Occupy needs students

By Editorial Board

For weeks now, the Occupy movement has gained momentum, media attention and, of course, scrutiny. What began as a small ragtag group protesting Wall Street greed in downtown Manhattan has erupted into a national phenomenon, with participants voicing anger about the many wars America is fighting, the sour economy and even Palestinian repression. A sister movement called Occupy Colleges encouraged students to walk out of their classes to join Occupy Wall Street.

There are plenty of reasons students should be angry. The unemployment rate for college graduates is higher than the national average. Students today will leave school with far fewer options than the last generation did. According to the Federal Reserve, student loan debt surpassed the total amount of credit card debt for the first time ever in 2010.

Unfortunately, not enough students are participating in this movement. Of the few that have, many don’t know the 12 policy goals that Occupy has set forth as its mission. Students need to get involved in politics and have their voices heard because a number of the 12 goals apply directly to their concerns.

Scores of liberal commentators have compared Occupy to the Vietnam War and Civil Rights protests of the 1960s. It’s obvious they want this movement to grow into the left’s version of the far-right Tea Party.

Comparing these mild protests to the largest social upheaval in American history, though, is a bit of a stretch. Sadly, today’s students are less politically active than their predecessors. There was a lot of hype surrounding student activism in President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. However, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, fewer students voted in 2008 than did in 1972, when Richard Nixon crushed George McGovern.

The youth of the ’60s knew what was happening in the world around them and rose up to have their voices heard. Many students who voted for Obama in 2008 couldn’t name a policy of his that they supported—they just knew he was the “cool” candidate.

College students and recent grads ought to be angry, but they also need to present solid solutions to these problems. Walking out of class doesn’t show solidarity—it shows laziness. The Occupy movement has serious potential to become a driving force in politics. Students need to get informed, take responsibility and make this movement the contemporary equivalent of the 1960s. America is at a crossroads, and it is students who can make a difference; but first, they need to do a little more learning.