Layton summer course offers prep for activists

The week-long course, named The Jack Layton School for Social Activists, will honour the late NDP leader who taught at Ryerson in the ’70s and ’80s. (Ryerson file photo)

The week-long course, named The Jack Layton School for Social Activists, will honour the late NDP leader who taught at Ryerson in the ’70s and ’80s. (Ryerson file photo)

Jack Layton’s legacy continues to live at Ryerson.

This summer, young activists will be able follow in his footsteps in a new course offered by the university.

The week-long course, named The Jack Layton School for Social Activists, will honour the late NDP leader who taught at Ryerson in the ’70s and ’80s.

Participants can expect to learn a variety of theory and practical skills ranging from budgeting to organizing a campaign to understanding the political process.

The course will cover issues like environmentalism, women’s rights, diversity and workplace rights.

The idea to create the course, headed by politics professor Myer Siemiatycki, was sparked by the letter Layton wrote to Canadians before he died in August 2011.

“Jack made a special sort of singling out of the respect and hopefulness he had for Canada’s youth and he saw them as a formative force of the country,” Siemiatycki said.

“In that last letter of his, he had encouraged young people especially to get active, to make their community, city (and) country a better place. This really seemed like a very obvious way to tribute Jack’s values (and) the priority Jack himself placed on youth activism.”

Siemiatycki was appointed as the Jack Layton Chair in 2012, a three-year position held by a faculty member in the department of politics and public administration. He and Layton were previously office mates.

As the chair, he wanted to do something that would have a larger impact on the school community, he said. He has previously organized lectures about the politician and helped establish The Jack Layton Book Club.

Currently, the curriculum and the logistics of the course are still being finalized. But Siemiatycki said the program will tentatively start in late June or July.

He plans to partner with various organizations and community groups to nominate young people to take part in this learning opportunity.

The course is aimed towards people aged 18 to 29 years old and will serve as a pilot project for 20 individuals who have been involved with political activism in their neighbourhoods, schools or workplaces.

While the course will not be worth any marks, Siemiatycki said it will offer participants a chance to build leadership skills and gain a better understanding of politics.

“The expectation and aspiration on our side is that this would become an ongoing and multi-faceted kind of education, learning and training opportunity for youth activists,” he said of the course’s influence. “Jack did not regard politics as a spectator sport. It was a participant sport. And he believed that everyone should play their part in contributing to the public good.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on April 9, 2014.

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