Harvard Students Launch a Free Course on How to Resist: Now You Can Watch the Lectures

NOTE: As of July 22, we updat­ed this post to include the videos from the class ses­sions. Watch the playlist of lec­tures above.

I have my doubts about whether we should call reg­u­lar acts of civic duty “resis­tance,” rather than Con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-pro­tect­ed demo­c­ra­t­ic free­doms.  Yes­ter­day we remem­bered Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. on the 49th anniver­sary of his assas­si­na­tion (and the 50th anniver­sary of his speech oppos­ing the Viet­nam War). As King and count­less oth­er civ­il rights and anti-war cam­paign­ers have demonstrated—some at the cost of their lives—civil dis­obe­di­ence is very often required and moral­ly jus­ti­fied when legal appeals for jus­tice fail. But for bet­ter or worse, “The Resis­tance” has become a catch-all media term for a loose and very often frac­tious col­lec­tion of main­stream Democ­rats, pro­gres­sives, and rad­i­cals of all stripes, whose tac­tics range from polite phone lob­by­ing to brawl­ing with white suprema­cists in the streets.

Mil­lions of peo­ple who for­mer­ly had lit­tle to no involve­ment in pol­i­tics have thrown them­selves into activism, and vet­er­an orga­niz­ers have been over­whelmed with new recruits. Just as quick­ly, those orga­niz­ers have met the chal­lenge by dis­sem­i­nat­ing guides for lob­by­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tivesrun­ning for office, and par­tic­i­pat­ing in more direct forms of action.

Every move­ment has its res­i­dent schol­ars and edu­ca­tors, whether they be eru­dite laypeo­ple, pro­fes­sion­al aca­d­e­mics, or enter­pris­ing col­lege stu­dents. A group from the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry, “pro­gres­sive stu­dents,” writes CNN, from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment, begin today what they’re call­ing “Resis­tance School,” a “4‑week course in anti-Trump activism… open to peo­ple across the coun­try and the world.” (You can watch the video from the course above.)

At their site, the stu­dents bill “Resis­tance School” as a series of “prac­ti­cal skills for tak­ing back Amer­i­ca” and open their online syl­labus with a quote spu­ri­ous­ly attrib­uted to Thomas Jef­fer­son: “When injus­tice becomes law, resis­tance becomes duty.” It’s pos­si­ble that who­ev­er said it had blood­i­er things in mind. Resis­tance School sticks to peace­ful means, with four ses­sions that teach, in order, “How to Com­mu­ni­cate our Val­ues in Polit­i­cal Advo­ca­cy,” “How to Mobi­lize and Orga­nize our Com­mu­ni­ties,” “How to Struc­ture and Build Capac­i­ty for Action,” and “How to Sus­tain the Resis­tance Long-Term.” Instruc­tors are drawn from the ranks of acad­e­mia, labor orga­niz­ing, and the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, and you can stream the ses­sions on the school’s site or on Face­book, or attend in per­son.

The Resis­tance School is sure to attract crit­i­cism, not only from the expect­ed sources but from more anti-estab­lish­ment fac­tions on the left. But that may be unlike­ly to deter the more than 10,000 peo­ple who have reg­is­tered for the first class. Orga­niz­ers have encour­aged peo­ple to attend in groups, and cur­rent­ly have about 3,000 groups enrolled. “Some are com­ing with groups of 700 peo­ple,” says co-founder Shanoor Seer­vai, “some are small­er groups, potlucks, gath­er­ing in people’s kitchens.”

Ser­vaai and fel­low Kennedy School stu­dents have been tak­en aback and are now, writes CNN, “grap­pling with ques­tions of scale.” How, they won­der, will such large num­bers of peo­ple coor­di­nate; how to mea­sure the impact of the pro­gram?.… ques­tions, per­haps, they will resolve by the fourth ses­sion, “How to Sus­tain the Resis­tance Long-Term.” But they’re cer­tain­ly not alone in try­ing to steer a mas­sive surge of new inter­est in activism and elec­toral pol­i­tics. As the mil­lions now plan­ning and par­tic­i­pat­ing in civ­il actions across the coun­try attest, peo­ple have begun to take to heart sen­ti­ments recent­ly expressed by orga­niz­er Alice Mar­shall: “If we wait for some great leader to save us we are lost. We have to save our­selves.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Matt Damon Reads Howard Zinn’s “The Prob­lem is Civ­il Obe­di­ence,” a Call for Amer­i­cans to Take Action

