OPINION: IU should require a social awareness course


The Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center is located at 275 N. Jordan Ave. IDS file photo and Izzy Myszak

The university makes students complete and consequently pay for course upon course outside of their prospective major or minor. While students might be able to solve a random equation they will not remember in five years, they lack education in one important area. Students should be required to take a course that could likely stick with them for life: a social awareness course.

Last school year, I took an African American history course, and it had a profound effect on me. Throughout the course I learned about everything from housing inequalities, to educational injustices, to the horrors of Jim Crow laws, to mass incarceration — the list goes on.  

I was lucky enough to attend North Central High School, a high school in the top 10% of racially diverse schools in Indiana. Throughout my life I have been surrounded by diverse groups of people, thoughts and ideas. The African American history class still had a profound effect on me. 

After reflecting, I thought about how much taking one class similar could open someone up to America and how there are stark inequalities largely due to the country being built on the foundations of patriarchy and white supremacy.

I could not help but wonder what effect a similar class could have on students who might not have been surrounded by diversity all their lives. 

A social awareness course will allow students to learn how to be aware of differences within groups of people and how to effectively function in a society based on those differences.

Social awareness can be defined as the ability to understand and properly react to social issues that arise in interpersonal relationships and society as a whole.

Course topics could include how to be empathetic towards viewpoints of others, how to understand history in the context of the present, how to understand differences in culture and recognize privileges one might possess and how it affects society as a whole. 

Ferris State University in Michigan offers courses in social awareness foundations. The courses give students an understanding of how humans behave and our behavior's effect on social institutions. 

Taking these courses in college will allow students to be better equipped for the workplace. Students will be better coworkers and leaders because they will have an understanding of how to make the inevitable differences of others work together. 

Due to inequalities black people have faced since slaves were brought to Jamestown in 1619, they have different social experiences from others. People should be cognizant of this. 

Trust me, I will never remember how to solve a single finite math equation, but I will remember how America functions and what I can do to make everyone feel just a little more accepted and seen.

Jaclyn Ferguson (she/her) is a junior studying journalism and African American studies. She plans to pursue a career advocating for the underrepresented through journalism.

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