How do you teach history, as it’s happening?

Occupy Oakland 10-25-11 1
photo from Brian Sims’ site on flickr.com/creativecommons

Before the Nov. 2 general strike, some Oakland teachers said they wished they had more time to prepare lessons about the Occupy movement. Now that two weeks have passed, I’m curious to hear how teachers have approached the subject in class.

It must be challenging to teach current events like this, as the situation can shift in a matter of hours. On the other hand, given Oakland’s role in the movement, I imagine it’s easier for students to connect what’s happening nationally to their own lives. It might also be an effective way to bring to life topics relating to the economy, banking and government, such as tax rates and the power of campaign contributions and mass protests such as this.

So, tell us: How are you teaching it? Have your class discussions reflected multiple points of view? I found this lesson plan on the New York Times website. The author also invites students to add their comments here.

I welcome students (and parents) to add their comments, too — about the movement and what they’d like to learn about it.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    The Occupy Movement is so far a silly flash in the pan. A whining collection of Hobos, Ne’er-do-wells and other ineffectives, accompanied by deluded fellow travelers. It is only useful in classroom historical review by comparing it to the far more significant protests following WWI, the Great Depression, Vietnam and so forth.

    And it’s interesting to see what happened to the protesters and their political causes in the earlier more significant protests.

    The more serious and effective protesters lately are the Tea Party. Other examples of the real thing were the Dixiecrats in the mid 20th Century, the Southern Whites after the Civil War.

    Even the Democratic Coalition Post WWII that took control of first the big cities then the Federal Government are a good example of real protest (if you call hijacking the government a protest).

    Children should not be taught to confuse drug addled homeless anarchists with the march to power of actual revolutionaries.

    Change does come. It does not come from druggies and Hobos. Watch the progress of the Tea Party, trace it’s roots to talk radio. Compare with Huey Long.

    It’s all history repeating.

  • J.R.


    The occupiers complain about various issues such as the unemployment(example: in Oakland,some say the true rate is 15%-20%). One question that never gets asked is how many of these unemployed-underemployed people(including occupiers) have ever had the skills or the work ethic to be employable? What percentage of these people actually have skills that translate to the real world of employment or self-employment(aspiring artists, musicians, sociologists, black and latino studies and so on).

  • Nextset

    JR: Thus my description of these Occupy People as a bunch of Hobos and Ne’er-do-wells.

    They are also a good reason why we shouldn’t have universal health care. Let them die off at their earliest convenience.

    The day will come when decent people will/may rise up against the US Government (this is presupposing the Government isn’t reformed through the ballot box, starting in November 2012 by voting all the democrats out). This isn’t it. It’s maybe an amusing prelude.

    I do see a Democratic party defeat in 2012. The problem is, the establishment Republicans are just as bad in their anti-constitutional big government centralization of Federal Power ways. It remains to be seen if a fundamental change will occur in Federal behavior before the Feds completely lose authority in the USA. Should be interesting to watch.

    Maybe we should elect Ron Paul.

    History is an interesting thing to be teaching the kiddies. But the Occupy movement by itself is not significant. It’s only a blip in the pattern that would need to be covered.

  • Really?

    I teach Advanced Placement classes in European and United States History. The Occupy Movement comes just at the time I am teaching the French Revolution(perfect) and the abolitionist movement( again perfect) and I have former students at Cal emailing me with eyewitness events from Sproul Plaza! This allows me to make a connection between the excitement of redefining the world as revolutionaries did during the French Revolution, and the ongoing nature of revolution(it continues until all segments of society are satisfied). Plus the abolitionists put conscience before the law, just as the Occupy movement has done. Every current event is a teaching opportunity.

    Nextset- ” Calling’ out around the world are you ready for a brand new beat?”. The Occupy
    Movement as well as the Tea Party are harbingers of things to come as people seek
    alternative solutions to today’s problems, especially as our economy faces further collapse.
    Watch for a return of utopian communities as in the 1830’s and 1960’s. Everything old is new again…

  • Nextset

    The French Revolution I believe included shopkeepers, tradesman and other employed & self employed members of what would be their middle class.

