Wednesday’s Constitution Day Teach-In is a forum for engagement and action as well as discussion

The Constitution Day Teach-In on Wednesday September 17 will be an opportunity for the community to commemorate and discuss the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It will be a chance to engage in an expressive discourse on issues of compelling importance to contemporary society. All voices are welcome.

The teach-in concept may be unfamiliar, particularly to students and other young people.

The term was first used to describe a 1965 anti-war event at the University of Michigan. This event was organized by the Students for a Democratic Society and was attended by more than 3,000 students, faculty and community members. The concept of a teach-in is attributed to Dr. Marshall Sahlins, an anthropologist and University of Michigan faculty member.

A teach-in is not a seminar or panel discussion. It is a public, “general educational forum” in which all the participants engage in discussion, song and dramatic presentation on a topic of compelling public interest.

Teach-ins were widely used in the anti-war movement of the 1960’s. The concept of the teach-in, however, is not unlike the public discussions on civil rights that occurred in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Such discussions took place in churches, schools, private homes – any available venue.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as well as popular speakers on the left, e.g., Malcolm X, used such forums to educate and exhort people to action. These “meetings” always involved song and/or some dramatic presentation. The concept of “teaching” as public discourse is deeply rooted in the history of African American protest and civic action.

The teach-in will be held Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the General Classroom Building, Room A218.

Special thanks to Professor James Mayes for the history lesson!

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