Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the Eleventh Edition, defines teach-ins as “an extended meeting usually held on a college campus for lectures, debates, and discussions to raise awareness of or express an opinion on a social or political issue.” Teach-ins are slightly different from protest meetings. They are much larger in scale, having more speakers, and their duration is significantly longer. The main objective of a teach-in is to provide as much relevant information as possible on the topic of protest, along with information on subjects loosely related to the main idea. Opinions and discussion are encouraged allowing different viewpoints to be better understood. The goal is for the attendees to develop their own opinions regarding the main issue based on the information provided and the resulting discussions.
The most well-known teach-ins were held in 1965. They were held in both the United States and Europe during the Vietnam War, the largest of which was held at UC Berkley on May 21 – 23, 1965. It lasted 36 hours and approximately 30,000 people attended. It was organized by the Vietnam Day Committee, or VDC. Interestingly, the State Department was asked to send a representative, but the department rejected the offer. In response to the decline, the VDC set an empty chair to the side with a sign taped to the back of it that stated “Reserved for State Department.” (Rorabaugh, pp. 91–94).
More recently, teach-ins have been implemented by environmental educators and to protest capitalist society and policies. One of the most recent environmental teach-ins was held in 2007, called the “2010 Imperative: A Global Emergency Teach-In.” It took place at the New York Academy of Science. The event reached an unprecedented quarter of a million people in 47 different countries by using a webcast.
The Occupy Wall Street protests have utilized many teach-ins to educate the population about the corruption in capitalist society. Some of these teach-ins have utilized the internet to spread their message by posting the “classes” online. Many of these classes were lectures in regards to money, specifically jobs, taxes, and debt. These teach-ins are currently being held all over the world, including Egypt and Greece.
Teach-ins are an excellent form of nonviolent protest. Their dual purpose of education and protest creates an opportunity for those attending to broaden their knowledge on the subject matter while opening their minds to the opinions of others.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.