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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 an academic scope of the topic. 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 1
  • Modern events 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Early 1965 events

The concept of the teach-in was invented by anthropologist 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. 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.  
  2. ^ Anderson, David L. (2000). The human tradition in the Vietnam era. Rowman & Littlefield,. p. 183.  
  3. ^ Farrell, James J. (1997). The spirit of the sixties: making postwar radicalism. Routledge.  

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

  • Texts and online audio recordings of Berkeley Teach-in speakers
  • Focus the Nation Teach-in
  • 2010 Imperative Teach-in
  • 2012 Imperative Teach-in - Ecological Literacy in Design Education
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