Hen­ry David Thore­au on When Civ­il Dis­obe­di­ence and Resis­tance Are Jus­ti­fied (1849)

Read Mar­tin Luther King and The Mont­gomery Sto­ry: The Influ­en­tial 1957 Civ­il Rights Com­ic Book

Watch The March, the Mas­ter­ful, Dig­i­tal­ly Restored Doc­u­men­tary on The Great March on Wash­ing­ton

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (9)
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  • Chase says:

    Pro­gres­sives are a blight on his­to­ry and will not be remem­bered well. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive demo­c­ra­t­ic deci­sions have been the most destruc­tive in the world ever, if Trump weren’t an insid­er and obsessed with his pop­u­lar­i­ty and not prin­ci­ples, he would dis­man­tle the Unit­ed States and its mil­i­tary empire.

  • Randy says:

    I think peo­ple SHOULD “resist” this Pres­i­dent, because he’s demon­strat­ed in under 100 days that he’s a com­plete incom­pe­tent, and a dan­ger to human life. How Repub­li­cans in Con­gress can stom­ach this, I have no idea. Sure­ly even they see that this boat anchor is going to drag them under.

    (This is in clear con­trast to the inex­cus­able whin­ing and wail­ing that went on from elec­tion day to his first few weeks in office).

  • Bobby says:

    I want­ed to take the class but they said I was­n’t eli­gi­ble because I passed Log­ic and Econ 101.

  • Nancy Walker says:

    How do I reg­is­ter for the class?

  • Richard says:

    Wish so many sites I enjoy did­n’t out them­selves as gullible idiots. Not every­one who enjoys music, film, and lit­er­a­ture are indoc­tri­nat­ed lib­er­als; you sites best remem­ber that lest you lose your ad rev­enue.

  • Peter says:

    The assump­tion that only indoc­tri­nat­ed lib­er­als appre­ci­ate art and cul­ture comes from the arro­gant belief they have the only valid moral posi­tions. Don’t pre­sume to own art cul­ture, regard­less of high pro­file artists who agree with your posi­tions. They don’t own art either. Beliefs evolve — some change, some are rein­forced. We are polit­i­cal­ly nuanced; I’m a tree hug­ging, arts sup­port­ing, anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT, anti-cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment pro-defense, pro-sov­er­eign­ty con­ser­v­a­tive.

    The closed mind­ed left can keep their homo­ge­neous ideas of what it means to be an artist.

  • Walter Mccarthy says:

    In 1980 & 1990. I par­tic­i­pat­ed with the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­ni­ty of Stu­dents ses­sions at Tufts Uni­ver­si­ty, Med­ford, MA. “In a pio­neer­ing effort to pro­mote authen­tic images of Sovi­ets & Amer­i­cans in each oth­er’s coun­tries and to cor­rect dis­tor­tions about each coun­tries his­to­ry & nation­al char­ac­ter, a joint­ly taught col­lege course has been devel­oped for stu­dents @ Tufts U. in Med­ford, Mass­a­chu­setts and M. V. Lomonosov U. in Moscow. The project is te brain­child of Tufts U. Pres­i­dent Jean May­er, who last year wrote to Gen­er­al Sec­re­tary Gor­bachev to sug­gest that groups of Sovi­et and Amer­i­can stu­dents be taught with the same read­ing lists and sylabi. One of the pri­ma­ry goals of the course, says Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor and Direc­tor of Tuft’s Nuclear Age His­to­ry and Human­i­ties Cen­ter, Mar­tin Sher­win, is to under­stand each oth­ers views, to learn wat they think and why they think it A satel­lite link will allow stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in joint dis­cus­sions about te his­to­ry of the nuclear age and the social and psy­cho­log­i­cal impact of the arms race.” Once in a while the busi­ness pages of dif­fer­ent pub­li­ca­tions report devel­op­ments that sub­stan­ti­ate the objec­tives the Inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty of stu­dents fields of research have ini­ti­at­ed. Wal­ter McCarthy April 29, 2017, Boston, Mass­a­chu­setts

  • Marcus says:

    What is your point Wal­ter?

  • Thomas Nguyen says:

    I would like to sign up for this first time free online course. Please help me to do so.

    Thank you very much

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