you're reading...
Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best, School Stories, Student Voices

#occupyedu: challenge schools to change

Relate & create

Relate & create

A simple truth lurks behind our schools: we built them to keep our kids apart.

But we can do better.

Join #occupyedu to share the countless, unique ways you challenge the status quo in public education.

Children, parents, educators, community members – all are invited. We cannot re-imagine or recapture schools without the stakeholders they serve.

Every child deserves a personally meaningful education and a community of learning that includes, involves, and inspires her.

#occupyedu isn’t about standardizing our schools. It’s about creating a new public education system that recognizes and values a broader definition of learning than that accounted for by tests. It’s about recognizing and valuing a broader community of children than those who benefit from the tests. It’s about fostering sustainable communities of learners and problem-solvers that include all children in personally meaningful work of lasting worth and joy to themselves and our society.

While local solutions best fit local needs in our schools, the broad goal of #occupyedu is to influence federal and state educational policy so that meaningful work of lasting value stands in place of high test scores in assessing, promoting, and graduating our students.

Join us in pursuing this goal where you live, teach, and learn.

Please share with us your stories of powerful learning in community. Please also consider submitting a picture of yourself and/or your message for public education. You can also add your pictures to our flickr pool.

Teachers, invite your colleagues and administrators to join you in occupying education. Parents, please invite your children and their teachers.

We’ve been promised relief that is not relief. It is up to us to promise our children something better in schools.



About Chad Sansing

I teach for the users. Opinions are mine; content is ours.


22 thoughts on “#occupyedu: challenge schools to change

  1. i think i got our story submitted.
    you go Chad…

    Posted by monika hardy | October 7, 2011, 9:19 pm
  2. We’ll be doing this next week through the Interuniversity Conference on Education!

    Posted by Tyler | October 7, 2011, 9:19 pm
  3. How does this use of the “occupy” name relate to the economic injustice at the base of the Occupy Together/Wall Street movement?

    Posted by Nance Confer | October 8, 2011, 10:40 am
    • Excellent question, Nance – thank you for asking it!

      I hope to work on a post regarding the ways schools sort students (and adults) shortly. For now, let me share these two connections that I see between #occupyedu and #occupywallstreet.

      First, #occupywallstreet is concerned with the imbalance of power and influence over our government and society between the 1%, who control most of our wealth, and the 99%, who make up most of our society. School mirrors this kind of social divide. Students who benefit from privileged backgrounds experience a very different kind of school experience than students who do not. Rather than find multiple ways for struggling students to access great content and complete excellent work, our schools put struggling students in math and reading programs and classes that limit their opportunities to learn in other ways through the arts and other electives. Our privileged students seldom learn from or with these students – instead, the privileged students learn to think of themselves as a kind of school elite while those who struggle are reminded daily of the way the system limits them and asks them again and again – exclusively – to do the kind of work that is hard for them through intervention programs that don’t take into account students’ loves or strengths – factors that could be used across the disciplines to help struggling student engage with math and reading in positive ways. Our schools teach kids to divide themselves, quite literally, into classes that have very little mobility between them.

      Second, testing is a hugely profitable industry. Vending products that serve popular, government-sponsored, test-based #edreform is a hugely profitable pursuit. Books like Brill’s Class Warfare make it crystal clear that a handful of government officials and billionaire backers are directing federal education policy. I have seen classrooms, already, in which teachers are carrying out the billionaire agenda (use student test scores to control local public schools at the federal level for the benefit of test companies, vendors, and private school management firms) with test company products 100% of the time. There is a highly visible education-industrial complex mining public schools for profit right now. We have to decide – as a teaching profession – what it is we do, or else we will essentially become retailers for test companies’ assessments, interventions, and canned curricula – all of which will be based on common – not local – standards that our government is coercing states to adopt through competitive grant program criteria.

      What do you think, Nance? What do you see around you?

      All the best,

      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 8, 2011, 1:06 pm
      • I think a number of things.

