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Leadership and Activism

Pre-Occupy Wall Street

paper, rock, scissors, anyone?

Back when the Tea Party started, I found myself agreeing with a few concepts: smaller, more localized government, direct democracy, anger over the bailouts. As it grew more extreme, I thought to myself, “I like nuance and paradox and humility in public policy and this is a bit like the country song that says we should stick a boot in your ass, because it’s the American way.”

So, I decided I would call myself a member of the Green Tea Party, a fusion of ideas from the left and right with a healthy respect for sustainable solutions.  I never did anything with the Green Tea Party, because I was busy taking care of a newborn and cleaning the kitchen and grading papers. Just like Teachers Against Comic Sans, it was an organization that lacked leadership, vision and most importantly, people.

I went to an Occupy Phoenix protest when it first started. I found myself agreeing with many of the ideas. However, I immediately realized that I didn’t fit in. See, I have lousy rhythm which hinders my ability to play bongo drums. I can’t live in a location other than my home or my wife will leave me and my kids will think I’m being a negligent father. And like the Tea Party, I found myself holding more nuanced, complicated positions on political issues than many of the people around me. (I will note that in both the Tea Party and the Occupy protests, I met many people who were articulate, passionate and intelligent regarding the issues.)

And yet . . . I have a radical streak. My views on education might seem traditional to many in the alt-school and unschool communities, but within my context, I have some very “radical” beliefs. My views on grading, testing, discipline and compulsory schooling all go against most of the leaders within my district. My views on issues like immigration are about as extreme as they get (loudly advocating open borders).

So, because I am am a suburban, busy family man, I’ve decided to start a Pre-Occupy Wall Street movement. This is for people who are generally unhappy with corporate bailouts and the kleptocracy running the system, but are busy at the moment thinking about grocery lists, fixing flat tires, taking care of a garden and keeping their children from ripping one another’s heads off.

Because we are generally preoccupied with life, we won’t have protests and probably won’t make signs. (I was going to make a sign, but I couldn’t think of a clever rhyme and the kids used the tempera paints for finger painting*).

However, I’ll occupy in small ways like staying awkwardly long in a Wal-Mart parking spot or slowing down commerce by bringing jars of pennies to the banks that received bailout money. I’ll continue to mock Bill Gates on Twitter and refer to his latest edu-fad as “The Khan Artist who is tricking the flighty media.”

And I’ll try to make a difference in the only area where I really feel like I’m expert enough to act upon. I will fight for change in my classroom, in my school and in my district. I will speak boldly even when busy, because ultimately the Pre-Occupied have a voice and every once in awhile we step away from our our busy lives and take a stand on an issue we really care about. I will speak loudly and I will act boldly. I might not start a revolution. I might not change the world. But I can do something to occupy the classroom.

*pretty tongue-in-cheek. Actually, we’ve taken our kids to a few protests over the years.


About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


4 thoughts on “Pre-Occupy Wall Street

  1. “My views on education might seem traditional to many in the alt-school and unschool communities, but within my context, I have some very “radical” beliefs.”

    Oh, I so get that statement. And it speaks to the heart of leadership in reform. The most difficult place to speak up, to be a radical, is in the teachers’ lounge of a traditional public school. It takes courage to raise your voice–instead of just quietly grading papers in the back of the room–and say “Well, here’s another way to look at that.” Perhaps the most radical thing to do is constantly generate professional conversation.

    Great piece, John.

    Posted by Nancy Flanagan | December 9, 2011, 9:54 am


  1. Pingback: Pre-Occupy Wall Street « Cooperative Catalyst | Occupy Wall Street Info - December 8, 2011

  2. Pingback: Pre-Occupy Wall Street « Cooperative Catalyst | PAULitics.US – Wake Up America - December 9, 2011

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