Connecting popular and community-based educators and activists to resources for improving educational work in social movements against oppression and for democracy, sustainability, social justice, and peace.

A monthly newsletter about popular education/community organizing resources for facilitators and practitioners: Many of the materials reviewed or listed in the newsletter are part of the collection in the Penny Lernoux Memorial Library at the Resource Center of the Americas, 3019 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406.

NO. 28 JuneJuly 2005                              THIS MONTH'S THEME: ESL and Literacy




As you may notice this issue is longer than the normal issue. There are two reasons besides that it is a double issue for JUNEJULY: I didn't have time to shorten the REVIEW OF THE MONTH and I have indulged myself by including a bit of my own writing in a slightly longer EDITORIAL REFLECTION than might normally be in the newsletter.

Also I want to add a comment on the review. I am not an experienced ESL or literacy educator. I attempted and failed to get the book reviewed by someone in this field. After giving notice that the review was coming for two consecutive issues, I felt compelled to publish something about the book and wrote the review myself. I do know that if I was an experienced ESL and literacy educator, I would want the guide and the textbook in my library, if not, my classroom.




Problem Posing at Work Popular Educator's Guide by Nina Wallerstein and Elsa Auerbach. Grass Roots Press, 2004, 118 pages.

I am reminded by this guide's Chapter 4 - Connecting Local and Global Action: The Role of Pedagogy in Social Change of a visit I made to women's literacy groups in northeastern Uganda a few years ago and one of reasons I was impressed with what I witnessed. Slides from the experience have been part of the slide show that I use as the presentation part of the workshops and other sessions on popular education that I have been doing when invited the last several years. (I call the current version of the slide show "Another Kind of Movement Education Is Possible: Popular Education." Contact me if you are interested in a session at your place.)

After reading chapter 4 I have better language to describe what I saw in Uganda. The development educators in charge of the project had not used literacy classes as a way to begin their work. Rather they had set about helping the rural women in many communities in their district decide for themselves how to make their lives better. The women, after about five years of working together had decided that they wanted literacy classes. The process was animated, made possible, because the project had a residential center - a training village, they called it - where people could gather to make their own collective decisions. The development educators, led by an inspirational priest rooted in the work of Paulo Freire and liberation theology, had in the words of Wallerstein and Auerbach, seen ".how ESL, literacy, empowerment, and problem-posing education may contribute most powerfully to social change in places/spaces where struggles for social justice are happening." Literacy was happening to support the women's struggles to make their and their communities lives better, not as preparation for the struggle but to be part of it.

I have long claimed that popular education is not a social change movement. Perhaps it is and "educational" movement, but not a social movement. Furthermore - and I think the authors would surely concur - popular education is a tradition of theory and practice that can be enormously helpful to movements for social change. One of the values of this guide is how it helps to engage and clarify some of these issues.

This book was written for two purposes and for two audiences. First it is a companion teacher's guide to the revised edition of the author's book, Problem-Posing at Work: English for Action; and second as a separate educator's guide that explores problem-posing, critical reflection, and action. And it is for educators from diverse fields on the one hand, e.g. community and adult educators, ESL and literacy teachers, and health and safety educators, to choose just three types of educators from the long list of possibilities in the preface; and for organizers and activists on the other.

Chapter 1 - Teaching Approach, gives a good summary overview of Paulo Freire's problem-posing educational ideas and presents the underlying rationale for this type of teaching approach. Three diagrams presented in the chapter are a very useful feature: (1) the cyclical model of listening, dialogue, and action from author Nina Wallerstein's own work; (2) The Spiral Model from Education for A Change (See review in Issue No. 2); and (3) Caroline Kerfoot from South Africa's "circle" model. Also the five myths about Freirian education that are identified and discusses, as the author's say, ".deserve dialogue and reflection." I would add, "By all popular educators."

Chapter 2 - Teaching Strategies and Tools presents many familiar popular education tools, drawing from many of the well known popular education manuals: Education for a Change, Education for Changing Unions, Naming the Moment, Counting Our Victories, Training for Transformation, and others, many previously reviewed in this newsletter. The chapter is valuable in that it gathers the strategies and tools for application in the ESL and other literacy classrooms. Few popular education manuals do this.

