Scott Launier has dedicated his work to fighting injustice and empowering others to do the same. As the President of the Central Florida Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida and an associate instructor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida, Scott has partnered with community organizations to create infrastructure to support diverse candidates to run for office and to empower working families. Coalition efforts have also focused on initiatives to change policies around drug offenses that disproportionately impact communities of color.

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The NEA team caught up with him over the weekend to get his views on education, activism and the future of our movement. Here are some outtakes of our conversation.

NEA: What spurred you to become an educator activist?

I don’t like bullies and, we have a responsibility to fight injustices when we see them, for those who are unable to fight them, and for others who cannot yet see them. By changing unjust conditions, and by educating, modeling, advocating, and motivating, we empower others to join us in making change.

NEA: Why should social justice activism matter to educators?

Social justice activism does not lie outside education, but weaves its way through it and the lives of our students. Public education itself was one outcome of social justice activism. We became educators because we want to empower others to effect positive change in our local and global communities.

NEA: What role do students play in movement building, especially in light of the new political environment?

Students have a lot of power, but only when they are aware of it and activate it. Students need guidance in learning the time it takes to effect real change, the patience and optimism this requires, and how to predict the actual impact of their actions regardless of their intentions. Given this, the rest of us can get out of the way, and students will rule the world!

NEA: What is the role personal stories play in SJ activism?

Personal stories become the heart and soul of a movement. Without knowing for whom we demand social justice, a movement will lose focus and sustainability.

NEA: What are the most important elements of movement building to you?

Building relationships. The relationships we build, the friends we make, are what empower and sustain the difficult long-term work required of movement building.

NEA: What is the biggest issue facing public education today? OR What issues are on the forefront of the social justice/education justice movement in this country?

The biggest problem facing public education today, the problem that impacts significant issues like all students having equitable access to resources and success, or teachers reclaiming their professional authority to teach and assess, is the problem of our current cultural narrative about public education. The value and effectiveness of our profession has been coopted for too many years by those who would undermine public education. When we get back to parents, students, workers and the community at large celebrating the value and hope of public education, we will be able to impact elections and policies that determine how much we invest into our students, educators, and education support professionals.

NEA: What song gets you fired up to do this work?

“You’ve Got a Chance” by Bad Religion

NEA: What message would you most want to tell educator activists just starting out?

You can do this! And you will never be alone—always ask for support. The passion of those you surround yourself with will give you the energy you need to keep working.

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