In This Issue What is Popular Education? ARTICLE: Under the Radar... Gatherings INTERVIEW: Larry Olds
Links to Change!
What is Popular Education? Popular education is the education in popular movements, i.e., democratic social movements against oppression and violence, and for sustainability, human rights, justice and peace. The point of view of this newsletter is that popular education is a broad framework of political and pedagogical principles from which all who do education can learn - whether they are community organizers, activists, community based educators, or classroom teachers. These principles have multiple roots. Among those roots are:
- the work of Paulo Freire and the many who were inspired by his work - including their rich contributions for social analysis and using the arts in education and organizing
- Myles Horton and the Highlander Center who knew which side they were on - their simple and powerful processes helped communities name their problems and figure out what to do about them
- The Training Movement that included the materials developed by the National Training Laboratory - materials that include many participatory activities focusing on communication skills, group work, simulations, etc., tools for building a better society
- the feminist movement that brought new issues to the foreground and a new language of equity to popular education work.Popular education provides inspiration and hope to communities and people in them who are struggling against oppression and violence. It brings a wide range of resources for improving and strengthening educational work, starting from personal experience, and moving to shared and social understanding.
Democratic, participatory educational methods that create inclusion, give voice, and honor each person's humanity are central to this approach. It is centered on people's knowledge, providing tools to help people identify what they know, acknowledging people's understanding of their own problems and having faith in people's ability to find and create the knowledge they need to solve them.
It provides a rich repertoire of the use of music, theater, and the arts in educational work. Finally, it builds on actions for democratic change and emphasizes systematic techniques and tools for reflection on that action.
ARTICLE: Under the Radar-Popular Education in North America by Drick Boyd (Eastern University) During a sabbatical in the spring of 2011 I set out on the modest goal of learning about the current work of popular educators in North America. My objectives of this project were two--fold. First, I wanted to see what was actually happening on the ground in the world of popular education, since in both the scholarly literature as well as adult education conferences, popular education was noticeably absent, and was only nostalgically referenced as something that happened in the past. I knew from conversations and experiences such was not the case, but I wanted to find out firsthand what popular educators were doing, and how they conceived of, financed, and organized their work. My second objective was to use the knowledge gathered from the research to develop a start--up plan for a popular education center in the city of Philadelphia where I live and work. I wanted to learn from practitioners, and hopefully build on their insights and avoid some of their mistakes. As a result many of my questions were functional and logistical in nature: Where does funding come from? How do you decide on which issues or which groups to work with? Do you have a board? If so, what are their responsibilities? How do you organize the work? How do you measure success? What do you conceive popular education to be?
Issue: #71 MARCH 2012
Greetings!This is the first issue continuing the publication of a digital version of the Popular Education News. Larry Olds, the former publisher of the Enewsletter, has passed on the mailing lists that included your address. Working in the field of sustainable agriculture, environmental education, and economic social justice, I found that "popular education" is alive in the local food, transition town, and occupy movements across the nationa and on the international scale.
As an organic small-scale vegetable & shiitake mushroom farmer, I see the use of popular education at the farmers' markets, rural revitalization, migrant labor, and community building. Moving from the city to the country was not an easy transition however it brought me back to the critical connection of our dependancy to land resources. As I move forward with mentorship from Larry and Drick Boyd from Eastern University in creating these Enewsletters, I hope you find it to be both informative and connective to your life's work.
GATHERINGS to Learn, Connect, & ACT! 2012 Advanced Story-based Strategy Practitioner's Training:
Framing and Narrative Strategy for Social Change Strategists,
Communicators and OrganizersEssex, MA (April 15-19 2012)Training for Trainers for People of Color
April 20-23, 2012 - Applications due March 19th!