        First, I am pleased that this is not a “let’s use that to draw attention to our cause” grab of the “occupy” logo. Sadly, that does seem to be happening. But you have clearly seen connections between the original movement and your efforts.

        Second, let’s see —

        I’m not sure local standards are any more meaningful than national ones.

        I don’t see how teachers are going to avoid doing the test/publishing industry’s bidding if they want to keep their jobs.

        Yes, school is a mirror of the class system we have. You can look at the direct correlation between income and test scores to see that. But there’s also infrastructure and supplies, opportunities for extracurriculars and field trips, etc. — all showcasing the different ways some of us live. The idea that books are needed in some homes . . . that they are not a given, along with computers and outings and everything else that makes life enjoyable . . . all reflected in the local school . . .

        And this is all tied to the funding of the schools — cut local taxes and starve the schools, along with everything else. The rich write the laws that keep the schools on an ever-tighter budget.

        I think a lot of things. I do see the connection between schooling versus learning and how our corporate/political system works — is allowed to continue working.

        Like all things related to the Occupy movement, I can’t see how it will all work out. But that’s part of the brave beauty of the effort.


        Posted by Nance Confer | October 8, 2011, 4:53 pm
        • I agree that an arbitrary local standards reinforcing traditional notions of schooling would not help. What I really hope for (though I didn’t articulate it well) is a kind of community dialogue – one that involves children – about what inspires children to learn and help their communities. I’d like to see schools open their doors and expand their campuses to invite in local mentors and allow students to learn in a variety of settings throughout a neighborhood, borough, town, or city. I’d like to see whole communities partner as learning environments for kids so that it’s clear to everyone what kids are learning, why the learning matters to kids, and why it matters to their communities. I’d like to see students build portfolios of excellent work that crosses disciplines and evidences a lot of joyful, fulfilling learning through community via effective communication. If we start small, perhaps we can establish some standards for ourselves in ensuring kids access to such work.

          We need to clear the federal policy deck – or rewrite federal policy – so schools can invest in accountability to their students and communities.


          Posted by Chad Sansing | October 8, 2011, 8:28 pm
  4. Nance,

    I hear your concern, and also I am not sure where this will end. My hope is that it will not end, but lead to transformation. Education is connected to much of what we do in this country. It can not solve all problems but it can be part of the solution. We can be part of the solution. In a way this has been swelling for the last year… we are helping push that energy even farther. We need to reclaim our voice in education. We can do that by pointing out the problems and/or we can start creating the solution, by occupying our classrooms, our learning and our teaching. Part of that is being willing to be for something.

    I am personally for holistic human scale learning environments that support personal growth both academically, socially, emotional and spiritually. I am for learning environments that support learning relationship, both personal and communal goals. I am for passion and project based learning. I am for using our energy to help make the world a better place not just better for me, but for my community, both locally and globally. I for helping children find their place in the world, while helping to understand the excellence and genius of the past and present. I am for love, compassion and empathy. I am for starting today, and not waiting until the media, the government or corporation say it is time. I am for free public education, over wars, greed and profits for a few.

    I believe the 99% deserve the same quality of education that the 1% get!

    I am occupying education by working everyday to promote what works!

    Posted by dloitz | October 8, 2011, 5:47 pm
    • Thank you for your comment on this. I am also a big picture visionary person, and one who strives to make this world a better place. I see education as a place to foster learning about the world, and about relationships. The corporate influence in the educational environment via the testing companies, have made it increasingly difficult for teachers to be creative, and to allow for children to discover their passions and to work cooperatively together. The public school system is yet another environment that divides us. We must transform this system if we are to prepare the younger generations for the challenges we face. Competition and testing are not the answers. We must teach the kids how to be human, to work together for the common good. The notion of individual achievement excludes the fact that we are interdependent. Nobody truly achieves independently of anybody else. Learning can take place anywhere every day, but if we want to salvage our public schools, we need to rethink completely what education really is for a child. Occupy education for the sake of our children.

