The Occupy Wall Street movement is trying to draw attention to the vast disparities in wealth and power that exist in our society. This means drawing attention to the large economic and political forces that control our lives – whether we call them by the name ‘Wall Street,’ ‘big banks,’ ‘bought elections,’ ‘the finance system,’ ‘free-market fundamentalism,’ ‘neoliberalism,’ ‘free-market capitalism,’ ‘finance capitalism;’ or indeed ‘capitalism’ itself.
We think that education in a subject should help us to learn, not just about the subject itself, but about how that subject connects up with the larger forces that control so much of our lives.
Example: an Occupy University cooking class would help you to become a better cook – of course! – but it would also help you to learn where each ingredient comes from; whose labor was used to produce it, and under what conditions; how large corporations – and finally, big banks – have a stake in all of that; what kinds of things you can do to have a positive impact on our systems of food production and distribution, and so on. All while doing the cooking.
We learn to be better cooks, and we also learn to think more sophisticatedly about the whole political, economic, and environmental context in which cooking and eating takes place.
So if you’re thinking about proposing a course – and we really hope you are! – we encourage you to think about how the course might relate to these kinds of larger political and economic forces.
We’re certainly not trying to enforce our own views on this – that’s up to you, and those you will be learning with.
But we are trying (very hard!) to make people think more about these sorts of issues!
The following lines of inquiry articulate our general thinking about what Occupy University could become. They also function as a structural starting point for developing classes. The topics are not closed categories; we anticipate and encourage interdisciplinary thinking and cross-fertilization between topics. This is a document in progress and is subject to change. Core Civic Empowerment Curriculum