This post was originally posted at The Co-operative Catalyst on Tuesday, October 12th

This past Tuesday, I stopped at City Hall on my way home to meet some of the protesters at #occupyphilly and to spread the word about #occupyedu. What I found was a small city, a microcosm of a community. Tents filled up the grounds outside City Hall, and scattered around the edges were an Information Booth, a Tech Support tent (which happened to have a ‘closed until 6pm’ sign taped to it), a Library/Education tent, a book lending tent, a Security tent, and a group of Hare Krishnas serving hot vegetarian fare while a live streaming podcast was being conducted under the arch of City Hall.

The Workshops being offered outside the Library.

One of the most inspiring sights as an educator was the “Workshop” board set up on the side of the Library. On it were listed various ‘classes’ that were being offered at different times of days during the week. While some were stereotypical for a protest setting, (for instance, a class on White Privilege), it was pretty inspiring to see a group of people congregating for the 5:30pm workshop. Also listed on the board were the daily “General Assembly” meetings as well as a class called “Intro to Improv Comedy.”

Of course, my teacher brain was spinning…..

This is what true community schools look like. It’s what the Free School movement looks like. Social, collaborative learning based around the interests of the learners. It also reminded me of anedcamp/barcamp model in which sessions are designed and run by the same people who are at the ‘event.’ These workshops also show that people crave learning and conversation. When faced with spending days upon days in one place, these kinds of organically organized discussions are natural. Our students are no different. GIve them a structured environment in which to discuss, and they will. This is what democracy is built upon. The day that young people lose that capability will be the day that democracy dies.

I think there is more to learn from the #occupy movement than just the message. We are seeing the power of collaboration, conversation, social media, community and the ability for people to organize despite their different goals and passions. Hopefully, this energy can reverberate into the upper echelons of government and begin to combat the influence that money and lobbyists have on politicians. With all of the divisiveness in our country, the #occupy movement shows that we can unite across generations, races, occupations and geographic locations.

Don’t forget about the awesome #occupyedu movement in which educators, parents and students are sharing their stories about helping students follow their passions, about keeping public education truly public among others. More here:

You can also check out Chad Sansing’s powerful post, Occupy Your Classroom for more ideas about taking back our classrooms from those that would turn them over to testing, standardization and privatization.

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