Families & the Community Opinion

Occupy Wall Street’s Goals and Public Education

By Greg Jobin-Leeds — December 06, 2011 4 min read
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Part I of V

...the Occupy demonstrations are precisely about the concerns of Americans who have been sidelined economically. This in turn is why polls show broad support for Occupy's objectives of greater economic equality and more financial accountability..." -E.J. Dionne, Seattle Times

My friend Saulo was at the City University of New York (CUNY) this week - the same system my mother went to for free over half a century ago. Saulo says students are protesting the Board of Trustees who mostly come from the 1%, who are not elected and who are raising tuition each year. The student messages are: this is not democratic; CUNY is a public institution but the trustees are not representative of the CUNY population nor accountable to the public, and with tuition going up, they are keeping the 99% out. Citywide, students are responding, occupying campuses on public and private universities and meeting inside and outside of campuses.

These--and other Occupy developments across the country--lead to some key questions I have been asked (and am asking). In the next five blogs I attempt to provide my perspective on answers:

Part I: Who is the Occupy Movement? What does Occupy Wall Street believe in? How'd it begin? Part II: What conditions caused the Occupy movement to spread so rapidly? Who is the 1%? What are the goals of the Occupy Movement? Why is public education key to the Occupy Movement? Part III: What does Occupy envision? Why is Occupy not putting out a clear list of demands? Part IV: A list of demands I might want to see for education and children. Part V: 11 Things you can do to support Occupy

Part I -- Who is Occupy Wall Street and what does Occupy believe in?

Who is the Occupy Movement? Occupy is made up of nurses, teachers, auto workers, homeless vets, students and even conservatives who all fervently believe the 99% can reclaim democracy, build a just society and create a better world for everyone.

Occupy is made up of: students burdened by huge debt, people unable to go to college because they have to make ends meet for their families, teachers who are facing larger and larger classrooms and having to bring in food for hungry kids. Occupy Wall Street represents people who are suffering and afraid of suffering the 16% real unemployment rate. Occupy includes the employed and unemployed, community groups and academics, anarchists, socialists, Republicans, Democrats; veterans and anti-war protesters, union members and small business owners, whites and blacks. Occupy Wall Street is named simply “the Occupiers” in Boston, Oakland, Chicago and in many towns and universities across the US and the world. It includes all of us who share the beliefs, whether we have been to an Occupy, sent money, written about Occupy or just wish them well.

Since Occupy believes in a leaderless consensus building approach, nobody speaks for Occupy Wall Street, but we can see the beliefs and goals in the signs, in the general assemblies, websites and in personal conversations. In these 5 blogs, I blend all of these and begin to imagine what Occupy Wall Street’s goals and actions mean to those of us involved in public education.

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) believes in a more collective economy and decision-making process, as seen in the General Assembly and free exchange of goods in Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Plaza) and other occupation sites (I have personally gone only to the Occupy Boston). The Occupy Movement is creating a future that is being collectively imagined. Occupy activists think increasing access to “the commons” (public goods -- starting with the public squares themselves -- that belong to all humanity) is the route to liberty. Occupy is interested in creating a functioning, self organized society that gives equal voice to all -- one that stands in contrast to the unequal wealth-dominated society we are protesting. The egalitarian consensus building model of Occupy’s general assembly, the cooperative allocation of resources and working committees (logistics, communications, food, etc) are examples of this society.

Occupy believes that the 1% have rigged the rules of society against the interests of the 99% (through concentrated control of capital, excessive influence of lobbyists, campaign contributions, ownership of the media, and unlimited, anonymous political advertising by corporations). Occupy wants to end the privatizing of our democracy and revive fairness and justice as national ideals. Occupy believes in giving people a full say in the political process. The occupations allow people to have an equal say in the general assembly where their consensus building process requires their participation and support. This is called “direct democracy.” People feel their voice matters. At Occupy a space is created for the dreams and aspirations of the squashed majority.

For public education, we can begin to imagine what a more direct democracy might look like for teachers, principals, superintendents and students. There are many of examples of schools where educators’ and students’ dreams and aspirations are given full voice.

How did Occupy (#Occupy) begin? Occupy Wall Street began in the indignation that has been traveling from Tunisia to Tahrir Square, Egypt to Plaza del Sol, Spain to London, Chile, Greece, and Puerto Rico where humanity has decided that the future is their future. Those seeds finally took root in New York City and began to blossom into a brilliant new movement--that sprung up in cities all over the USA in the greatest fury of grassroots activism in decades.

Credit where credit is due; this five-part blog series was compiled from many websites, e.g.:


As well as listening to those involved in and reporting on Occupy, including: Rinku Sen, Amy Goodman, Saulo Colon, Chilean Student Leader Giorgio Jackson, Kelly Bates, Gibran Rivera, David Bernstein, high school and college students.

What are your dreams and aspirations for Occupy Wall Street? We’d like to know.

(Note that our new home is at Daily Kos)

The opinions expressed in Democracy and Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.