Informal political education is on the rise, so it seems. From Glenn Beck University lectures on forgotten religious influences in America's founding, to Dream University's demonstrations for immigrants' rights, non-academics are trying to lead the charge in political action before November's contentious midterm elections.
Liberty Central has now joined the fight to educate their members on grassroots movements and political organizing. The conservative group, which has strong ties to Tea Party activists, started an online training program, complete with five courses: Founding Principles, Action & Accountability, Winning Campaigns, Speak Up, and Money Matters. As a part of its "Accountability Month" project, the courses aim to "keep Washington politicians accountable and elect a more constitutionally-inclined Congress" through educating members on successful campaigning and conservative ideals.
The project's introduction video shows images of disheartened Tea Party protesters marching on Washington, with a rousing narration that invokes the ideas that America is heading toward tyranny and socialism.
"Will you sit back and watch history, or will you stand up and make history?" the narrator, conservative radio host, Herman Cain, says. He adds:
Will American be self governed according to the truth of a document that begins with three simple words; 'We the people,' or will we be ruled by a robust, elitist government our founders would never recognize? Self-governed or ruled? That's what we as ordinary citizens must decide.
Each of the five courses includes up to six video lectures from acclaimed professors and political organization leaders, ranging from three minutes to an hour in length. Along with the videos, the project also includes supplemental training resources with links to related workshops on how to run successful campaigns.
With the fall semester a few weeks away, conservative college students still have time to enroll into the Liberty Central Training. Although hesitant with the idea of political activism courses run by Tea Party members, some students seemed open to the idea of participating.
Northern Illinois University (NIU) senior Leigh Owano said that although she does not have a lot of time to dedicate toward the program, she would be interested in some of the courses offered.
"I think, particularly the two-minute videos that brief you on a topic, would be useful as teaching materials," she said. "I can see it being effective and I'd take time to watch them."
Working on campaigns for the last eight years, Owano said that she could use the information for project coordination and organizing volunteers for the congressional campaign she will work for in the fall.
"As long as they are what they sound like they are -- to-the-point and factual -- I imagine I would find them easy to digest, interesting and useful," she said.
The Tea Party movement has also attracted those who classify themselves as "independents." Congressional intern and NIU senior Dave Thomas said that the new project seems to be a smart endeavor.
"The Tea Partiers will have an effect in this upcoming election, but you need programs like this in order for the movement to sustain itself past this election," he said.
Although he said the program is intriguing, the partisan nature of the courses serves as a disadvantage.
"I think the weakest part of these courses will be articulating the political positions of conservatives," he said.
There is, however, a good portion of conservatives who do not like the Tea Party movement, viewing their recent press about racist comments and unorthodox antics by members as a hindrance for the GOP in the fall. St. Ambrose University senior Alan Wendt joins those outspoken against the Tea Partiers.
"The Tea Party is what makes the Republicans look like a bunch of crazy Americans who want to own guns and be racist," he said. "They are too outspoken and will hurt the Republican Party's chance at winning elections."
In order to win elections, organizers at Liberty Central understand the need of a strong, grassroots base of voters and organizers who are fired up and ready to go door-to-door for their candidates. As was witnessed through the impressive Get-Out-the-Vote campaign by Obama for America during the 2008 presidential race, these new organizing tools provided by self-proclaimed educators could make a difference in November's elections.