Houston Matters

How Much Change Does Protesting Actually Accomplish?

From teacher walkouts for higher pay, to student marches against gun violence, to more subtle acts — like kneeling during the national anthem — how effective is protesting at creating actual change?

Teachers protesting
Teacher Adrien Gates pickets on a street corner in Norman, Okla., on March 27, 2018.

Teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky are holding walkouts and protests in recent days calling for higher pay. This wave of teacher-led protests around the nation was sparked earlier this month when teachers in West Virginia emerged victorious from a nearly two-week strike.

As we’ve seen in recent years, protests are becoming a more and more prominent part of our culture here in the US, from recent student marches protesting gun violence, to marches for women’s rights, to NFL players taking a knee.

But how effective are protests at actually changing public policy?

Last September, Craig Cohen asked Leandra Zarnow, a history professor at the University of Houston, how to evaluate a protest’s effectiveness.

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