Lesson Plan for the Occupiers

Still making news, the Occupy movement hasn’t fallen victim to a lack of media coverage.  According to the Sacramento Bee last week, “nearly three fifths of voters” agree with the cause.  I count myself as part of this cohort-I believe strongly in changing the inequities our country is creating.  I also find myself in the 99%. 



Our local Occupy campsite

But even though I am cheering on their message, I feel like the movement isn’t pushing forward in the best way possible to enact change.  Being the type-A-semi-control-freak teacher that I am, I’ve created a lesson plan for the Occupiers to follow.  Welcome to my classroom!

Rationale:  To win over people to the side of the 99%

Essential Question: How can the Occupy Movement share their message and persuade those people ‘on the fence’ to join the cause?

Activate Prior Knowledge:  Remember Martin Luther King Jr.?  He had a cause.  He created a national movement to promote his message using nonviolence.  If MLK had destroyed property or used violence to get his word out he would have only succeeded in pissing people off, not making them think.

Step 1:  Decide that it’s more productive to be peaceful.  If Occupy’s objective is to change people’s thinking, they need to win people over. According to the Sacramento Bee’s article on Nov. 29, “49% said they don’t identify much with Occupy protesters.”  The old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” comes to mind here-the people who need to be persuaded aren’t the types that think violent activism is ok.  The people who need to be persuaded are most likely 60 years of age or older, reasonably educated and have access to the media.  They also have money-they’re the 1%, right?  In the same article, “nearly one third of Republicans said they agree with the reason behind” the Occupy Movement.  These people otherwise might agree with the Occupy message, but don’t like seeing the destructiveness of the protesters.  This might not be the time for anarchists.  Power to the peaceful.

Step 2:  Focus the message.  One of the basic elements of persuasion is to have a strong thesis.  Maybe there needs to be a few key, clear outcomes identified that become slogans.  I know the basic idea behind the movement, but do you know how the success will be measured?  I don’t.  The homeless population, the pepper spraying, and the college protests have all diluted and divided what they want to say.  While all good symbols, the message is muddled.  Instead of fighting and protesting in the dark at the campsites, perhaps they could try to occupy when more people can see them in action.

Step 3:  Choose your enemies carefully.  Be cautious not to attack the 1% in total.  Some of those 1%ers may actually be interested in making change happen, too.  According to a field poll taken Nov. 14-27, 56% of those earning $100,000 or more agreed with the reason behind the Occupy movement.  Make sure there is room for everyone to join and feel like they fit in.  Name calling and stereotyping everyone in the 1% may just alienate people who would otherwise mobilize towards the cause.

Closure:   Think about what the movement is all about.  Do protesters want to be right or make change?  Remember, no one wants to go out and be pushed, shoved, or pepper sprayed.  The media is looking for sensation, but is that going to strengthen the message and make things happen?  Power to the peaceful.  Focus.  Make friends not enemies. 

Are there any questions?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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What’s Really Happening Here At UC Davis?

While my 8th grade students are learning about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the American Revolution, history is being made right in front of us.  Colonists, in the form of UC Davis students, are rebelling against the Red Coats, in the form of the administration and the government. And just like in the Revolution, it all started with a shot heard round the world. Only this time the shot came from a can of pepper spray.

What began on Nov. 15 as a peaceful Occupy UCD protest on the university quad climaxed as a violent confrontation between students and police. Students, tired of being “taxed” for their education, revolted against their oppressors, the “government.”  They organized and chanted: “Black, brown, Asian, White, 99 percent unite”. The problem is, as they organized, they did not count on the 50-plus police officers turning their revolution into a full-fledged attack.

Armed only with signs proclaiming “Beat Wall Street Not Students” and “People Over Profit,” students occupied administration buildings the first day and then the quad the next. They were asked to leave, but they didn’t, so they were arrested. And as they sat peacefully, they were systematically doused with yellow flumes pepper spray. With their message clear, the police then dispersed, leaving students in pain and confusion.

And now I’m confused.  What really is happening here? Students and professors acted within their rights to peacefully assemble and voice their freedom of speech on their campus that they have paid inflated prices to attend. Aren’t the salaries of these officers paid by the students whom they are supposed to protect?

Everyone knows the status of public education in California. There’s not enough money to run programs, pay salaries, or equip facilities to meet 21st century standards.  Protest chants of “Education must be free, no cuts, no fees” have been shouted by university students and professors trying to get their message out. And in return, they are silenced with spray?

Who is leading this revolution? How can the tables turn from a peaceful protest to police intervention?
Police are not supposed to be part of the problem. If seated students linking arms are not breaking the law, don’t spray them. If they are breaking the law, then why did the police spray and then leave the scene?

Where have the students’ rights gone? Systematically arresting students would seem to both acknowledge their rights to occupy their own campus as well as send a message to others to disperse or accept the consequences. Where are the people’s rights over profit here?

Maybe the police didn’t count on the students’ ability to fight back with media. Armed with cell phones and video cameras, our tech-savvy citizens’ ability to tweet and harness the power of the web provided them invaluable ammunition to their fight. The cameras do not lie — they are just another tool for nonviolent protestors to gather their troops and spread the word.  The Red Coats are coming. Link together. Stand strong in the face of oppressors.

So now we prepare for a revolution with the real message becoming lost in the muddle of the war. The issue is far from over.  The troops are now strategizing, both sides arming themselves and readying to launch a new offensive. And as Patrick Henry tried to teach us over 300 years ago, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government-lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

Maybe everyone should sit down together on the grass for a minute and think about that.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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