teachers backed away from social activism. Were they scared to allow students to take a stand, even when it was the right thing to do? Was it just easier to pretend that we were supporting good causes? Whatever the reason may be, this form of slacktivism did worse for us students than not doing anything at all. Today’s technology has created a world of its own where we don’t even need to leave our bed to tell the world what our opinions are. With something as simple as a hashtag we trick ourselves into thinking that we are making a difference. If all schools depicted social activism the way my school has, these coming generations won’t understand what it means (and feels like) to actually make a difference.

With hopes of learning from the past to grow as an educator, I have started researching other teacher’s resources used to bring social activism into the classroom and school. Here are just a few examples that I found from one of my new favorite sites called  Teaching Tolerance:

Anti-Racism Activity: ‘The Sneetches’


  • Students will experience discrimination and develop a sense of fairness and equity.
  • Students will apply literature to real life experiences.
  • Students will become empowered to take responsibility for their environment.

Using Photographs to Teach Social Justice: Advertisements Promoting Activism


  • explore the role of photography (and the photographer) in documenting activism
  • examine different kinds of activism in photography
  • analyze how photographs can be persuasive


A Time to Speak: A Speech by Charles Morgan


  • Understand the significance of Morgan’s speech as part of the civil rights movement
  • Make the connection that modern historical events and issues are directly tied to past events
  • Assess when is the right time to take action or to speak up

Like I said, these are only a few examples amongst many others on the Teaching Tolerance site. Though the site follows an American curriculum plan, the activities are perfect (or else easy to change) for students anywhere and everywhere. I love that the resources include full lesson plans and how impactful they are. Most that I have found are directly linked to social activism. I may even make a blog post specifically on this site, but for now, here are a few resources for you to take!

2 thoughts on “The Slacktivist Dilemma in Schools

  1. Brea Nyhus

    Hi Tiana

    It’s unfortunate that you didn’t have a good experience with Pink Shirt Day. I know at my school they had selected a group of 4 students (1 was one of them)to be part of Respect Ed. It was a two day program where we learned alongside our teachers about bullying and being respectful. We then implemented that programing in our school. We went to each classroom prior to Pink Shirt day and explained why we were doing and where the Pink Shirt comes from. Have you heard the story before? This was beneficial to our school because our students knew what we were trying to do. We also had some Rough Rider player come down and talk as well. I think if we motivate and show the relevance to students they are more liking to respond to it. It’s saddening hearing about your unfortunate experience.


    1. Tiana Grace

      Hey, Brea!

      Your school’s Respect Ed. programme sounds like an excellent way to get students involved! My school also had guest speakers come and speak to students about certain issues at other times of the year- sometime about bullying sometimes not- but as students, we were never challenged to really get involved. I completely agree that motivation and the understanding of how relevant issues are can ignite that urge to get involved. It is also important for students to understand that simply sharing a video on facebook is not getting involved. To answer your question, I have heard the story about how Pink Shirt Day started. The site for Pink Shirt Day ( actually includes it within their About Us page. What an excellent example of social activism within a school! I love that it was started by two students who took a stand for what was right! Everyone has the potential to make a change, as educators, we need to show our students what it takes to make that change happen.

      Liked by 1 person

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