We didn't think of a working title till the end of the first meeting, but we decided on "Collective Study Project."
We began with the question, "Is there a need in our progressive movement that we can help with?"
At first, we talked about Occupy Wall Street, its composition and its effect on the movement in general. To a large extent, OWS shares the virtues and vices of today's youth, often referred to as "Generation Y." Our combined research and first hand experiences indicates that they are strong, resourceful, daring, and extremely optimistic. They are the most internet-savvy people ever, and they have the impatience that goes with it. Like the youth movement of the 1960-70s, which generated larger crowds, they share no clear program that could give them purpose.
We have little hard data, but we do have a short summary of the five-question survey that Little School enrollees fill out. They scored very high on the questions about socialism and the working class, but largely failed the two questions testing their ability to use dialectical materialism.
That brought us to the problem at hand, "How can we help make our American progressive movement more effective?" The answers lie not only in belief systems, but also in action systems. What we need to do is bring people toward both more activity and improved beliefs, so that their effectiveness grows.
We not only have to promote effective beliefs and behaviors, but we have to overcome what has been ingrained into every victim of capitalist society. It isn't just a matter of learning what's useful, but also a matter of rejecting what's incorrect and counterproductive.
In a few brief sentences, we demolished the usual conception of "education." It tends to be linear and one-way, from "teacher" to "student," and would not fit with today's activists. Learning experiences have to come in tiny doses and they have to be far more accessible than any classroom ever was. We noted that the old "consumer versus creator" educational mold is broken. Wikipedia seems to represent a more modern approach to participatory learning.
In that regard, we gave the Little School relatively high marks. It's there 24/7, and very few of the modules take more than five minutes. It links various ideas and various vocabulary words. On the downside, it doesn't have the kind of sharp appearance and snazzy technology that Gen-Y respects. There are a lot of topics that aren't covered. The school is still relatively obscure. It needs to be promoted.
We discussed a few vocabulary words that don't seem to represent what is needed. For example, Instead of "Marxism," we suggested "scientific social change."
We may be overemphasizing webinars. They are only part of the solution and, the way we've done them up to now, they resemble traditional classrooms too much. We need opportunities as accessible and interesting as YouTube. When we do webinars, they should be in the form of consultations and collective inquiries.
Although we did not come close to writing a mission statement at this first meeting, the general direction we took was toward challenging people to join us in participatory inquiries on current topics that would result in new materials for study. Our group would be open to the public but we would be able to directly invite members, especially new members, of CPUSA and YCL. We hope to expand and expand.
Contact me if interested in joining in, please.