    The Occupy bunch seem to be dominated by roving anarchists, street people, unskilled and in general marginal people. I still believe the Tea Party is the real thing. They are furious at the government state and federal, they vote and participate in campaigning by precint walking and phone banking. 2012 will be interesting as much for the state elections as the federal ones.

    But something very very big is coming, far more interesting than the Occupy players. And maybe we will see what all the “Fema Camps” the government is busy getting ready are really for.

    You will know it’s hitting the fan when your ATM cards and Credit cards are all turned off at once. Or maybe the government will just decide to recall the currency and issue “newdollars” over a weekend. When it happens they’ll have a good excuse.. Fighting a sudden rash of counterfieting or some such story. The Iranians at it again in one of their many factories. That should work.

    Any maybe the Iranians will have a US Money factory.

    Interesting times. We really should get the kiddies briefed in history of collapsing civilizations and make them understand that nothing lasts forever, least of all any democracy.

  • Anonymous


    Is there a way for you to block the over-posting commentators that have apparently attached themselves to your log like sucker fish i. Spite of the fact that they themselves have no children are not teachers nor administrators nor students and don’t seem to have one positive thing to say about any of those groups? They have latched onto thos blog for some reason (like so many blogs, news venues, craigslist, etc.) for now, but there is novested interest beyond their entertainment.

    I and many people really look forward to your in depth and insightful reporting and don’t appreciate the bashing, negative and insidious diatribes a small few commentators “contibute”.

  • OUSD Parent

    @Anonymous and Katy- I like reading all of the different point’s-of-view, even if it is sometimes over the top by some commentators. OUSD is a diverse district and there will be many diverse opinions posted. If a poster starts to annoy you just self select and pass by their comments.

    Anonymous, I do appreciate your desire to keep on point. Thanks for the reminder. The threads often do stray away from the main topic.

  • Nextset

    Another call for censorship. Hallmark of a liberal/socialist type.

    They only exist when they can impose on others. They get really agitated when they feel their controls are slipping away.

  • Harold

    off topic: there has been more right-wing censorship in recent history, than anything from the left. This is fact. I believe in freedom of speech. Let the voices of the 1% and those who try to give them cover, stand next to the truth. The Nazi party is an excellent example of a right-wing propaganda machine. How about Dick Cheney’s misinformation program?

  • Nextset

    Sorry Harold, the Nazi’s are old history. Their Buddy Stalin made them look like amateurs anyway.

    Anyway, when you get extreme right or left you get to the same point in the circle.

    People who want to take things from others for themselves. People who want government ownership and control of production, means of production and guns. It all ends the same way.

    The way it’s heading now.

  • Sue

    I’ve already pointed out on the General Stike topic here – the stereotyping of the Occupy protesters, #3 and #5, is nonsense.

    Can we at least cut the b.s. postings, even though we can’t eliminate the b.s. posters?

  • Cranky Teacher

    We shouldn’t censor who can post, but it does seem that the MediaNews Group could have more sophisticated blogging/comment software.

    Specifically, if we could block certain posters, or vote comments up or down a thread based on usefulness, it might encourage a different type of discourse.

    However, it seems from the site redesign that blogs are being semi-phased out. It is now much harder to find this blog from the Trib homepage. Perhaps linked to budget cuts.

  • Katy Murphy

    If blogs are being phased out, that would be news to me! But I agree that it would be good for users to have more control over the content. I asked one of our social media people, who said we can search for a “plug-in” that allows people to filter comments, see if it works with Word Press and then see if we can get it approved.

    I wouldn’t count on it, but it would be cool if it happened!