      Posted by Betsy Schwartz | November 15, 2011, 9:05 pm
  5. Hi Chad,
    My name is Holly Fore and I am a student at The University of South Alabama in Mobile, Al. If I understood you blog correctly, I agree with you. The main point that I took from your blog is that should values and hard work should stand in place of test scores. Even though I do think test scores are very important, some students are not great test takers. This does not define their intelligence. Thank you so much for your post.
    -Holly Fore

    Posted by Holly Fore | October 26, 2011, 9:43 pm
    • Holly, thanks so much for reading and for your comment!

      Specifically, I think we should build community in school and value what motivates each child to learn – we should negotiate with our students the work and spaces we share in community at school. Moreover, I think we should help students create excellent work; students who struggle on tests, for example, can work hard just to get through them, but they haven’t created an excellent product of any personal meaning or of any lasting value to them by taking the test. Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence inspires my thinking here. It’s well worth the read.

      If I may: why do you think tests scores are important? I understand why it would be good to pass a driving test by driving – or to earn high marks during a particle collider safety drill – but I’m not sold on the importance of annual testing as we subject students to it now. Can you say more? How important are tests as compared to other types of assessment, in your mind?

      All the best,

      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 27, 2011, 6:18 am
  6. The idea of education reform, to me, is inherently flawed. And that is because it does not look at education from a fundamental level but from a level of, “This is the system. So how do we rearrange it while keeping it intact?”

    But if the system is fundamentally flawed then it can not simply be changed, formatted, rearranged, or reformed; because if the foundation is flawed then it must be destroyed and constructed anew. What is the point of education? If we look fundamentally at humans I think we can all agree that we each live to fulfill our desires. And if not for these desires, and with them the thoughts which seek to fulfill them, “How much pleasure will I receive from the fulfillment of this desire, and how much pain/suffering/effort will it take to acquire this desire/pleasure?” we would not move but remain still.

    Early man had only desires for food, sex, family, and shelter. Now these are all bodily desires, things which are necessities for the body to live and not suffer. But then as we progress through human history we see that there came the development and need for social desires, desires for honor, power, and knowledge.

    So, to ask a fundamental question, is education’s purpose to fashion human beings who can meet these various desires? And if so, are these humans whom we are “educating” able to fulfill their desires?

    For instance, we see depression on the rise throughout the developed world, attention deficit disorder increasing, an economic crisis which is global, and an ecological crisis which is global. And considering that our early childhood is the most significant, significant for developing the traits and characteristics which we will carry throughout our lives, then aren’t these above crises and psychological problems an indictment on our development, which is so heavily tied to what we receive from our educational system, our family, and the society in which we live?

    I said above that education’s purpose is to fashion human beings. But what does it mean to be a human being? If we simply look at ancient man then we would say that a human being, for him, consisted of fulfilling desires which were purely bodily. But of course man continued to evolve and this brings about a curious point, has education continually evolved to keep up with the development of man?

    And while I mentioned that education should enable us to fulfill our desires shouldn’t it also enable us to keep our individuality, to grow into that unique person that only we can and should be/become? And isn’t this also a desire and something which education, in its current form, fails to accomplish?

    We are not all the same. We are not born with the same traits and this makes each of us unique. But either to ease or lethargy, or a combination of the two, our educational system, and its similar compatriots throughout the world, treats each of us the same according to gender and age. And we see now that even gender has blurred with the years to confine our individuality, in our educational system, simply to our age.

    I mentioned education perhaps not keeping up with the evolution of man. And if we look to social science, which is measuring our interconnection, through social networks, then I think we can say that education has not kept up with our evolution. Why do we think we face a global ecological crisis, a global economic crisis? Today we have so many different forms of pleasure to seek, which were not available to previous generations, and yet we see depression rising throughout the world.

    This teaching of the interconnection amongst us, which is so heralded in sociology, is completely absent from our educational system. For instance, we are all the products of our environment, connected like cogs in one massive wheel or social network which stretches across the globe. And this means that the problems of the world can not simply be pinned to the rich, the leaders of industry, to the Presidents and Prime Ministers, but to all of us together.

