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Discussing Effective Social Movements with Author Gal Beckerman

In 8th Grade Social Studies, students recently submitted 5-paragraph position papers on what they believe is the most efficient, effective way to create lasting social change. They presented historical evidence to support their positions, evaluating the actions of various historical and present-day civil rights leaders/groups and the results of their actions. The process of researching and writing these essays allowed students to develop clear ideas about what makes a successful social movement, and had the opportunity to discuss their thoughts with author Gal Beckerman, who has spent a great deal of time considering that question himself: his upcoming book, The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas, examines how social movements arose in the years before the advent of social media.

Before meeting with Gal, 8th Graders read the introduction to The Quiet Before and wrote down any questions they had for Gal about the history of social movements or the process of writing his book. These questions formed the basis for a rich dialogue between students and the author covering how social movements worked differently in the past, how social media can both undermine the goals of a social movement and be used as an effective tool for generating solidarity around a cause, and how to approach such a large-scale research project.