Education should be free! Occupy the DOE! Teacher activists involved in the OccupyWall Street movement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-56
Number of pages13
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • activism
  • democratic practice
  • educational justice
  • grassroots
  • neoconservatism/neoliberalism
  • race


Dive into the research topics of 'Education should be free! Occupy the DOE! Teacher activists involved in the OccupyWall Street movement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this