Democracy school – Igniting a Rights Movement for Communities and Nature – is our flagship education program and a key piece of our community organizing.

Our educational initiative explores the limits of conventional regulatory organizing and offers a new organizing model that helps citizens confront the usurpation by corporations of the rights of communities, people, and earth. Lectures cover the history of people’s movements and corporate power, and the dramatic organizing over the last decade in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, and Oregon by communities confronting agribusiness, the oil and gas industry, corporate hegemony over worker rights, and others.

Democracy School is an intensive look at the history and process of law-making in our system. The information is both chilling and enabling, because a better understanding of the present system also awakens a profound sense of responsibility for making change.

Annely Germaine, Oregon Democracy School participant

If you take no other training this year, do the Democracy School. It is a superlative unfolding revelation of how corporations have hijacked democracy. It meticulously deconstructs the historical arc that brought us to this precipice. But most importantly, it then departs into the highly pragmatic and inspiring work now underway that is slowly turning the tide . . . This Second American Revolution may be the most important political work going on anywhere in the country or the world.

Kenny Ausubel, Founder and Co-Executive Director, Bioneers

Democracy School was a mind-blowing experience. During the School, I was forced to come to grips with the understanding that I really knew very little about the true structure of law that controls our activism. Democracy School is a must for everyone who seeks to be liberated from our defensive, after-the-fact reactive organizing strategies.

Krishnaveni Gundu, Calhoun County (TX) Resource Watch

The initiative is intended to help people see clearly through the fog, to understand their own history, and to drive change to the very basic foundations of this country. Such understanding builds momentum to unite, to resist, and to build anew.

Host a Democracy School

Igniting a Rights Movement for Communities and Nature

The Daniel Pennock Democracy School is a stimulating and illuminating course that teaches residents and activists an empowering new approach on how to reframe exhausting and often discouraging single-issue work – such as opposing fracking, overdevelopment, and pesticides, or advocating for worker rights, housing access, and protecting water – in a way that we can confront corporate control and government interference on a powerful front: the people’s right of local self-governance and Nature’s rights.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we have moved our Democracy School to a virtual format. Now more than ever education and outreach are crucial components of movement building. We look forward to safely conducting in-person events soon, but for now we hope you’ll attend or host a virtual Democracy School within your community!

These events are open to anyone who wants to attend; however, this is a great opportunity to network within your community – even virtually. The purpose of the online Democracy School is to educate the public about rights based organizing, inform participants about our work and introduce strategies for how they can begin organizing in their own communities

Educating your community is one of the most powerful steps toward change you can make.

Curriculum

The virtual Democracy School consists of 4 modules organized as lecture/presentation, small-group breakout discussion, and large-group discussion.

Module 1: Where We Are Now – Exposing Intentional Barriers to Community Self-Determination

Module 1 – Where We Are focuses our attention on the reality of the system of governance and law that currently exists within the United States of America and how intentional barriers have been created to block essential local governing decisions. Module 1 is structured to provide an opportunity for activists and organizers to introduce themselves and become comfortable with sharing ideas and experiences as we move through large group discussions, short videos, small group discussions, and various engaging exercises throughout all the Modules in this Democracy School: Igniting a Rights Movement for Communities and Nature program.

In Module 1, we explore illusions of democracy and false protections of both humans and nature within the current structure of law and government. Using material from Chris Hedges, “corporate anthropologist” Jane Ann Morris, CELDF’s Box of Allowable Activism, and our collective organizing and activist experiences, we encourage open dialogue around the way corporatism, patriarchy, white supremacy and other oppressive structures frame where we are and why we can’t seem to get what we need in our communities. Module 1 explores how our activism is “regulated” and “boxed in”, major legal doctrines that determine the effectiveness of our activism, and our own thinking around Common Myths & Diversions that create the illusion of a democratic process for the protection of people and nature. We will reflect on what it is that holds us back from making necessary changes and what possibilities we see for future generations and the planet.

