Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yes I teach about #Occupy. No, it is not earthshattering. Calm down.

It started with a simple question on the #sschat feed on Twitter from a teacher in Washington D.C.

I think we at #sschat should be just as fired up about #OccupyWallStreet & #Occupy in general as we were about Osama Bin Laden. Why quiet?

I mentioned that at this point it was really unknown if the Occupy Movement was going to become more than just another disgruntled “I’m pissed off at the world” protest.  It was at that point that a New Jersey teacher at the Occupy Wall Street protest chimed in and railed me for not supporting the movement of the 99%.  He blasted me that the movement was a moral imperative and he compared it to the Arab Spring, slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement.  When I mentioned that I was teaching the Occupy protests from a neutral position, he called me out for supporting evil and then told me he wept for my students.  Believe it or not I did not get that offended because I’ve heard the rantings of activism many times.  People get so wrapped up in what they believe that anything less is considered flat wrong.  That’s what an activist does, and that’s why it takes one hell of a cause for me to become an activist in anything. 

For those that are wondering what history thinks about the Occupy Movement, history will tell you later whether or not it matters.  History has a funny way of doing that.  It’s not my job to tell my students that the Occupy Movement is on par with slavery because it’s not.  It’s not my job to tell students that Occupy is on par with the Civil Rights Movement because it’s not.  History hasn’t decided yet.  And far be it for me to tell any 17 year old kids that Occupy is a just cause, or that the protests are simple outrage at nothing in particular.  My job is beyond simple activism for a simple agenda.  My activism is developing critical thinkers.  My activism is presenting as much information as possible and if the kids are passionate about Occupy they will join in and affect change.  If they aren’t, they’ll ignore it.  Last week we looked at a PBS Newshour focus story on unemployment, and then turned right around and watched man-on-the-street interviews of Occupy Wall Street protesters.  Kids were interested not only in the protest, but the economics behind it.  And while we do talk about the increasing income inequality, the current economic crisis is much more complex than that.  In Government class we talk about populism and the growth of large movements, and how policy is connected to economics. 

The closest thing the Occupy Movement relates to seems to be, oddly enough, the Tea Party Movement.  Both are angry at economic conditions, both blame government policies that they say enhance the bad conditions, and both contain mostly middle class, affluent people.  Neither is bad, neither is good, and eventually both will be history.  How much either matters is yet to be determined.   

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