18th Annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference
Interpreting the World, Changing the World
Berkeley, California, USA (May 31-June 3, 2012)
Portland, OR (August 1-5, 2012)
Training for Change Upcoming Workshops:
- Taller Para Talleristas en Acción Social
Mar 30 - Apr 1, 2012: Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
- How to Do Transformational Work
Apr 10 - 15, 2012: Philadelphia, PA
- Whites Confronting Racism
May 4 - 6, 2012: Philadelphia, PA
- Training for Social Action Trainers
Jun 1 - 3, 2012: Washington, DC
Jun 8 - 24, 2012: Philadelphia, PA
- Training for Social Action Trainers
Jul 6 - 8, 2012: Philadelphia, PA
- Advanced Training of Trainers
Jul 10 - 15, 2012: Philadelphia, PAThe White House Project Upcoming Trainings:
- Denver Go Lead-History of Colorado Women & Politics March 21, 2012: Denver, CO
- Miss Representation Film Screening March 27, 2012: Greeley, CO
- Tenth Anniversary EPIC Awards April 5, 2012: New York, NY
- Go Lead-Denver April 18, 2012: Denver, CO
- Go Lead-Leveraging Strengths for Your Personal Brand April 24, 2012: Minneapolis, MN
INTERVIEW: Larry Olds How did you get your start in popular education?In the late 1960's and early 1970s, I was deeply involved with the alternative schools movement and working in teacher training with the College of Education at the University of Minnesota. We had started a free school that opened in the fall of 1970, a high school that was attended by mostly middle class students who were responding to the 60s milieu and were dissatisfied with their former public schools. After a time I was feeling uneasy with our failures in bringing diversity to our efforts. My earlier experience had been in Africa, in the War on Poverty with the education in rural Job Corps centers, and in Minneapolis Public School program for former drop outs - all contexts that put racial equity and oppression on our agenda. As a subscriber to the Harvard Educational Review engaged in understanding as much as I could about education and schooling, I read two articles by Paulo Freire that were published in that magazine. A short time later Pedagogy of the Oppressed was published in English and with a group of friends we started a study group about the book, a group that continued to meet for more than a year. The ideas of Freire changed the way I thought about my work as an educator.
How did your ideas develop?
I identify four main roots of my popular education outlook: 1) Paulo Freire and the Latin Americans who followed and developed his ideas in practice; 2) Highlander and the folk school tradition; 3) The Training Movement that developed a wide range of participatory activities confronting social realities; and 4) the women's movement that brought the many dimensions of gender to the fore. In the personal timeline, I color code highlights of my experience with each of those roots - Freire (green); Highlander and folk schools (pink); training movement (yellow); and women's movement (purple). In the chart there are a few other important experiences in other colors.
What has allowed you to sustain your participation in popular education and social movements?
Once a vision is formed of the possibility of social justice and a peaceful world, I don't see any way to step back from working towards that end. By the late 1960s, I had spent nearly three years in Africa and made the overland journeys from Europe to Singapore and back, experiences that showed me dramatically the relationship between my relative wealth and poverty in the world. As I mentioned above I was working in teacher training at the University of Minnesota when I encountered Paulo Freire and shortly after that was introduced to critical theory by colleagues in the Radical Caucus of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum. These developments led to my turning away from a career in teacher education. Fortunately after a difficult year and a half of unemployment, I found my lifework as an adult educator at Metro Community College. During my 26 years at the college I was able to have the luxury of my teaching job being part of my work for social justice and peace. And during that time was able to connect to and be inspired by people I met with the International Council for Adult Education, The Participatory Research Group, The Highlander Center, and other organizations of adult educators for empowerment and social change. When I ended my job at the end of 1999 with enough so I didn't have to work for money in the new millennium, I was able to continue the work.
Why is popular education important for our times?
There is still much to do to make a better world. Those for whom education is either their primary work or is part of organizing and activism, can find in popular education things that will help - in the words of the mission of the Popular Education News: to improve the educational work against oppression and violence and for democracy, sustainability, justice, and peace. We can do better - and there are still roads to be built by our walking.
What niche did you fill in developing the Popular Education News?
When the North American Alliance for Popular and Adult Education finally gave up all but the ghost after the 2001 World Assembly of Adult Education in Jamaica, there was no longer any network to communicate about popular education gatherings and popular education materials. For more than 25 years I had been collecting materials for my personal library, materials that were not well known among organizers and activists, nor among adult educators for that matter. These materials, and having met many of the people producing them, had been an inspiration in my own work. Gathering the materials together for the use of organizers, activists, and community-based educators in my own community was something I could do. I both began to build the library of materials to add to the library at the Resource Center of the Americas and began The Popular Education News to let people know about old and new materials I thought might be helpful in popular education and community organizing work. And I did my best to find "Where Popular Educators Will Gather" and publicize that in the newsletter and on the web site.
It has been as the question suggests, a niche. But then one of my hopes for my life is to be a cog on the big wheel of social change. I am pleased that others are continuing. There is much still to be done. The work continues.