What's the Talking Capitalism road trip?
To launch Talking Capitalism I spent the fall of 2018 on a teaching sabbatical driving across the United States, talking with people about how they live capitalism.
In 11 weeks I travelled 12,285 miles, through 38 states, mainly on two-lane roads. I worked with hundreds of students and great faculty in 11 high schools and community colleges in diverse communities (rural, urban, black, white, hispanic, native, rich and poor). I had conversations about capitalism with all kinds of people: small business owners, farmers, law students, real estate investors, retired workers, people who work in salons, grocery clerks, police officers, librarians, fellow hikers on trails and RV retirees in campgrounds. I spent most nights in a tent, usually in local, state and national parks. I saw my country in new ways: places and communities I'd only read about. I took countless pictures of vistas: plains and mountains and space.
The idea for Talking Capitalism - and the road trip - came in the fall of 2017 when I was biking a lot around western Massachusetts. On those rides I passed through towns where mills had thrived, wealthy college towns with co-working spaces and too many coffee shops, abandoned and working farms (many reliant on immigrant labor). I was thinking about my students at Central Connecticut State University and the ideas and experiences we discuss in the classroom. And I was worrying about the future of our country. One day, somewhere between Turners Falls and Greenfield, I realized getting in the car (with the bike on the back) and starting to drive could be the beginning of a larger project. The road trip is one piece of what I hope becomes many widespread, ongoing, conversations.
As I travelled I posted to the Road Trip blog about work I did in schools and conversations I had with people I met. Observations about capitalism from the road. The Blog page of the website will include the road trip posts as well as posts from other people, not on the trip.
"Dr. Stookey's presentation on capitalism with our students was not only impressive but sparked some momentum for my students to want to learn more about our government and economy. Usually it's not hard to gain their attention when discussing money, but motivating them to want to learn more about our economy system in American can be a challenge. Dr. Stookey's presentation to the students piqued their curiosity and made my job easier for the rest of the semester. She also took the time to learn about our students and provided relevant, real world points to help them learn about how the U.S. economy works and how they fit into that system."
Christopher Buggs, social studies teacher, West Side Leadership Academy, Gary, IN
"It was great to have you give a presentation to my students in the Principles of Management class in Kyle here at Oglala Lakota College. The papers that were turned in by students showed that they really got it. One of the students who is also in my Business Communication class wrote his midterm paper on Capitalism. The information you presented was well done and made interesting to the students. They found it relevant to issues here on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I was truly impressed at the level of engagement that you drew from these students. I am hoping that we can work together in the future for future academic presentations on this important topic. Thank you again."
Joanne White Thunder, Ed.D. Associate Professor, Business, Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, SD
"Your presentation was very clear and informative. You have jump started my class in the spring! You presented it on a level for high school students to understand. I look forward to you coming back next year!"
Carmen Wyms, social studies teacher, Gentry High School, Indianola, MS
"Thank you for presenting. The measure of success is not so much what we say, but what the students say. During class transition, a student came to me and said that he really enjoyed your presentation. That meant everything to me, and it is a strong testament to you and Ms. Wyms. Great job, and let's keep in touch. Thanks again."
Willie Bolden, Principal, Gentry High School, Indianola, MS
"Thanks so much for bringing your discussion to our community college students. The students were very interested and definitely benefited from your discussion."
Yolanda Diaz-Houston, Digital Management and Career Preparation Instructor, Cabrillo College, Aptos, CA
"For our students, college is a dream that can feel unattainable at times due to societal stigmas and financial hardships. Hearing from Professor Stookey and participating in a college-based discussion helped to open their eyes about not only the topics discussed but the expectations from teacher to student. Students began to understand the role they play in capitalism, which is priceless!"
Madison Gipe, social studies teacher, Watsonville High School, Watsonville, CA
"It was great having you visit our school! The students in my Sociology and Civics courses agreed that you used a very understandable and simple approach to a very complex concept. You gave them a greater understanding of the impact of capitalism in our society. Your demeanor was very well received in our school and you were extremely professional in your delivery. The lesson was applicable to their interests and you did an excellent job of using examples that they could connect to. Thank you for taking the time to stop at Belleville West High School!"
Stacey Perkinson-Posey, social studies teacher, Belleville West H.S., Belleville, IL
“We were fortunate to have Sarah Stookey in our school building this week and I had the opportunity to open my classroom to have Sarah speak to several of my classes. She broke down some complex concepts that students struggle with, made it interesting and the students were consistently engaged.”
Kenzi Mitchell, business education teacher, Williston H.S., Williston, ND
"It was wonderful to have Sarah in the Values in World Thought class. Her engagement with the students around capitalism fit perfectly with the segment on the meaning of money we were doing in our curriculum. It is amazing that our citizens know so little about the theory and practice of capitalism. The students were fully engaged in the conversation throughout as Sarah helped them understand the economic waters they swim in. Awareness creates choice. As the students become more aware of the economic world in which they live they will develop a greater ability to choose how to engage. In the two periods we had Sarah opened up a broader perspective for the students that we can build on through the year."
Ward Mailliard, Government in Action, Values in Global Thought teacher, Mt. Madonna School, Watsonville, CA
“Sarah spent three hours with my ESOL students. As persons contributing to the economy, a capitalistic one, I was extremely excited to have her come educate my students. She did an excellent job of breaking down a complex system into pieces and describing the importance of each piece. Personally, the breakdown of the system resembles the factory description used to describe a mathematical function. There is a set of inputs going into a black box and a set of outputs being produced by the black box. It is important that people coming from a wide variety of countries with different economic systems understand capitalism in layman's terms, Sarah accomplished this goal with my students. They left the classroom having a better understanding of the role they play in the system and how it affects them, without becoming overwhelmed with the detail and theory required to explain the black box. Having studied biochemistry and biomedical sciences, I know how difficult it can be to communicate complex systems and I was thoroughly impressed by her ability to do it with individuals in the process of learning English.”
Ruben Dorador, ESOL instructor, North Lake College, Dallas County Community College District, Irving, TX