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Contact 180/MDE:

180-Movement for 
Democracy and Education Clearinghouse 
PO Box 251701
Little Rock, AR 72225 USA
Ph: (501) 244-2439
Fx: (501) 374-3935

180-Movement for Democracy and Education

About us

[Mission ] [History - our story ] [The Future ] [FAQ ]

Also check out Education in Crisis , a pamphlet that articulates more about the ideas of 180/MDE


The 180 Movement for Democracy and Education is dedicated to helping build a campus-based movement for political empowerment and participatory democracy.  Through education and organizing we hope to encourage a radical political presence in our schools to transform them and our communities into truly democratic spaces.

We oppose corporate control of the university and society, inequitable and disempowering elementary education, shrinking access to higher education, and the racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression in our world. We support all efforts in these and other struggles for democratic empowerment; the focus of our organizing will evolve in practice.

Our goal is to help build a mass movement to reinvigorate a political culture of engaged democracy and social justice in our schools, in our communities, across our country and beyond.


History - the 180/MDE Story

PHASE 1:  Planting - Democracy Teach-Ins Begin (1996-1998)

Often, the product of years of work appears solid in the present, and obvious to all observers, when in fact that product was at its inception little more than a question, or an idea - This is the case with the 180/Movement for Democracy and Education.  The creators of 180/MDE brought the organization into being slowly, with great effort and commitment.  180/MDE is the product of discussions involving hundreds of people.  We did not construct 180/MDE; rather, we planted seeds and helped them grow.

In February of 1996, the initial discussion regarding what would eventually become the Democracy Teach-Ins took place at a conference at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  This conference was called by the Coalition for
Socially Responsible Investment.  At first, the stated goal of the conference was the formation of a national student organization.  But as the weekend discussions continued,  it became clear that those present were not ready to agree on what a new organization would look like, or what its priorities would be.

Would the focus be on social responsibility, or on undermining corporate power?

Were international human rights issues of more concern than domestic labor and environmental struggles, or was there a healthy broader movement that could encompass all such issues?

Unable to agree on answers, we agreed that a more complete debate about these questions could best be brought about through Teach-Ins.

Since that conference in 1996, five waves of Democracy Teach-Ins have taken place.  These Teach-Ins have involved tens of thousands of students, campus workers, and community members, and have encompassed hundreds of campuses across North America.  The Teach-Ins have succeeded in raising serious questions about the current state of democracy, and about the role of corporations in subverting democracy and education.  They have also served to engage several hundred Teach-In organizers to consider  where campus organizing is headed today, and what direction we want it to take.

Yet after three years of Teach-In organizing, participants decided that it was not enough to ask the consistent Teach-In question, "Can we pursue democracy and social justice when corporations are allowed to control so much wealth and power?"  We decided that it was time to begin to answer that question with action.

PHASE 2: Sprouting - 180/MDE Emerges (1999-2001)

The Campus Democracy Convention concluded on November 9, 1998 with its final act: The formation of the 180/Movement for Democracy and Education (180/MDE).  The organization was created as a means to support the emergence of a mass movement of students, educators, campus workers, and the broader public, devoted to democracy and opposed to corporatization. Convention participants established all the basic institutions of the 180/MDE, including the chapters, a general council, task groups, and most importantly, campaigns and projects.

Over the course of 1999, 180/MDE and its projects materialized and began to solidify:

Students and campus workers established a dozen active, functional chapters across the U.S. Midwest, South, and West.

The Democracy Teach-In Clearinghouse became the 180/MDE Clearinghouse. Clearinghouse volunteers published several pamphlets relating to the World Trade Organization, as well as the corporatization of education.

A fourth wave of Teach-Ins were organized on many campuses, this time focusing on the World Trade Organization and Education.  A decision was made to cooperate, but not merge with, the newly formed Student Alliance to Reform Corporations (STARC).

Regional Conferences were organized twice in the midwest, once in the northeast, and once in the south.

The internal structure of 180/MDE progressed in clarification and development.   The 180/MDE Speakers Bureau was established, as was a new campaign of resistance to World Trade Organization control of education.  A Teach-In series was held on Campus Democracy and one is currently in the works on the prison-industrial complex and its effects on education.

A fifth wave of Teach-Ins happened around the prison Industrial Complex.

The Campus Democracy Convention was help in Lawrence, Kansas.  


The Future - (2002-beyond)

In the coming year, 180/MDE will push its central message onto the pages of campus, community, and corporate newspapers, and across the airwaves of the continent: The corporate takeover of education threatens the hope for a society ruled by the people.   We will bring this message to the forefront wiith local, coordinated, grassroots organizing by our chapters around issues of campus democracy, through our Teach-Ins and other projects, and through an effective general campaign against the World Trade Organization and the racist prison system.

Finally, in the year 2002, the 180/MDE should be in a position to move confidently from our  base in the United States, to engage existing movements in other regions of the world on a platform of solidarity, mutual aid, and mutual education.  Without such global solidarity, any movement for democracy will surely lose to the combined power of global corporate capital.


Frequently Asked Questions

180?  As in "180 degree turn" (remember your trig classes?).  As in what we want, a turn-around from a corporate-centered agenda to one for the people.

Movement?  The word "movement" is a recognition that we are part of an international, sectoral movement, and refuse to be limited by national and other divisions.

Democracy?  What can we accomplish without it?

Education?  We fight for education as a fundamental basis of real democracy.

"and Education?"  The struggle is for democracy, not only in education, but everywhere.