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Equity & Diversity Opinion

Occupy Wall Street’s Goals and Public Education (Part II)

By Greg Jobin-Leeds — December 09, 2011 3 min read
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Part II of V (read Part I here)

What conditions caused Occupy movement to spread so rapidly?
The movement expanded exponentially due to the inaccessibility of the American dream. Like the conditions that allowed for the Arab Spring to grow: massive unemployment, poor schools, increased food, health, and housing costs.

Who is the 1%?
The 1% is a catch-all for bankers, corporate executives -- particularly the self-centered members of the super-rich and their political allies who have an iron grip on the economy and politics and are pursuing policies that increase their self-gain. Occupiers see the wealthy writing the script for society. Over the last 40 years slowly we are all being asked by the 1% and the corporate media to become believers in an old way of thinking (the thinking that led to the Great Depression) -- that you pay as you go -- versus believing that everyone should have access to a great education. The wealthy have tried quite successfully to dismantle the social infrastructure that has been building up since the New Deal and the labor movement got us out of the Great Depression. There are many wealthy people who are allied with Occupy, just as there were many Whites who marched with Blacks during Civil Rights and there are many men who are allies in fighting sexism.

What are the Goals of the occupy movement?
A key Occupy goal is to end the corruption of politics by money. Many Occupiers see the iron grip of the 1% resulting in ecological devastation, rampant poverty, war and militarism, and, what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called, “spiritual death.” Occupiers generally want to get to the roots of the problems we are facing and not just address them with superficial policy or political changes. Occupiers believe that fundamental social change is both possible and necessary and that people-powered social movements, led by those who are most directly affected, are the engines of true social progress.

What’s happening now that OCCUPY can’t camp in Zucotti Park/Liberty Square?
Occupy groups are increasingly active around the country (for instance, Boston), while even those that have lost their space are taking to the streets and communities with creative forms of protest sparked by an outpouring of genuine democracy. Occupying College campuses and “Occupying the Hood” projects are springing up. As much as the 1% may hope and try to limit its influence, this movement is likely too contagious and inspirational to go away. It has too much appeal to growing ranks of people who believe the system no longer works for them and are committed to “Another world is possible.”

Why Public Education is Key to the Occupy Movement:
Many occupiers see education as a human right--and want to see a whole new educational paradigm. Many see in our education system the problems they see in the economy and society: individualistic conceptions of education and a market-based system that replicates, indeed exacerbates, the inequalities in our society.

There is a growing realization that education is now being treated as a consumer good, that parents are being treated as customers who now have to purchase education, instead of it being the right of every human. This market-based model created by the 1% is being spread by “free"-market based newspapers and TV shows as the best way to deliver services.

The success of this free-market education campaign led by the 1% is shown in evidenced in the increasing privatization of our American educational system--because this stealth campaign is leading too many parents to believe that the only way to save our public education system is to give up on it. Many occupiers hope the movement can dramatically transform this conversation into one of creating a new, equitable system--transforming our current system into a high quality public education for all children, a system befitting a true democracy.

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