THE POPULAR EDUCATION NEWS
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. 27 May 2005                              THIS MONTH'S THEME: Building Democracy

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. REVIEW OF THE MONTH
2. NEXT MONTH
3. A BLOG ON POPULAR EDUCATION IS UNDER CONSIDERATION
4. WHERE POPULAR EDUCATORS WILL GATHER
5. LINKS TO POPULAR EDUCATION WEB SITES AND ONLINE BOOKSTORES
6. EDITORIAL REFLECTION

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1. REVIEW OF THE MONTH

 

 

It Ain't Just About a Vote: Defining Democracy for Movement Building - A Popular Education Toolkit written by Dan Horowitx de Garcia. Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide, 2004, 63 pages. (Order at www.projectsouth.org.)

Defending Democracy: An Activist Resource Kit. Political Research Associates, 2001, 136 pages. (Order from bookstore at www.highlandercenter.org. )

The approach to understanding democracy that I found in various political science text books that I periodically reviewed for use in the political science classes I taught during my 26 years as a community college faculty member was one of the keys to choosing a book or not. The most frequent frame used in the texts viewed democracy as a type of political system with three characteristics: fair and competitive elections, civil liberties, and pluralism (what we would today call a civil society). Almost all texts also had some treatment of democracy as a process - small d democracy - or some discussion of participatory democracy. The texts that interested me were the ones that went much further and deeper and considered democracy as sharing power over decisions that affect us, all decisions in all spheres of social life. I was as interested in the democratic family, democratic educational practice, and democratic small groups as I was in the election of public officials. Democracy is a process - a participatory process, and a value worth struggling for.

These two manuals would have been useful additions to the texts I chose. The two take on related tasks: It Ain't Just About a Vote is about popular democracy and people's struggles to expand it. It is intent on getting people to join in that ongoing struggle. Defending Democracy: An Activist Resource Kit, on the other hand, is about the attack on the gains of popular democracy by the right-wing movement that was revitalized in the early 1970s. Its purposes are to defend what as been gained in the past. The former manual provides history and analysis of the long struggle, the latter history and analysis of the attack. Both are part of the story we need to know. As John McCutchen sings in his song Know When to Move: ".you gotta know how to recognize your story when you hear it, from just the other side of the railway tracks or an ocean away from here."

The two manuals are quite different types of resources: It Ain't Just About a Vote uses popular education, i.e. small groups and other participatory activities. Defending Democracy: An Activist Resource Kit uses the more traditional community organizing approach of presenting information with articles, advice to activists, and lists of resources. It Ain't Just About a Vote, however, isn't just about flip charts and magic markers; it also provides history and analysis in the form of a classic (for Project South materials) timeline activity and the accompanying multi-page "A Short US History of Political Participation." It is that analysis and history that is one of the strengths of Project South's popular education toolkits and popular education manuals. (See www.projectsouth.org for information about other resources.)

It Ain't Just About a Vote, in addition to the history and analysis materials identified above, includes a description on "How to Use this Toolkit" and a section on planning popular education workshops using the manual. It also includes a section on other resource. Unfortunately it only includes resources from Project South. (Other resources on Building Democracy can be found on www.popednews.org - follow the Annotated Bibliography link on the home page.) Defending Democracy: An Activist Resource Kit consists of five section: Overview (four articles), Organizing Advice, Media Tips, Fundraising Tips, and Resources. The last section includes a glossary, a list of right wing groups, a list of groups defending from a right-wing attack, and an introductory bibliography for studying U.S. right-wing political groups and social movements. Useful stuff.

..review by Larry Olds

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2. NEXT MONTH: Problem Posing at Work Popular Educator's Guide from http://www.literacyservices.com/ (Sorry that the review was not available as planned for this month.)


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3. A BLOG ON POPULAR EDUCATION UNDER CONSIDERATION

Several people have suggested a blog on popular education. Do any exist? If they do, I would be happy to announce them in this newsletter. Send information. If there are no pop ed blogs, and you would be willing to participate by reading and responding to what was posted on the blog, or posting things you write about popular education to it, please respond via email to lolds@popednews.org.

