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A teach-in is similar to a general educational forum on any complicated issue, usually an issue involving current political affairs. The main difference between a teach-in and a seminar is the refusal to limit the discussion to a specific frame of time or a strict academic scope. Teach-ins are meant to be practical, participatory, and oriented toward action. While they include experts lecturing on the area of their expertise, discussion and questions from the audience are welcome. "Teach ins" were popularized during the U.S. government's involvement in Vietnam. The first teach-in, which was held overnight at the University of Michigan in March 1965, began with a discussion of the Vietnam War draft and ended in the early morning with a speech by philosopher Arnold Kaufman.

Early 1965 events

The concept of the teach-in was developed by anthropologist Marshall Sahlins of the University of Michigan during a meeting at the home of philosopher Arnold Kaufman. About a dozen faculty members, including Jack Rothman, Eric Wolf, and Roger Lind, who had signed onto a one-day teaching strike to oppose the Vietnam War, had gathered there to discuss alternative ways to protest the war in the face of strong opposition to the strike from the Michigan legislature and governor as well as the university president.

A subsequent meeting of about 50 faculty members, held at the home of Bill Levant and chaired by William A. Gamson, was held to build a consensus about whether to hold the strike or do a teach-in instead. After a nearly all-night session in which every participant was asked to put forth their opinion, it became clear that a majority favored a teach-in, and a decision not to strike was agreed upon when vehement strike-proponent Tom Mayer gave his support. The first major teach-in was organized by faculty and Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor on March 24–25, 1965. The event was attended by about 3,500 and consisted of debates, lectures, movies, and musical events aimed at protesting the war.[1][2] Michigan faculty members such as Anatol Rapoport and Charles Tilly were also involved. A bomb threat in the middle of the night sent participants out into the freezing winter cold.

The largest Vietnam teach-in was held on May 21–23, 1965 at UC Berkeley. The event was organized by the Vietnam Day Committee (VDC), an organizing group founded by ex-grad student (sociology) Jerry Rubin, UCB Professor Stephen Smale (Mathematics), and others. The 36-hour event was held on a playing field where Zellerbach Auditorium is now located. From 10-30,000 people turned out.[3] The State Department was invited by the VDC to send a representative, but declined. UC Berkeley professors Eugene Burdick (Political Science) and Robert A. Scalapino (Political Science), who had agreed to speak in defense of President Johnson's handling of the war, withdrew at the last minute. An empty chair was set aside on the stage with a sign reading "Reserved for the State Department" taped to the back. [Rorabaugh, pp. 91–94]

Participants in the event included Dr. Benjamin Spock; veteran socialist leader Norman Thomas; novelist Norman Mailer; independent journalist I. F. Stone and historian Isaac Deutscher http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet/deutschertranscript.html. Other speakers included: California Assemblymen Willie Brown, William Stanton and John Burton; Dave Dellinger (political activist); James Aronson (National Guardian magazine); philosopher Alan Watts; comedian Dick Gregory; Paul Krassner (editor, The Realist); M.S. Arnoni (philosopher, writer, political activist); Edward Keating (publisher, Ramparts Magazine); Felix Greene (author and film producer); Isadore Zifferstein (psychologist); Stanley Scheinbaum (Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions); Paul Jacobs (journalist and anti-nuclear activist); Hal Draper (Marxist writer and a socialist activist); Levi Laud (Progressive Labor Movement); Si Casady (California Democratic Council); George Clark (British Committee on Nuclear Disarmament); Robert Pickus (Turn Toward Peace); Bob Parris and Bob Moses (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee); Jack Barnes (National Chair of the Young Socialist Alliance); Mario Savio (Free Speech Movement); Paul Potter (Students for a Democratic Society); and Mike Meyerson (national head of the Du Bois Clubs of America). British philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell sent a taped message to the teach-in.

Faculty participants included Professor Staughton Lynd (Yale); Professor Gerald Berreman (Chair, UCB Anthropology Dept.); and Professor Aaron Wildavsky (Political Science and Public Policy)

Performers included folk singer Phil Ochs; the improv group The Committee; and others.

The proceedings were recorded and broadcast, many of them live, by Berkeley FM station KPFA. Excerpts from the speeches by Lynd, Wildavsky, Scheer, Potter, Krassner, Parris, Spock, Stone and Arnoni were released the following year as an LP by Folkways Records, FD5765.

Modern events

In the 1990s activists began a new series of teach-ins focused on the corporatization of education and on corporate power generally. These began under the name of the 'National Teach-Ins on Corporations, Education, and Democracy' in 1996 and continued on as the 'Democracy Teach-Ins' (DTIs) of 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2002. Many leading activist and intellectual figures of the 1990s, including Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Richard Grossman, Naomi Klein, and Vandana Shiva spoke at the Democracy Teach-Ins, which were coordinated in their first years by Ben Manski. The Democracy Teach-ins were coordinated on hundreds of campuses at once, and were intended to build campus-based networks of pro-democracy activists. The 1999 Democracy Teach-Ins, in particular, played an important role in mobilizing students for the 1999 Seattle WTO protests; the 2002 teach-ins played a similar role in preparing for the 2003 national Books Not Bombs student strike. After 1998, the DTIs became a project of the campus syndicalist movement 180/Movement for Democracy and Education.

Modern Teach-ins have recently been used by environmental educators. The ‘2010 Imperative: A Global Emergency Teach-in’ was held on February 20, 2007 at the New York Academy of Science and organized by Architecture 2030, led by architect Edward Mazria. The event reached a quarter million people from 47 different countries with an interactive webcast. The webcast featured presentations by climate scientist James E. Hansen, who spoke to an auditorium full of students. On this day, ‘The 2030 Challenge’ and the ‘2010 Imperative’ were issued as strategies to mobilize the architectural design industry to stabilize carbon emissions in the building sector. Embedding ecological literacy in the architectural industry was the central strategy in the Teach-in.

The teach-in model was also used by a ‘Focus the Nation’ event January 31, 2008 and then again in the 'National Teach-in' February 5, 2009.

In 2011, Occupy Wall Street movement began using Teach-ins to educate people to the inherent problems of capitalism.

See also


  1. Olson, James Stuart (1999). Historical dictionary of the 1960s. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 26. ISBN 0-313-29271-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Anderson, David L. (2000). The human tradition in the Vietnam era. Rowman & Littlefield,. p. 183. ISBN 0-8420-2763-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Farrell, James J. (1997). The spirit of the sixties: making postwar radicalism. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-91386-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • OUT NOW! A participant's account of the American movement against the Vietnam war. Fred Halstead. Monad Press/ New York, 1978.

External links