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How Should Education be Transformed? (Guest Post by Occupy High Students)

Note: I have been following the Occupy High Students since October 2011, and have been inspired by their continued effort to transform their own education and to show people of all ages that “student’s do care about their education”. I have also had the pleasure to  work and get to know many of them along their teachers/co-learners, Ned Dougherty and Josán Perales. I am excited to be able to share with you their ideas about education transformation.

There is no explicit curriculum to help a teacher instruct for a year about public education. Perhaps because in doing so, the teacher wants to avoid engaging students in metacognitive strategies every class of every day. Perhaps because we don’t believe that students can engage in the discussion about transforming education. Perhaps because, if we opened this can of worms, we would be admitting defeat every lesson in which we question the direction of what we are doing.

I believe it is time to open this can of worms pedagogically. The only snag is that we have convoluted public education so much so that it is impossible to limit the scope of such a curriculum. Do we create experts with knowledge an inch deep and a mile wide or would we rather have these students have surface knowledge of everything without expertise? What are we doing?

I don’t know if I am teaching about public education correctly. But I am positive about a few things. I do know these students can engage in the debate and education transformation process. I do know my students will be informed civic scholars ready to vote, question and support education. So these answers to the cooperative catalyst’s March 1st Day of Action prompts are all over the place. Some may say scattered. But these students, founders of Occupy High in Taos, NM, are grappling with the enormity of the public education debates. If nothing else, that is a successful curriculum. Supporting student voice is the basis of transformative education.

-Ned Dougherty
Ned Dougherty is an English and Activism teacher at Vista Grande High School. His Activism team has developed Occupy High, a voluntary after school school program to enhance the high school curriculum while protesting education policies and budget cuts. Find them on Facebook. Ned is also an aspiring poet with a few publications under his belt. His work can be found at


Reflections from Occupy High Organizers for the March 1 Occupy Education

The way a student is spoken to and respected affects life at home. School is home away from home. But at times a student feels like it is not worth it to keep on in the circumstances because they feel like they’ve been living up to the standards. And despite the efforts they are underestimated and lost in midst of the herd. There is a need for structure in our schools because it gives the foundation for things one needs to know about. When students are troubled in a subject, it takes the teacher to ask themselves, “What can I do to help and make things understandable?” Teachers aren’t the superior. Teachers are students too. We will be forever students. Teachers are like mechanics, they’re there to apply the parts with the necessary tools and help the car function right. But it is up to the students to keep the engine running for as long as it can go.

Samantha Trujillo, Senior, 17

I think education should transform by letting students have their own free will to choose what type of school they want to learn in. Expeditionary Learning schools, public schools, charter, academy, etc. I think that would encourage kids to want to stay in school. Although students already have the right to choose, they should be able to switch to a school where they want to go at any time. Some students want and need some school types and other students do not. Some students are forced to be at a school that they do not need. They need different types of education that helps them learn better than other schools.

Josh Duran, Junior, 16

How should education be transformed? The main questions is, should it be transformed? Our education is still amazing. Sure we get budget cuts, but its free and of good quality. The only reason schools are getting budget cuts and closed down is because students simply don’t give a shit anymore. They think they can become a popstar without any education. . They view education with contempt and as a result schools suffer as well as the students that want to learn. Look at other countries with good schools. Do you see a media-shaped society? Hardly.

Kyle Concha, Junior, 16

Education should teach what the students want to learn. The basic math and science are only needed up to fifth grade. After that it becomes review and useless. Letting the students decide what they learn could be powerful.

Cody Wright, Junior, 16

Schools should be helpful to students. Teachers and students should be able to communicate with each other. Students might say it’s the teacher’s fault for not teaching the right things to learn, but my opinion to this has always been, “why can’t we pay attention and we might see they are teaching all right but differently?” I also think that teachers should pay a little more attention to the students that need more help. Education is the key for the future but we all (students and teachers) need to speak and be communicative with each other to help build understanding.


A learning environment should be almost like a comfort zone. You should be comfortable with yourself and others around. If you are not then you’ll be afraid to ask questions and focus on your work since you’ll be scared about what others think. That’s when a student voice comes into action. Being able to speak your thoughts and opinions. But also an important role of that is having motivation. If you’re not motivated there will be no interest for wanting an education. It should be interesting, hands on, and an up front view of what you’re learning. Not from a textbook.

Izzy Tapia, Junior 17

Education is taken for granted in our country. It’s a constant for us. Something most people don’t think or care about once they graduate. But we don’t realize how many countries don’t have the funding for a free school system like ours. So why isn’t it a priority to take it a step further and create an education system that doesn’t fail students, but supports growth, tries to understand individuality. For a country that claims to be so advanced, our education system is becoming a failure, turning our students into failures and failing our dreams.

Kalila Bohsali, Junior, 15

My opinion about how we can transform education is to hear the voice of students. The voice of students can change education for the simple motive that students are our future. If the voice of students is not important I wonder how our democracy thinks the world is going to work. Some people think that education is not important, but to us, the students who want to get a better future, we want the fullest potential of our education.


The thing that needs to be changed in education is the way we try to convince people to stay in school and not drop out. One thing we can do to change this is make it very hard to drop out. We should charge a fee to drop out and make the student go to court and plead his/her case on why they want to drop out.

Roberto Quintana, Junior 16

I am a dreamer, but that doesn’t mean I cannot change the world. John Lennon was a dreamer and all he wanted was to give peace a chance. Muhammad Ali was the dreamer and he is the greatest. Jim Henson was a dreamer and he was followed by lovers, the dreams and me. Tolkien was a dreamer and he was the lord of the rings. Lewis Was a dreamer and he is living in Narnia. Plato was a dreamer and he escaped the shadowland. Finally Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dreamer and he had a great dream. I too have a dream. I have a dream where a black man will never hear the word nigger. I have a dream where women are all equal to men. I have a dream where no children are neglected or abused. I have a dream where women are not demons. I have a dream where there is no 6% or 94%, not 1% or 99%, but 100%. I have a dream where young Jewish boys are not beaten for their faith, where the Germans of this day and age aren’t blamed for something that happened over sixty years ago. I have a dream where there are no police or criminals. I have a dream  of peace and love and music instead of blood and gore and war. I have a dream where Jesus did not die in vain. I have a dream where an African child can have clean water. I have a dream  where the old pay their debts before the children take over. I have a dream  where there are glad tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. I have a dream where god is present in all of us. I have a dream where everyone is seen as being created equal. I have a dream  where a person’s education is not measured by the color of their skin. This dream can come true with help from the bleeding hearts, the artists, the clowns, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

Jason Healy, 17 Junior


7 thoughts on “How Should Education be Transformed? (Guest Post by Occupy High Students)

  1. I appreciate the range of responses here. How do Occupy High students view school alternatives and community-based learning spaces like maker spaces or homeschooling?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | March 7, 2012, 9:24 am
  2. I teach in maryland. My area is a pretty decent area to teach in , However, there are a lot of students who have lost respect for most adults and education in general. Most just want to get thru and work on a trade. Im fine with trades and hard work, but i am waiting for the day when we run out of researchers and technology designers. What then? who will make the meds for cancer, who will research cancer, who will create drugs for cures and make technology to aide in this process?

    Posted by bones | March 7, 2012, 9:29 pm


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