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Occupy Wall Street vs. The Tea Party: Their Views on Education

Dec 26, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are two very different movements—with seemingly opposite views on almost every issue. Predictably, their views on education—and the government’s role in making it available to all—are quite different. However, there are also some surprising similarities. Here’s a general overview of common Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street views on education.

Tea Party Demands

The Tea Party is all about smaller government and lower taxes, and their demands regarding education reflect that agenda. Major political candidates associated with the Tea Party have all been open about their desire to eliminate the federal Department of Education—and some go so far as to suggest getting rid of the public school system entirely.

The more extreme wing of the Tea Party sometimes calls for a return to the local school systems used in previous centuries, when education was funded privately by family members or students themselves—assisted by trade guilds, churches, charities, and other organizations when needed.

Don't Tread On Me

Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul was one of the first Tea Party candidates calling for elimination of the Department of Education. Other politicians who have made that suggestion include Nevada’s Sharron Angle and most of the republican Presidential candidates, including Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry.

Other demands from the Tea Party include a reduction of control by the federal government (candidate Herman Cain has called this “unbundling”), less standardized testing in schools, and an elimination or reduction of federal student loan programs. Under a Tea Party government, students would be on their own in paying for college and in getting lower-level education. But, theoretically at least, they would have more money to do it with—because their taxes would be lower.

Occupy Wall Street Demands


 In general, Occupy Wall Street’s views have been less unified than those of the Tea Party movement. However, it’s possible to piece together a general view based on current events and statements by Occupy Wall Street participants.

In November of 2011, approximately 200 students, parents, and education professionals marched in an Occupy Wall Street protest outside the US Department of Education. Their beef? Standardized testing, charter schools, and budget cuts—as well as strong mayoral control of schools in New York City. Some teachers were calling for elimination of standardized testing requirements that have a strong effect on school budgets and performance assessment.

Some organizers protested Mayor Bloomberg’s Panel for Educational Policy, whose board members were mostly appointed by the Mayor himself. Critics believe that the board simply passes the Mayor’s recommendations for schools without criticism, bypassing electoral processes.


This rally demonstrates a surprising intersection between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party when it comes to local control over schools and a reduction of standardized testing.  However, you aren’t likely to find many Occupy Wall Street protesters calling for the elimination of the Education Department. In addition, Occupy Wall Street sympathizers often call for more funding, not less, of public school systems. Many Occupy Wall Street protesters have demanded forgiveness of federal student loans as well as an expansion of federal student loan programs. Under an “Occupied” government, schools would likely be strongly funded by the federal government—and there would be more, not less, aid for college students.

Tea Party sympathizers often accuse Occupy Wall Street protesters of calling for more, not less, government control. But to many Occupy Wall Street sympathizers, the issue isn’t the size of government per se—it’s the control of corporations over popular interests, and government corruption and willingness to bow to private money. Despite their differences, both sides are reactions to difficult economic conditions—but one side sees the government as the problem, and the other side is more inclined to blame corporate America.


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