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4. ADDITIONS TO WHERE POPULAR EDUCATORS WILL GATHER

April 5 - June 22, 2005 (repeated later in the year) University of Technology Sydney, Australia, Centre for Popular Education Short Course: Personal and Political Tools for Social Change (This will be a short course (8 sessions over 12 weeks) exploring some tools for social action based on popular education and 'participatory action-research' principles. In it we will be using PopEd techniques; inviting participants to explore their own experience and reflect critically on their social change efforts.) www.cpe.uts.edu.au

May 7-8, 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 at http://www.projectsouth.org/programs/bam.html email stephanie@projectsouth.org

May 23-24, 2005 Headwaters Fund Building Connections | Building Power, Headwaters Allies For Justice Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota (The Allies for Justice Institute is a unique training event for community-based leaders throughout the Midwest addressing civil rights, racial justice, education, environmental justice, gender equity, labor and other critical struggles facing our communities.) http://www.headwatersfoundation.org/html/community/afji/afjiinfo.html

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.) http://www.gactr.uga.edu/conferences/2005/Jun/02/aerc.phtml

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 http://www.projectsouth.org/programs/bam.html email stephanie@projectsouth.org

May 29-31, 2005, Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed (Co-hosted by the Center for Theatre of the Oppressed and Applied Theatre Arts, Los Angeles) 11th Annual Conference, Los Angeles, California, (May 24 - 28 Theatre of the Oppressed Preconference Workshops with Augusto Boal) www.ptoweb.org

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 stephanie@projectsouth.org

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4. LINKS TO POPULAR EDUCATION WEB SITES AND ONLINE BOOKSTORES
(*those with online bookstores)

*Catalyst Centre (www.catalystcentre.ca/index.htm )
*Highlander Center (www.highlandercenter.org )
*Institute for Peoples'Education and Action (IPEA) (www.peopleseducation.org/ )
*Resource Center of the Americas (www.americas.org )
*Growing Communities for Peace (www.humanrightsandpeacestore.org )
Project South (www.projectsouth.org )
Center for Popular Education and Participatory Research (www.gse.berkeley.edu/research/pepr/ )
Pop Ed Links Directory (www.flora.org/mike/links/poped.html)
WE LEARN: Women Expanding-Literacy Education Action Resource Network(http://www.litwomen.org/news.html)
Centre for Popular Education, University of Technology Sydney (http://www.cpe.uts.edu.au/)

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5. EDITORIAL REFLECTIONS (Replacing the regular feature of a popular education definition of the month)

Popular education is a many-dimensional field and guide to educational work. Many educational practices hover under its cover. Paulo Freire, who is widely considered an inspiration for the development of popular education, in early work such as Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Education for Critical Consciousness, brought to the fore a consideration that has largely slipped out of much popular education practice. Revisiting Freire's insight and early practice provides a challenge for today's popular educators in their work with the oppressed and in the oft ignored task of confronting the oppressor within ourselves.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed Freire writes "At all stages of their liberation, the oppressed must see themselves as people engaged in the vocation of becoming more fully human."(p. 41) Clearly, "becoming more fully human" is at the center; it is a "vocation" to be engaged in actively and continuously. Revisiting the drawings in the appendix to Education for Critical Consciousness, drawings that served as "codes" in Freire's early literacy work, reminds how important the idea of becoming more fully human was to the author and creator of the literacy methods. The codes are drawings designed to help the participants in the literacy program - poor, rural people - name and further understand themselves as human. What it means to be human - to be a participant in the naming of the world and the making of culture - is the core activity. The implication of this, to be brief, is that it is not just the educator's task to be with people to develop consciousness about the world but also to develop consciousness about becoming more fully human. Note that it is to be "with" people, engaging in the process oneself, as well as to be animating the educational event for others.

Activists and educators often are critically conscious of the world, of its many injustices and oppressions and often, in a popular education style, engage in helping people express their own understanding about issues and concerns, in helping people deepen and broaden their analysis of their own experiences, and in helping devise actions in response. The popular education practitioner manuals and guides that have been the focus of this newsletter present many tools, techniques, and processes for doing this. Rare is the emphasis on engaging "the vocation of becoming more fully human."

It is not a new insight that "de-colonizing the mind," struggling against "false consciousness," or learning to identify and resist "enemies that have outposts in our own heads," are important endeavors. Re-visiting Freire and the roots of popular education also reminds us to keep this difficult work on our agenda.

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Waiting should not keep you from dancing. Sierra Leone proverb.
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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 lolds@popednews.org. Help improve the newsletter. Subscribe by sending your email address to lolds@popednews.org.