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Education in the Media, Leadership and Activism, School Stories

Occupy Wall Street: The Education Edition (Part 1)

I am very happy to say that I spent my weekend occupying Wall Street. During this time, I had the amazing opportunity to speak with people who are not only angry, but hopeful. They are individuals who protest our country’s economic policies not out of hatred, but out of love for our country. They see the word democracy as more than just rhetoric. They view democracy as a dream that must be fulfilled in our lifetime. During the past two days, I spoke with students, teachers, and professors about their views on education and how it connects to their activism at Occupy Wall Street. I was interviewed by one woman (obviously against the protest) who asked: Why education? If you are concerned with the public education system, shouldn’t you be protesting the Department of Education? What does this have to do with Wall Street anyway?

I proceeded to educate this woman on the direct correlation of economic status and academic achievement. After that, I schooled her on the current corporate and federal push to privatize our public schools. If we are to see a major transformation within our public education system, we must start by re-structuring our current economic system. We are currently seeing a push towards a “market based” education system. In other words: education for profit. We are seeing more policies that are put in place to drive education reform that is dependent on competition and profit. This movement has been coined: Neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism= movement away from state control towards corporate control. It depends on un-regulated trade and markets and argues that free markets, free trade, and the unrestricted flow of capital will produce the “greatest social good.”

Wall Street Occupiers are protesting the current neoliberal takeover of our government and society. De-regulation of the markets was a huge cause of our recession in 2007 and also speaks to the corporate bailout our federal government authorized. Moreover, neo-liberal ideology also supports the transformation of institutions of higher education into for-profit structures that are currently leaving millions of students in tens of thousands of dollars of debt. In addition, neo-liberal ideology supports the out-sourcing jobs in order to find the cheapest labor; leaving these same indebted college graduates with  false promises of a bright future. But enough of my ramblings, let’s hear from some other Occupiers.

Lauren: A 6th grade Language Arts teacher in East Harlem

Andre:  A Masters Student and Political Activist from Long Island

Barbara: Teacher Educator at University of Massachusetts-Amherst

“It is a right to transform the city, to make it the city we wish to live in, and in the process transform ourselves and how we live together.”-Pauline Lipman

I am energized and inspired by this movement and it comforts me to know this this only the beginning.


About daretheschool

I like to keep an eye on our shifting world and the way it is shaping our education system.


17 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street: The Education Edition (Part 1)

  1. Take a picture of yourself holding a sign that highlights a few ways you are transforming education and/or share the countless, unique ways you challenge the status quo in public education.

    If you are a student, tell us what helps you learn best. Tell us what would make learning more meaningful for you.

    If you are a parent, tell us what kind of learning environment you want for your children. Tell us what schools should be focusing on.

    Below that, write “I occupy education.” or “I occupy my classroom”

    If you don’t show your whole face, please show at least part of it.

    Please have your note be hand written.

    Please do your best to be concise.

    Reclaim your voice in education transformation.

    Posted by dloitz | October 10, 2011, 5:05 pm
  2. Welcome to class warfare.

    Posted by Lynn | October 10, 2011, 7:23 pm
  3. 99% versus 1% — are those the classes you are concerned with, Lynn?

    Posted by Nance Confer | October 11, 2011, 7:11 am
  4. We are the 99%!

    I just posted about joining #occupyboston this past weekend. I marched holding up a sign urging us all to join #OCCUPYEDU!

    Thanks for this post, your action, and THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!


    Posted by Kirsten Olson | October 11, 2011, 10:15 am
  5. What is the point here? Someone makes more than you? Heaven forbid. Someone has always made more than me. But that’s ok. I chose my profession. I understand I’m going to make less than someone else, but I’m making a difference. And hasn’t that always been the case? You chose your profession – why are we whining about it? If you wanted more pay or equal pay, should have chosen a different career path. Or…move elsewhere. Someone has always made more than me and that’s not going to change. People will always choose different paths. Not going to change anytime in the near future. I’m not about to tell someone you can’t have the job you chose because you make more money than me. It’s getting to sound more and more like a load of crock where we’re all just whining like a toddler to get what we want so the government will save the day.

    What country is it I live in again? We have freedom of expression, press, etc. I respect that, but stifling someone’s life because they make more than you? What? Where’s the freedom there?

    Posted by Taryn | October 11, 2011, 9:39 pm
    • Taryn, #occupyedu isn’t at all about salary in its call for action. Our public schools use tax-payer money to buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tests, test prep materials, and interventions, which benefits vendors. Our public schools sort kids and internalize the system’s value judgements on them. Our public schools are largely about evaluating adults’ work. We want public schools that are relevant and inspiring to all students, and we don’t think standardized test-driven curricula are the way to make schools more relevant and inspirational. We believe kids can learn the essential skills and knowledge we have to teach through work the students negotiate with us based on their interests.