    And because we live in a world today, which faces so many global crises, then isn’t this evidence of 1) Our education, that which we consider so important to the development of the next generation, failing us? 2) And isn’t it also evidence that globalization has matured now rules the world? And because it now rules this world this means that the cause and effect amongst us has increased to become instantaneous.

    And this is what I think is lacking from education, and from society as a whole, the knowledge of our complete interdependence upon one another. And so then I think that education should be constructed from the ashes of our current system. And fashioned to teach us that we are all interconnected, completely dependent upon one another, individuals each of us, but also links in one massive chain.

    Other questions arise. If we are all interconnected, and I think social science has proven this in one form or another, then shouldn’t each person then live his life for the collective? And if so, isn’t this the opposite of what is being taught? And since we are all interconnected doesn’t this then make complete sense, that the connection between us should be valued above everything else, and that the needs of the world should be valued above the needs of the individual?

    And if we change education in this fashion, to teach us about the interconnection amongst us, which makes us all one through it, then conceivably won’t it spread throughout the whole of society?

    If so, I think a few things would occur:

    1. No longer would nations seek self benefit at the detriment of the world.
    2. Consumption would be curtailed in order to provide for future generations and in order to prevent pain and suffering throughout the world.
    3. Ecology would be restored in a similar fashion in order to live in balance with one another and Nature.
    4. Individuality would be measured according to each best benefiting society.
    5. And no one would lack for not being able to fulfill his own desires since each would put the other, the collective, above himself. And so each would fulfill the other, the world over.
    6. Education would finally keep up with the development of man and seek to constantly aid its continued development.

    Posted by Dave Prosser | November 16, 2011, 4:08 am
    • Dave, as you read around the Coöp, I think you’ll feel right at home. We have two major preoccupations:

      1. How do we transform and/or do away with school as we know it?
      2. How do we make the time schools have left more humane and relevant?

      I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on other posts.

      All the best,

      Posted by Chad Sansing | November 16, 2011, 7:33 am
  7. Hi Everyone, I cant even to begin to express the inspiration I receive when I come into sites like this and read such inspiring articles and I see all the interactive feedback and huge collected desire to really strive for serious education transformation. Like Nance mentioned above our class divided society is a mirror of this industrial education system and can be seen not just in relation to test scores and salaries but also in entirely how we interact with each other. In my school whilst growing up I was taught & judged according to my grade scores. my dress “mode”. my physical appearance , ethics background, competency skills, etc, etc etc. so its no wonder when we integrate into society we behave with the same fragmented attitudes towards one another. Its all about conditioning and influence from our surroundings, so when we look into the depths of the never ending list of global crisis issues I feel it lines up pretty well in terms of how we raise ourselves and children. We have shifted to an interdependent world and we need global integrated schooling, environments based on holistic attitudes of mutual nourishing of human attributes to ourselves and children, filled with empathy and compassionate social skills, places where the students learn to create together, where there is more than just one answer or opinion (perspective) to a question or topic, that each individual is a gem and all together complete a precious treasure. Sorry Im rambling on here, education issues take up every mm of my heart and mind, I go to sleep with it ,wake up with it, eat with it.
    Occupy Education is very positive action that has come about and receiving more public awareness through this occupy global movement.
    As Betsy said ” Occupy Education for the sake of our children” I add for the sake of any chance to attaining a mutual sustainable Real peaceful balanced world for all future generations.

    Posted by ruth avraham | November 16, 2011, 10:06 pm
  8. Im also passing along a link perhaps most of you are aware of from the Global Education Conference taking place online now till the 18th november

    heres a link to the page of 2 education films that are available for all public viewing till the end of the 18th passwords for viewing films and their info included on this page

    Posted by ruth avraham | November 16, 2011, 10:23 pm


  1. Pingback: #occupyedu: challenge schools to change « Kidzmet's Recipes for Success - October 8, 2011

  2. Pingback: This Is What Democracy Looks Like « Cooperative Catalyst - October 11, 2011

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,096 other subscribers

Comments are subject to moderation.

%d bloggers like this: