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Prep for Spring: Student Teach-Ins Prior to Direct Action

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During the fall and winter months of the 2011-12 school year, Occupy Ohio State students picked up a teach-in technique, similar to that of the 1960s teach-ins, in order to hold and expand their activist base and to strengthen minds on the hot topics of planned warm-weather direct action.

"Smart Hibernation"

The Ohio State student activists realized that winter would be a time of decreased feasibility of large-scale direct action due to factors such as severe weather and decreased excitement. Who wants to join a movement while slipping on ice and suffering the winter blues? Thus, the students decided to slow down their Occupy OSU student movement and run off of the energy provided in existing textbooks, brains and videos in order to educate and prep activists old and new for the springtime. The spring represented and currently represents, for the general Occupy movement, a time when opportunities for a large-scale direct action are more feasible, hence the buzz over the 99% spring.

However, the student activists did not want to merely survive the winter, but to come out stronger and more prepared.

These teach-ins featured set-ups ranging from graduate student and faculty panel discussions on the Occupy movement to observing past activism via film footage, such as The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975. The structure of a typical teach-in or similar educational event for Occupy OSU was a presentation or video, an open discussion and a call for engagement.

Prime and Funnel

The Occupy OSU organizers used the Feb. 28 Teach-In on Education to encourage attendees to participate in Occupy OSU's March 1 Event on the Oval. As a repetition and reminder, take-home pamphlets at the teach-in were passed out that included information on the educational inequities and increased corporatization of the university and had the date "March 1st" on the cover page. The event served as a priming and funneling mechanism, where informed and inspired teach-in attendees were encouraged to take direct action.

Put It into Practice

More than 300 students and community supporters gathered at Ohio State on March 1 for the direct action. At 3 p.m. the rally started on Ohio State's Oval, a large green area at the center of campus. The rally, followed by a march on campus and on High Street, brought to live action the ideas taught at the fall and winter teach-ins and educational events. It was a smart hibernation after all.

Signs and chants echoing ideas that had been deeply explored at the teach-in on Feb. 28 were brought out en masse to the general public of Columbus. The students were educated, strengthened and mobilized to act.

Spring Walk-Out or Teach-in?

The teach-in will likely continue to be used, in some form, by Occupy OSU activists; however, there will likely be a shift in emphasis towards priming activists for direct action -- spring training -- rather than a multitude of in-depth educational sessions.

The need to slow down is over, but will the student activists keep hitting the books on hot-topic issues and spreading accurate understanding to old and new participants?

This adherence to a calendar approach -- attaching certain strategies to the seasons -- to social organization for the Occupy and the Occupy OSU student movement will be one to keep an eye out for in regard to its efficacy, especially if the smart hibernation turns into a fizzle due to a possible decrease in springtime education on the hot topic issues, replaced by large numbers of marching legs. Yet, perhaps, the 99% spring trainings will introduce a new model of social engagement featuring a dynamic mix of brains and brawn.