A teach-in is a form of nonviolent protest which uses one of the most powerful protest tools of all: educational empowerment. At a teach-in, attendees can sit in on forums, discussion panels, lectures, and free debates about a topic. Typically, controversial and under-reported topics are chosen for a teach-in, with the goal of increasing awareness about these issues and encouraging people to act on them.
The concept of the teach-in arose in the 1960s, when students and staff at many universities wanted to participate in the growing anti-war movement, but found protest actions difficult on university grounds. When groups were told that protests would be met with stiff opposition, the Students for a Democratic Society organized the first teach-in, which took place on a college campus in Michigan in 1965. The organizers of the event thought that since protest would be too difficult, they should try using education to engage the community, and in the process, they created a very effective tool.
Teach-ins are often held on college campuses, and they sometimes occur in conjunction with mass protests, allowing protesters to attend teach-in events and put their knowledge to immediate use. Teach-ins are also hosted at other sites such as libraries and community centers. The guests and panelists at a teach-in are often drawn from a wide community, incorporating traditional professors, people with experience in the field, and notable commentators on the topic.
The topic of a teach-in can vary widely. At many large organized protests, for example, teach-ins are held in the days leading up to the event, allowing people to become educated about the issues being protested. Protest teach-ins may also cover topics like nonviolent protesting, passive resistance, and other protest tactics. A teach-in may also be used to raise community awareness about issues like ongoing wars, genocides, and other social problems; on university campuses, a teach-in often attempts to highlight the direct links between the university and the ongoing events.
Organizing a teach-in is easiest with a large group, and it helps to network with people who have connections. For example, if a group of high school students wants to organize a teach-in about draft resistance, they might want to network with a local draft resistance advocacy groups, as well as veterans and current members of the military to get a broad cross-section of information and opinion about the issue. Many leftist organizations are happy to assist people who want to organize teach-ins, and these organizations can provide advice derived from their own experiences.