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What is Power?
By Mark Heintz
Oct 2, 2020

This post is part of a larger series. These blogs started with the course syllabus and I encourage you to take a look at it before moving forward to get a greater context of what is going on here. You can read the syllabus by clicking here.

Week Six

This lesson was created in collaboration with Kristen Gierman and Jim Pfeiffer.

As the student led projects start to come together, the students are realizing that the next stage is identifying someone who has the power to change what they care about it. However, what do we mean by power? Common definitions help the class move forward and this week we spent time coming up with a common understanding of it.

Over Zoom, Jim asked students to respond over the chat to a serious of questions. Afterwards, we discussed their responses as a class.

What is power?


Students responded with: some sort of energy
,  
having the ability to do something
, 
when someone has more control
, 
have influence over other people
, 
being able to say what you want
, control over something
/someone. Power is never static and compounds.

How do we influence/control others?


Students responded with: politeness, actions, gain respect
, people like to listen to people with more power because they feel that people with more power have a bigger voice
, and 
try to agree with others.

How do we get power?


Students responded with: gaining 
respect and confidence through what one says
, 
trust, having knowledge on what you’re saying, with power comes great responsibility
, and through integrity.

Who has power over you?



Students responded with: parent
s, family members, teachers, governments, police officers, and adults. 

Who do you have power over?


Students responded with: 
people smaller than me
, pets, siblings, and self.

How does power change in life-based on your identity?


Students responded with: skills
, 
beliefs
, 
profession
, 
intelligence, 
money
, 
race
, civil rights, and big life moments.

Afterwards, we played a video that Kristen Gierman curated.

We asked a few students to share one thing they noticed or had a video

Here were their statements and questions:

How can people misuse power?


To have more power you need to start off with power

If there are so many people in the world, how come the wealthy have so much power?

People with power get to determine how the game is played 
does having too much power have any consequences?

How bad do conditions have to get before governments suppress citizens?

How do we ensure that people without wealth can hold power?

Then we came up with a common definition of power. We shared our screen and a blank Google document to curate our thinking.

Definition of power

The ability to make others do what you want them to do. From the video there were different types of power: Physical force, wealth, state/government action, social norms, ideas, and numbers.  Power is never static and compounds. Power is acting or decaying.

Then in the final moments of the class, we came up with a list of people that hold power locally. Our class is going to start addressing the problem at the local level.

Local power – who possesses the power locally?

      1. Mayor
      2. Police officers
      3. School Board
      4. Guardians
      5. Older siblings
      6. Government – local town
      7. Teachers
      8. Principals
      9. Division Heads
      10. Board of Education
      11. Caretakers
      12. Coaches
      13. Employees of businesses
      14. Managers 
      15. Property owners

Next steps

Students will identify one person they will start to share their projects with. They will identify one person to contact to see if they can help change the world.

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