I believe quality education and effective social change cannot be separated. For the occupy movement, if our vision is to make a world which does not serve the 1% at the expense of the 99%, we seek social relationships that have not existed for millennia. Because the world we wish to see does not exist in our memory, we activists are stumbling in the darkness towards a destination there is no road map for. Yet we still follow this journey because the goal is so important. Hopefully, we make a map while walking the path, marking the wisdom we have gained so that the uncertainty becomes easier to navigate; so that others can better find their way and invent their own wisdom; so that our impact is not just on our own lives but on society at large. This is a process of education, and of social change.
No matter how much we march, no matter how many actions we do, we cannot actually change the world unless we continuously realize lessons that change how we live. For example, how can we have peace and justice without learning about the cruelty behind many of our privileges, the aspects of our culture which reinforce suffering, our ability to generate energy within ourselves that can resist oppression and promote healing, our prospects for being inviting to people so they will want to join our movement, our ability to act in the face of the fear which often paralyzes us, our ability to show love, and our ability to evolve our resistance according to the unique challenges of the time and place where we live. Such learning is born from action and translated into action. This is the perpetual cycle of praxis. Learning becomes social change, social change becomes learning, and action without education is just as pointless as education without action.
All this is why I wish to work on creating a free University at Occupy DC, in order to help integrate learning into the daily activities of the occupation. A couple of weeks ago I saw a a large sign which read “University of the 99%.” People were talking about classes where “anyone can teach and anyone can learn.” It was such a beautiful idea. I also met people from Occupy Wall Street who were spreading a practice they called “Think Tank.” This involved people discussing a subject, sharing their ideas, and those ideas being recorded, transcribed, and put online. Lastly I have been involved in the national effort to train occupiers in how to be trainers, and have attended two trainings in Philadelphia given by Training for Change and the Ruckus Society. This helped develop my own educational skills, and increased my appreciation for the value of education.
I believe our commitment to education astronomically enhances our ability to create change. I believe an hour spent in a workshop is generally more productive than an hour spent at the GA, or at the majority of marches. I also believe that our commitment to education is central to our ability to sustain ourselves for the long haul. My hope is that there can be a lot of universities for the 99%. This is needed, not only for the movement of 99%, but to salvage our faltering educational system.