      Privileged people can choose from many paths – those without privilege enter school behind in a game rigged against them. It’s not right to say that our kids can choose different paths in schools or life once we ability track them. We want schools and other learning spaces that preserve choice, meaning, and relevance for all kids so that while they are learning how to communicate and reason, they are doing so through work that matters to them.

      Moreover, it is not a crock to ask if there are better ways to teach and learn than those we are told to use alongside canned curricula and programs. If we don’t ask such questions, we will never improve our schools in any regard.

      I encourage you to read through several #occupyedu and Coöp posts. We all approach our work with children with great care and reflection – with more care and reflection than our “real jobs” ask us to use – and I am certain that each of my colleagues deserves better than to be told that they he or she is “just whining like a toddler.” We are not whining; we are making a case for schools that do a better job helping students learn in ways that matter to them and their communities.

      Chad Sansing

      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 12, 2011, 12:59 pm
      • Thanks, Chad.

        Posted by Taryn | October 12, 2011, 6:49 pm
        • Surely, Taryn – transforming education is a very personal issue for many people, so personal concerns about all aspects of the profession are bound to be part of any discussion about changing school. #occupyedu is essentially concerned with bringing together as diverse a group as possible to make school relevant to learners, rather than to keep it hidebound to its own systemic traditions and biases, which, in many cases, are obsolete and of benefit to adults more than to kids.

          I hope you’ll ask questions as you have them – civil pushback is part of the culture here.


          Posted by Chad Sansing | October 12, 2011, 8:51 pm
    • So there are tea-party Republican teachers! 🙂

      A lot of people who work for government-paid jobs for years get upset when you tell them they are going to have their benefits cut when the relatively low salary they accepted over the years was supposed to be balanced by those very benefits.

      Loving your job doesn’t pay the rent.

      And it is perfectly legitimate to regulate industries, like banking, that ruin the economy for the rest of us because of their greed. The OWS folks aren’t saying all bankers should quit their jobs. They are simply demanding that the folks with jobs in finance quit making it impossible for the rest of us to thrive. And that politicians stop allowing it.

      But none of that matters if your solution is to just “move elsewhere” or “choose different paths.” We’ll all move to Manhattan and become investment bankers. Is that really any sort of sensible answer?

      Posted by Nance Confer | October 12, 2011, 4:59 pm
      • Ok. Don’t know what “tea party Republican teachers” as a label you’ve made up for me is going to do… Compliment? Stereotyping?

        How would you put a cap on stopping regulation from going into other areas then? Regulate banking and then voices will pop up all over wanting to regulate this and then regulate that. We can demand folks in finance and banking be more responsible, but with those in congress and our government acting like they can regulate everything, where and how would a cap be put on it? I have a close friend who is dealing with a lot of fall out and backlash because she works at a bank. She’s just trying to do her job but gets things thrown at her because of choices those in government have made and some CEOs out there who have made a wrong decision or two (could have been intentional or unintentional). In fact, her bank was one of a few who forthright told the government the bill they were going to pass would end up backfiring – and here we are with fees on debit cards because – just like any other business they have to make up costs. But because it’s a bank it’s a “greedy” choice and they just want to fatten their wallets. Suffice to say – you can regulate all you want, but there will be backfire whether the government wants to admit it or not. Where would the regulation stop?

        Also – I love my job. It pays my rent. I have to have a budget to do it, but it does pay my rent because I live within my means.

        Posted by Taryn | October 12, 2011, 6:48 pm
  6. “Neo-liberalism” (not at all ‘liberal’) looks a great deal like “neo-feudalism” (not at all ‘new’) to me — perhaps they are one and the same.

    Posted by Brent Snavely | October 12, 2011, 6:40 am
  7. wow – i’m appalled the pushback here from Taryn on what is supposed to be a pretty hip site on education (obviously, anyone can comment – just didn’t think the opposition trolled THIS site, too) – Taryn, if you are a teacher, I’m disgusted….how any educator wouldn’t be on board is unfathomable…you are a traitor to your class and siding w/monsters….your logic is flawed and your analysis on regulation, etc. is just faith-based economics bulls**t…here is a post of mine on teaching #occupy

    Posted by iteach4change | October 21, 2011, 6:01 am
    • While I felt the need to respond to Taryn’s earlier comment, as well, I would suggest that we avoid calling one another traitors and monsters who disgust us, even in qualified terms. I hope part of what makes us pretty hip is how constructively we engage with criticism. I will endeavor to mind my comments and posts; I probably owe Arne an apology.


      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 21, 2011, 12:38 pm
  8. For more information about how Wall Street is behind current education reform efforts, go to:

    Barbara, one of the educators interviewed above, is a producer for Education Radio.

    Posted by Tim Scott | October 21, 2011, 9:54 am


  1. Pingback: Occupy EDU – The Education version of Occupy Wall Street « engaged intellectuals - October 17, 2011

  2. Pingback: Anonymous - October 23, 2011

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