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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. As an example, a teach-in at the University of Michigan in May 1965 began with a discussion of the Vietnam war draft and ended with the logistics of a takeover of the University.
The first major teach-in was organized by 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. Michigan faculty members such as Anatol Rapoport and Charles Tilly were also involved.
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 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. 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. Benjamin Spock; veteran socialist leader Norman Thomas; novelist Norman Mailer; and independent journalist I. F. Stone. Other speakers included: California Assemblymen Willie Brown, William Stanton and John Burton; Dave Dellinger (political activist); James Aronson (National Guardian magazine); philosopher Alan Watts; comedian Dick Gregory; Paul Krassner (editor, The Realist); M.S. Arnoni (philosopher, writer, political activist); Edward Keating (publisher, Ramparts Magazine); Felix Greene (author and film producer); Isadore Zifferstein (psychologist); Stanley Scheinbaum (Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions); Paul Jacobs (journalist and anti-nuclear activist); Hal Draper (Marxist writer and a socialist activist); Levi Laud (Progressive Labor Movement); Si Casady (California Democratic Council); George Clark (British Committee on Nuclear Disarmament); Robert Pickus (Turn Toward Peace); Bob Parris and Bob Moses (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee); Jack Barnes (National Chair of the Young Socialist Alliance); Mario Savio (Free Speech Movement); Paul Potter (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.
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 Teach-ins have recently been used by environmental educators. The â2010 Imperative: A Global Emergency Teach-inâ was held in 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 spoke to an auditorium full of students. On this day, âThe 2030 Challengeâ and the â2010 Imperativeâ were issued as strategies to mobilise 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 âFocus the Nationâ event January 31, 2008 and then again in the 'National Teach-in' February 5, 2009.
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