  • 5th year Oakland Teacher

    On the topic of Occupy, as a history teacher I found it was very useful as a way of discussing how people react to inequalities as we learned about social Darwinism, socialism, utilitarianism and other responses to the development of capitalism during the industrial revolution. In the class, and in society in general, the Occupy movement seems useful in creating discussion and bringing attention to things that have been ignored.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, 5th year Oakland Teacher. I’d love to hear more about those class discussions and the connections students are drawing. Do your students seem more interested in learning about, say, the industrial revolution than your classes in previous years?

  • http://www.AimSchools.org AIPCSParent

    Nextest said:

    “Anyway, when you get extreme right or left you get to the same point in the circle.”

    ABSOLUTELY Correct!

    And interestingly, I find that when you go to the base of the Tea Party Movement and the base of the Occupy movement you get to the exact same place…. as articulated in this political cartoon: http://www.cartoonistgroup.com/store/add.php?iid=72187

    In any event, Nextest, you really undermine your credibility when you resort to such silly generalizations about the Occupy movement. The “Black Bloc,anarchists, drug-addled ” folks are a small minority of the people who support the movement.

    Look at the faces in these 1000+ pictures of people at Occupy Oakland and you will get a different perspective of the kind of normal middle of the road people who actively support Occupy. View the pics at http://www.scottolsen.org/?page=2

  • J.R.

    I saw some teachers in there, some familiar faces, but that is to be expected as it was stated by Troy flint that 200-300 Oakland teachers would be there. What does an anarchist or communist look like? Does anybody know?

  • lisbon

    Yes…young , white, and dirty-

    They are the ones trying so hard not to look white

  • Nextset

    A communist looks like a disingenuous white liberal. It’s very easy to spot them. There’s a particular affect. Think Obama’s buddy Ayres, Think the SLA, Think the UC Faculty. Now there are ethnic variants. We know who they are also. Profiling is really not difficult. The urban public school faculty is likely full of them.

    Save us from White Liberals.

  • J.R.

    “Yes…young , white, and dirty-

    They are the ones trying so hard not to look white”

    I bet there is quite a story behind that statement.

    Mount resentment is the biggest of all.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    As someone who has occupied Oakland, semi-peacefully, for the last 30 years, I respectfully suggest that it’s time for the Occupy encampment to regroup, re-strategize, declare Victory, and possibly move along. Yes, corporate greed is a valid thing to protest. But on the other hand, there are small, LOCAL businesses near the Occupation area that have been steadily losing business as a result of some of the mayhem and media attention.

    The holiday season is upon us, too. Our local restaurants and shops depend upon that seasonal income for their very survival. When the protests are, however unintentionally, causing decent, blue-collar people to be laid off from their jobs, then the Occupiers are CAUSING some of the same problems they originally set up camp to demonstrate against.

    And friends and neighbors, this of all years as we’re out making our holiday purchases and having our holiday evenings out, let’s all remember to Shop Oakland, OK?

  • http://www.AimSchools.org AIPCSParent

    @JR… the issue is not “Anarchist” per se.

    I included the term in quotes as it was used by Nextest.

    Some of my best friends are anarchists :-) (not really, but the political philosophy is not the problem per se).

    If you want to know what the problem people “look like” , the look like the people in this wikipedia article about Black Bloc tactics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_bloc .

  • J.R.

    What I was actually getting at is that just because people look a certain way does not preclude them from being an anarchist or troublemaker. Basically you cannot read peoples minds, or their hears or intent.You stated:

    “Look at the faces in these 1000+ pictures of people at Occupy Oakland and you will get a different perspective of the kind of normal middle of the road people who actively support Occupy”.

    These could all be people who are dependent on public sector money(taxes)in one way or another and tend to lean toward or sympathize with anti-business and or free market ideologies to begin with. George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson warned about Government being too big, and amassing too much public debt. We made things much worse when we created the federal reserve and fractional banking. ignorant people don’t realize that you don’t just create jobs out of thin air, you have to take risks,have capitol,market conditions,customer base and so forth. the productive taxpayers are tired of the BS, while we know greed is a problem, we also know that only 53% of the 99% pay taxes, and even less pay taxes from money not originating from tax money.