Mass discontent erupted in 2011 through the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) when people took to the streets expressing frustration with growing economic disparities under neoliberal policies. In this article, I document how grassroots activists in New York City used OWS to galvanize energy for educational justice. Calling themselves Occupy the Department of Education, these teacher activists (TAs) critically analyzed wealth and power stratification as well as corporate-driven, market-based education reform. Through interviews, I explore TAs' frustration with policies undermining the participation; voices; and power of parents, students, and educators and detail grassroots organizing strategies used to respond to neoliberal reform. These five strategies included unmasking the neoliberal narrative of meritocracy and choice; diverting discontent with the economic crisis toward educational justice; amplifying voices through tools that allowed for democratic participation of people silenced by current structures; claiming coalition among diverse groups rather than embracing competitive models; and generating power by organizing for change. Ultimately, I reveal that by using such strategies, TAs worked to build a movement to confront neoliberal school reforms that they saw undermining public education.
- democratic practice
- educational justice