Module 3: How we could make change – Asserting Rights

In Module 3 – How We Could Make Change we consider inherent and unalienable rights, and their history and application in the United States. From the Declaration of Independence to Abolition, Suffrage and Civil Rights, to recognizing Rights of Nature, we’ll explore how people have come together in both peaceful and violent revolutions to challenge existing power structures. By analyzing both past and current movements establishing rights for people and ecosystems, we explore ways to create necessary changes in rights-protecting decision-making power.

Through group exercises, short readings and discussions, brief videos and reviews of historical confrontations between oppressed people and their oppressors, this module will encourage us to think, to grapple with the ideal of placing fundamental rights at the heart and foundation of what governing is supposed to be about.


Module 2: How did we get here? The Power of Property

Module 2 – How We Got Here focuses attention on the ways the U.S. structure of law and governance was built around valuing and prioritizing rights vested in property above all other rights. Said differently, we will examine how the U.S. Constitution, federal and state law, as well as judicial rulings predictably, favor wealth [corporate and other] and its accumulation over the equal and inalienable rights that people hold as a birthright, as asserted in the Declaration of Independence.

Through group exercises, short readings and discussions, brief videos and historical perspectives, this module exposes the interwoven structure of government mechanisms that were put forward by European colonization. Through genocide and land appropriation rationalized by arbitrary law, North America became a historical crime site. With the illegitimate invention of legal doctrines like the Law of Conquest and the Doctrine of Discovery, colonization of the continent proceeded by enslaving and transporting Africans to these colonies, and by decimating indigenous tribes and removing them from their traditional lands.

With independence from the British Empire, the patriarchal Federalists initiated a patrician counter-revolution in 1787 when they met secretly in Philadelphia to craft a system of government that would “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority,” as James Madison, architect of the U.S.Constitution put it. In doing so, the Federalists ensured the continuation of “ethnic cleansing” of the indigenous tribes, the uninterrupted enslavement of Africans, the subordination of women, and institutional checks against democratic participation by working-class people, down to the present day. We examine this living history, which set the stage for the growth of corporate privilege — or “rights” — which today define the realities of community injustice, oppression, and inequity. Module 2 provides the reframing in our own minds that the system is not broken, but is fixed to protect the “opulent minority” and creates tools for oppression that are still used today as valid law and standing precedent.

Module 4: Where We Could End Up – Building a Movement for Real Change

Module 4 – Where We Could End Up forces us to look ahead, exploring options of what is next, and what we might do. We will talk about multiple strategies around building a movement, as we seek to change our present system at local, state, and national levels.

We explore the timeline of one of the suffrage movements as a practical example to prove the necessity of a multi-pronged strategy in changing an unjust system. We also delve into Movement theory, and differentiate among Meme, Moment and Movement categories. Adam Winkler’s work in We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won their Civil Rights, and the Stratfor Report show how corporations (and bodies of power in general) enhance their own privilege by analyzing the people and activist activities in order to maintain their power.   

Module 4 requires attendees to reflect on our own roles in the work we do, and determine whether we are Radicals, Idealists, Realists, or Opportunists (using just one rubric that is conducive to reflection, strategizing and action).

Module 4 ties together the other three modules and brings fully into view the realities of the  Box of Allowable Activism introduced in Module 1 as a framework that both explains the legal doctrines that stand in the way of sustaining just outcomes and the blueprint for where our organizing must be aimed.

As we think of how to build a Community Rights Movement, we will explore the realities of how this movement is about more than just environmental rights and justice, and how working for community rights is a way of seeking a more just and equitable world for all marginalized and oppressed people among us, starting in the communities where we live.

Space is limited for each school. The modules are not recorded and participants must attend all four modules in order to contribute to a more dynamic experience.

Duration: Each event consists of four Modules (two hours per module) for a total of eight hours.

Attendance: Up to 25 people.

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