Harvard University’s Kennedy School graduate students have founded the Resistance School in an effort to help America push back against the Trump Administration in skill-based way.
“Practical Skills for Taking Back America” is the school’s slogan and the first lesson given on April 5 drew hundreds of people in person and upwards of 15,000 online from all 50 states and 20 different countries.
Shanoor Seervai, one of the co-founders of the school and second year master’s student of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, said the attendance and success of the program has been humbling and inspiring.
Seervai said within the first week of the website being officially launched, over 7,000 people had registered for the lessons, and 155,000 have viewed the first three lessons so far.
Though protests against many of Trump’s policies have been strong, the Resistance School wants to “sharpen the tools communities need to organize and make sustained change that advances values of fairness, equality, and inclusivity.”
Lee Willis, associate professor and chair of the history and international studies department, said the school seems like a 21st century version of teach-ins on college campuses that happened in the 1960s. “Harvard is educating people on what we’re up against and what has worked in the past.”
“People interested in change could learn a lot by studying the civil rights and other populist movements,” said Willis. It is important for large social movements to have longer, litigated legal strategies working in concert with the shows of protest.
The first lesson was titled “How to Communicate out Values on Political Advocacy” and was taught by Harvard lecturer Tim McCarthy who told Time, “It feels like the start of something quite significant.”
Other lessons have been on mobilizing and organizing communities and the final lesson of the season took take place on April 27 and focused on how to sustain the resistance long-term.
Seervai said “There is clearly a huge need and desire for skills based training and organizing,” and the founders of the Resistance School are definitely planning on offering more than the four planned sessions, but more details will come in the future.
The school has drawn comparisons to Dumbledore’s Army from the Harry Potter series.
Based in rebellion and learning how to defend oneself against the dark magic of the wizarding world, Dumbledore’s Army met in secret to prepare themselves to resist against the dictator-figure of Professor Dolores Umbridge who was upending everything they knew and thought to be right.
Katie Bitz, senior special education major, said she thinks the comparison to Dumbledore’s Army is appropriate but is not sure it is accessible to a larger audience.
“It could distance portions of their audience away from the major issues right now, creating groups that are sort of fighting for the same thing, yet competing for public attention,” said Bitz.
Allison Walker, junior international studies and art major, thinks that with politics aside, “the Resistance School is, at its core, an invitation to use critical thinking and strategy in order to organize real, tangible changes in a peaceful manner.”