Who Is Occupy Wall Street?


Occupy Wall Street. This is the modern day strike. It is history in the making. It is important to make your students aware of this event, because it is something their children will be learning about.
Being a former US History teacher, I taught about strikes. Thanks to unions, the popularity of strikes has significantly decreased since their most popularly taught time in the beginning of the 20th century. A strike this widespread has possibly never occurred, because before now it was difficult to spread a message such as this across the country. Expectations of life have also never been this high, and with a recession, people have decided to speak their mind. A strike has also never before had no demands.
Historically, a group of people working for a specific company, or working in a specific field, have gone on strike over working conditions or compensation. People are often already not doing well financially, and have no other option. They usually have a job against which they are striking. Occupy Wall Street does not fall into any of these categories, as this pie graph shows. While parts can be averaged, generally speaking these are people of all financial categories. Most didn’t have a job to strike against. There is no common occupation or employer. This movement is a large number of diverse people who have come together for a common idea. No matter your view of the movement, the fact that all of these people have come together is movement towards equality.
This being such a controversial subject, it would be difficult to do more than tell students about it. But given creativity, patience, and a group of students whom you trust it may be possible. Here are some ideas:
Ask students to write their opinion in a paper. But they must give X number of facts to support their opinion. (A paper can be substituted for an oral presentation, a recorded oral speech, a website, a posterboard…)
Raise a debate, with a twist. Put students in two different groups, pro and against the movement. This can be randomly done, or based on their opinion, except put them in the opposite group. (Important: teach the students respect in a debate.) Give the students time to research for their side. Since many, if not all, students will be debating against their own opinion, they will need to do a lot of research. At the end, have the students write a paper, stating their original opinion backed up, followed be what they have learned, if their opinion has grown stronger or changed, and why.
Have the students research the movements organization. This is one of the things I found most fascinating. New York City recently suffered an out of season snow storm, cold enough to freeze people. They have to keep warm in some way. Many of these people aren’t from the area, and don’t have an income, so it would be difficult to find food sources. They are also residing in tents in a city, they must have bathroom and hygiene facilities. I read an article, written because their gas generators were taken away due to danger, about the little community they have set up. There are generators being brought in powered by bicycles (which they often get lookers on to ride), they have a grocery store, showers, and even a little library and movie theater. They use communication methods to communicate with those they are hoping to influence, and other Occupy movements.
Students can create a budget for this movement. Where can money be cut (the movie theater), and where the budget should begin (food). They can guesstimate the amount money necessary to occupy each person, figure out where funds can come from, how to fundraise, and even what to do with extra funds.
Students can figure out green methods for providing power to those living here.
There are endless possibilities to teach students using the Occupy Wall Street. It can be a great way to teach respect of those one doesn’t agree with. Because even if you don’t agree with the movement itself, it is amazing the way they are able to use resources to keep the movement going.

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