Curriculum: Escalating Inequality, 2014 CS/AI

Background: UUJEC is Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, founded in 1989 to “engage, educate, and activate UU individuals and congregations, social justice groups, and community partners to fulfill our vision of positive systemic change”. UUJEC led the campaign for passage of the Congregational Study/Action Issue (CS/AI) on “Escalating Inequality” at the 2014 UUA Annual General Assembly in Providence, Rhode Island. Every two years, one of five proposed CS/AIs is chosen for “four years of study, reflection, and action” by UU congregations throughout the United States. See the Curriculum Summary page for an overview of key concepts covered by this study guide for the “Escalating Inequality” CS/AI.

Sources: A number of books are recommended as primary sources of readings in the list of Annotated References. Some videos, web sites, and articles were found that could serve as partial substitutes for these books, or to supplement them. All the prior readings in the six sessions are taken from these primary book sources or from the online sources listed. For in-depth study, it is suggested that each individual in the group purchase or borrow a small selection of these books, or suitable substitutes, so that key lessons from each book may be described by at least one person. To supplement the short overviews in the Annotated References, use reviews that you can find on the Web. For a less book-oriented course, use the videos and articles, along with the Curriculum Summary.

Preparation: It may not always be possible for everyone to cover all the prior readings, so each session needs a session coordinator who ensures that at least two people are ready to help lead the discussion for each of the listed activities. “Ready to lead” means that the individuals have read or viewed the relevant sources, and reviewed the questions listed for the activity. For the initial session, the organizers could contact and assign people beforehand, whereas for subsequent sessions, volunteers could be solicited during the break or the final debrief. A session coordinator could line up people to help lead the next session’s activities. Alternative: The organizers could simply use a selection of these materials to help design their own approach to studying or acting on “Escalating Inequality”.

Process: Decide on a group process that is appropriate for the group size and composition. The session coordinator or designee would normally be the overall facilitator, with activity leaders for each activity. Who will take notes? Will a talking stick be needed?  A time keeper? In addition to quick round-robin introductions, a good idea would be to ask one or two people in each session to take 2 or 3 minutes to tell the rest of the group in more depth about their own socioeconomic story, including both the difficulties they may have faced and the advantages they may have had.

Outline of Six-Session Curriculum

Session 1  
Overview: How Inequality Drives Injustice

  • Sharing Our Concerns and Stories
  • The Awful Facts
  • Historical Patterns and Impacts of Inequality
  • Deeper Impacts of Inequality
  • Brainstorming Activities and Actions

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Session 2
World History:  The Deep Roots of Inequality

  • Origins of Debt, Money, and Inequality 
  • Inequality in the Rise and Fall of Empires
  • The Economics of Growth and Inequality
  • Class Barriers and Inequality

Session 3
The United States:  History of Inequality and Its Consequences

  • Historical Cycles of U.S. Inequality
  • Recent Escalating Inequality
  • Social Dysfunction and Inequality

Session 4
Hot Topics:  Income, Taxes, Regulations, Trade

  • Minimum & Living Wages. A Maximum Wage?
  • Progressive Taxes
  • Regulatory Capture, Deregulation, Monopoly Power, 
    Union Busting
  • Free Trade, Outsourcing, Race to the Bottom

Session 5
Dig Deeper:  Ownership, Democracy, Public Services

  • Ownership and Inequality
  • Democracy for Sale
  • Public Enterprise and Accountability

Session 6
ConclusionAction Toward a Sharing Society

  • Discuss Possible Actions. Where’s the Energy?
  • Grounding Our Actions in UU Principles?
  • Who Are Our Allies? How Do We Organize with Them?
  • Develop Leadership and Solidarity Toward a Sharing Society

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