Chapter 4 - Connecting Local and Global Action: The Role of Pedagogy in Social Change includes a summary contrasting globalization from above and globalization from below, an analysis of the role of social change pedagogy within globalization struggles, and short discussions of various social change organizations or movements where popular education might be useful - The Right Question Project, Community Education Centers, Alternative Economic Development, Collaborations and Partnerships, Community-Based Participatory Research, and Classrooms.

Chapter 3 - An Example of a Problem-Posing Workplace ESL Cycle is a case study and Chapter 5 - Guide to Activities in Problem-Posing at Work: English for Action (revised edition) connects the guide to the textbook - one of the purposes for which the guide was written.

Although this review focuses on the Popular Educator's Guide, readers of this newsletter may also be interested in the author's revised student textbook, Problem-Posing at Work: English for Action. This book according to the authors

extends the previous problem-posing approach to learning English in worksite settings by providing greater depth, range of activities, stories, and examples that promote English language dialogue and actions. It covers the themes of the daily work lives of immigrants, both past and present; their interactions with each other, with American co-workers, supervisors, and unions; their concerns with working conditions, health and safety, and stress; and their legal and organizing rights to improve conditions; and it extends these themes across the U.S.-Canadian border.

.Review by Larry Olds


Popular education Engaging the academy: international perspectives Edited by Jim Crowther, Vernon Galloway and Ian Martin

This book brings together a unique collection of both experienced and new writers examining the relationship between popular and higher education. It shows how university-based teachers and researchers can use their work to support and resource popular struggles for democracy, equality and social justice - at a time when all the demands being made upon them are towards institutional disengagement from social and political action


Sunday, June 5, 2005 at RADFEST/MIDWEST SOCIAL FORUM held June 3-5, 2005 Williams, WI (on Lake Geneva) by The Havens Center "Popular education as a tool for movement building" Walda Katz-Fishman and Jerome Scott of Project South. (Workshop will model popular education as a strategy for grassroots leadership development and bottom-up local-global movement building; develop a shared analysis of today's globalizations effects on out local communities and local-global movement; and discuss today's rising movement in terms of the three stages of consciousness, vision, and strategy.)

June 2-5, 2005 The 46th Annual Adult Education Research Conference University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia - Preconferences June 2 on African Diaspora, LGBTQ&A, Technology, and Literacy. (The Adult Education Research Conference (AERC) is an annual North American conference that provides a forum for adult education researchers to share their experiences and the results of their studies with students, other researchers, and practitioners from around the world.)

June 11-12, 2005 Project South Building A Movement - BAM Workshops & Retreat, Washington DC (Project South facilitates BAMs to examine the current movement, to practice popular education as an organizing strategy, and to give you the skills to create specific educational tools for your ongoing work. BAMs create that essential space to raise consciousness, generate vision, and build more effective strategies.) Register online at email

July 9, 2005 Myles Horton 100th Birthday Celebrations, (goal of 100 parties at various locations) Contact Kristi Coleman,, to host a party or find a party near you. The Popular Education News will host a party in Minneapolis. For information on the Minneapolis party contact Larry Olds at

July 29 - 31, 2005 Western States Center's 15th Annual Community Strategic Training Initiative plus Women of Color Gathering July 28, Reed College in Portland, Oregon (CSTI provides an opportunity for various sectors of the progressive movement to: develop leaders and staff, learn different strategies for building power, build relationships and alliances with the broader movement, and sharpen or expand their political analyses.)

Sept 4, 2005 Highlander Center Homecoming Festival 2- 9 p.m.

September 17-18, 2005 Project South Building A Movement - BAM Workshops & Retreat, Atlanta (Project South facilitates BAMs to examine the current movement, to practice popular education as an organizing strategy, and to give you the skills to create specific educational tools for your ongoing work. BAMs create that essential space to raise consciousness, generate vision, and build more effective strategies.) Register online email

Sept 30-Oct 2, 2005 2nd Annual National Immigrant and Refugee Rights Training Institute, Oakland, CA (Join immigrant and refugee rights community organizers and advocates from around the country forhands on train-the-trainer sessions on the BRIDGE Popular Education curriculum, to meet and network with other organizers from around the country passionate about popular education, participate in workshops, skill-building and dialogue on human rights, grassroots advocacy, fundrasing, media work and the politics of translation and interpretation--all from a community-building perspective.) For information contact .

