March 26, 2012

Occupy the Classroom

Occupy the Classroom is the theme of the 2012 NJCTE Conference this Saturday, March 31st.

NJCTE is hardly a radical organization. And "Occupy the ______ " (fill in the blank) has been a popular meme the past six months.

We best know it for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement that began September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City's Wall Street financial district.

OWS has led to Occupy protests and movements around the world. These protests are focused on social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector.

Their rallying slogan, We are the 99%, addresses the growing inequality between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population in America when it comes to income and wealth.

So, why Occupy the Classroom?  Since the movement was intended to effect change by "direct action" (instead of petitioning authorities) maybe it is a call for teachers to take action in their classrooms.

I read a piece by Nicholas Kristof on Occupy Wall Street that also touched on education. He wrote about the expansion of early childhood education and the inequity that may well result if many young people never get the skills to compete.

He quotes Kathleen McCartney, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as saying “This is where inequality starts.The reason early education is important is that you build a foundation for school success. And success breeds success.”

She shows Kristof a chart showing that even before kindergarten there are significant performance gaps between rich and poor students that widen further in school.

Do we need to occupy the classroom in order to point to inequities in childhood education, technology use and access to resources?

Kristof also mentions that President Obama "often talked in his campaign about early childhood education, and he probably agrees with everything I’ve said. But the issue has slipped away and off the agenda."

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