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I am very happy to say that I spent my weekend occupying Wall Street. During this time, I had the amazing opportunity to speak with people who are not only angry, but hopeful. They are individuals who protest our country’s economic policies not out of hatred, but out of love for our country. They see the word democracy as more than just rhetoric. They view democracy as a dream that must be fulfilled in our lifetime. During the past two days, I spoke with students, teachers, and professors about their views on education and how it connects to their activism at Occupy Wall Street. I was interviewed by one woman (obviously against the protest) who asked: Why education? If you are concerned with the public education system, shouldn’t you be protesting the Department of Education? What does this have to do with Wall Street anyway?
I proceeded to educate this woman on the direct correlation of economic status and academic achievement. After that, I schooled her on the current corporate and federal push to privatize our public schools. If we are to see a major transformation within our public education system, we must start by re-structuring our current economic system. We are currently seeing a push towards a “market based” education system. In other words: education for profit. We are seeing more policies that are put in place to drive education reform that is dependent on competition and profit. This movement has been coined: Neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism= movement away from state control towards corporate control. It depends on un-regulated trade and markets and argues that free markets, free trade, and the unrestricted flow of capital will produce the “greatest social good.”
Wall Street Occupiers are protesting the current neoliberal takeover of our government and society. De-regulation of the markets was a huge cause of our recession in 2007 and also speaks to the corporate bailout our federal government authorized. Moreover, neo-liberal ideology also supports the transformation of institutions of higher education into for-profit structures that are currently leaving millions of students in tens of thousands of dollars of debt. In addition, neo-liberal ideology supports the out-sourcing jobs in order to find the cheapest labor; leaving these same indebted college graduates with false promises of a bright future. But enough of my ramblings, let’s hear from some other Occupiers.
Lauren: A 6th grade Language Arts teacher in East Harlem
Andre: A Masters Student and Political Activist from Long Island
Barbara: Teacher Educator at University of Massachusetts-Amherst
“It is a right to transform the city, to make it the city we wish to live in, and in the process transform ourselves and how we live together.”
I am energized and inspired by this movement and it comforts me to know this is only the beginning.