Sept. 30 - Oct. 2, 2005 Highlander Social Change Workshop, New Market, Tennessee (English and Spanish-speaking people and groups who would like to learn more about Highlander Center and share ideas and information about working to change the world.)

(*those with online bookstores)

*Catalyst Centre ( )
*Highlander Center ( )
*Institute for Peoples'Education and Action (IPEA) ( )
*Resource Center of the Americas ( )
*Growing Communities for Peace ( )
Project South ( )
Center for Popular Education and Participatory Research ( )
Pop Ed Links Directory (
WE LEARN: Women Expanding-Literacy Education Action Resource Network(
Centre for Popular Education, University of Technology Sydney (


(Replacing the regular feature of a popular education definition of the month)

A few weeks ago I attended a Saturday morning Coffee Hour talk at the Resource Center of the Americas by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer on his new book, Saving Christianity From Empire. Jack is an excellent presenter, one of the local people I always try to go and hear when he presents. There is always something new to learn: either new ideas or new ways to talk about some of those many issues that drive our common concerns with peace and justice. Saturday was no exception. But the Resource Center is missing an opportunity not using a process that facilitates everyone speaking and the people attending such events getting to know each other. At the end of the talk there was an explosion of hands into the air to ask questions. I would expect too, that those of us who did not raise our hands - it is rare for me to do so - also had questions. It was a very stimulating talk. Everyone in the room must have had reactions and questions, but only a few got to make comments or ask questions. And the focus in the Q and A session that followed the talk continued to focus on the ideas of the speaker, continued what I have come to call "podium-centered knowledge distribution." The alternative is to engage those present in "participant-center knowledge creation." It was a moment when our hosts needed to know about the Question Circle process. Not a complicated process, but as I've written elsewhere, "it must be as hard as rocket science."

Question Circles are just small groups that form after the presentation, 4 to 6 people per group or whatever size works best for the number of people attending. Everyone in the group first shares their reactions to the presentation. Then group members work together to formulate questions for the speaker that they prioritize. How many of the prioritized questions get asked depends on the amount of time and the number of groups. Not only does everyone get to talk and share - in popular education theory terms, get to experience being fully human and participating in the creation of knowledge - but also better questions are formulated.

Questions to the presenter may be handled in a variety of ways. One good way is that all groups ask their first priority question before the speaker responds. I always suggest that the speaker select from the questions and respond to some, not all, but speakers often feel compelled to answer every question. It is difficult to get the attention away from the speaker onto the questions - and allow more questions to be asked, that is, to get away from the podium-centeredness that is so common - and frustrating if you have seen the power of another possibility. If the purpose in presentations is that they stimulate the thinking and ideas of the participants, the process, after the presentation, needs to privilege the participants not the experts in the front.

One result of Question Circles in addition to facilitating "voice" for everyone, to privileging participant-centered knowledge creation, and to creating better questions is that they strengthen relationships among those who attend events. People get to met others and talk and their doing so is facilitated by the structure of the event. Some fair well and meet other and talk in a cocktail-party-like environment. Others do not. Facilitating people meeting and talking has to be one of the most important activities of movement building.

Using Question Circles at Coffee Hours is not the only popular education activity that could be added to Coffee Hours and other Resource Center events. I like the popular education tool "Learning from Wal-Mart" but there are also other techniques for doing the same thing. Learning From Wal-Mart just means that people are greeted at the door and welcomed, and, as I practice the tool, are also introduced to each other and actively encouraged to start talking. Anther alternative would be that people could be given topics to address, perhaps related to the theme of the presentation, and organized into twos or threes to talk while waiting for the presentation to begin. I favor topics that help people talk about their experiences rather than abstract topics or ideas.

And it should be the general practice that everyone introduces themselves to others as the session begins. It is always worth the time - always.

You won't help shoots grow by pulling them up higher. Chinese proverb

This newsletter is produced by the Popular Education Resource Collection Circle. Larry Olds worked on this issue. You can contribute to future issues by sending suggestions, notices of materials and short reviews to Help improve the newsletter. Subscribe by sending your email address to