Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupy our Classrooms!

Two recent newspaper stories caught my attention. In both, teachers sought to connect the content they were teaching to the Occupy protestors in public parks near their schools. In one case, the teacher engaged her students in asking the protestors about the rationales for their actions, the understandings of democracy that prompted their actions, and the like. Given that much of our current prescribed, tested, and hidden curriculum works to silence student protest and divorce teaching of democracy from that actual practice of democracy occurring outside school doors, I found these stories to be worth celebrating.

Educating students for citizenship should not be confined to school walls or school personnel. It’s important that children experience organic efforts at trying out citizenship and dissent by studying and at appropriate times even working alongside real people engaged in struggle, doing what Giroux calls making “the political more pedagogical.”
Efforts to bring children out to politically and civically active groups and to bring those groups into schools helps to unite the prescribed and external curriculum. Skilled teachers can bring those external experiences back into the classroom as fodder for discussion, such as critique of the way the group operates, including how it uses language and media to engage dissent, how it builds coalitions, and whether or not its intentions are good, thereby helping students better understand how successful dissenting groups work and how they keep democracy healthy. Moreover, such an experience allows children to see how real life people engaged in protest experience suffering, struggle, and triumph, humanizing the learning of dissenting citizenship for children.

So I say let us use the Occupy protests as learning opportunities to help our students make sense of the political events occurring around them and, moreover, to learn to appreciate (and even practice) dissent as central to a flourishing democracy.

1 comment:

John Lorefice said...


From one John to another...I just read your post and I agree with everything you wrote. I just posted a similar blog this morning having to do with the latest Occupy Wall Street movement and their abrupt removal from Zuccoti Park this morning...take a peak! I like your other blogs as well (Elizabeth Warren is great!). I will subscribe! See you 'round the bloggisphere!