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Welcome from STP President Linda Woolf

Let’s Talk About Advocacy

September 8, 2022

By Linda M. Woolf, STP President

When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something. -John Lewis

Early in my career, I remember being told that as teachers, we should never use the classroom for advocacy. Rather, as an educator, my responsibility is to teach my students the fundamentals of our science but not to stray from “the research.” I often felt as if I was in an episode of Dragnet, hearing Sgt. Joe Friday utter, “Just the facts, Ma’am” (For those of you unfamiliar with that 1950s drama, it is still in reruns). Similarly, I heard that advocacy is antithetical to the basic assumptions underlying research and professional scholarship. Science should be about a search for truth as opposed to confirming our particular advocacy beliefs—too political. Today, we hear a lot in the press or on social media about the dangers of teachers pushing “agendas” on students, whether it is in the form of “critical race theory” or LGBTQ+ rights.  Essentially, we are being told to “stay in our lane.”

Well, today I want to say that education is at its core about advocacy in many forms and we should embrace that role.  Note that I am not arguing against our science—we should teach the fundamentals of psychology and we should engage in quality research and professional scholarship. In addition, within that context, we can use our science and our skills as educators to advocate for our students, advocate for our science, and advocate for social justice based on psychological knowledge. Moreover, we can teach our students to be advocates for themselves, their friends and families, and their communities.

Part of the challenge of advocacy is that the word has many different definitions. Just a quick Google search garnered a host of definitions....

To read the rest of this letter and past letters from the STP President, click here.

To read Linda Woolf's presidential initiatives for 2022 and the task forces for each initiative, click here.

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