Students in Dr. Jonathan Wharton’s National Government class at Stevens Institute of Technology are analyzing Occupy Wall Street to learn how movements and individuals impact the political process.
The high-publicity Occupy Wall Street protest has provided a unique learning opportunity for students in the class. “Following current events has always been a requirement of this course,” says Dr. Wharton, “but the current political environment has made it an especially active semester for in-class discussions.”
With Occupy Wall Street’s epicenter so close to the Hoboken campus, some students feel the movement has a special impact on them. “Since it’s happening right there across the river, I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the news,” says Andres Diaz-Borda ’15.
In Dr. Wharton’s opinion, it’s not just being in New Jersey that makes the movement meaningful to his students. “I think younger people in particular are concerned about the state of the economy and have been anxious to see some kind of grassroots movement take shape in response to our economic problems,” he says.
“Of course, not all the students in my class are on the same page about Occupy Wall Street.”
“Hearing other students’ views in class has led me to see that a lot of the protester’s ideas are valid,” explains Kyle Kampo ’15. “But at the same time I can’t see how you can stand around and do nothing all day and expect changes to occur. That’s not how our democracy and society works.”
Carolina Tejada ’14 supports the protesters. “I think that Occupy Wall Street is definitely a step in the right direction. If you believe in something, you should be willing to stand up for it, even if you get criticized.”
Although Dr. Wharton’s students fall across the political spectrum, they all now agree that understanding the American political process is key to effecting change.
Adith Subramanian ’14 claims these are lessons the protesters could use.
“Dr. Wharton really encourages you to get involved with the process,” Adith says. “He uses current events as examples for how we could apply our knowledge of how the government actually works and, as individuals, make a difference in the system.”