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Every Person Is a Philosopher

Lessons in Educational Emancipation from the Radical Teaching Life of Hal Adams


Edited By Bill Ayers, Caroline Heller and Janise Hurtig

Hal Adams was a legendary radical educator who organized writing workshops with people who had been written off during much of their lives, marginalized for reasons of race, gender, class, and caste. Hal detested the carelessness and neglect his students endured and set about building spaces of respect and reparation. Fostering communities of local writers and publishing their work in journals of «ordinary thought,» the work brought pride and dignity to the authors, carrying the wisdom of their narratives into and beyond their communities. In the traditions of Paulo Freire, Antonio Gramsci, and C.L.R. James, Hal based his approach on the conviction that every person is a philosopher, artist, and storyteller, and that only the insights and imaginings of the oppressed can sow seeds of authentic social change. Every Person Is a Philosopher gathers essays by classroom and community educators deeply influenced by Hal’s educational work and vision, and several essays by Hal Adams. They explore diverse ways this humanizing pedagogy can be applied in a wide range of contexts, and consider its potential to transform students and teachers alike. This is an ideal text for courses in educational foundations, multicultural education, urban studies, sociology of education, English education, social justice education, literacy education, socio-cultural contexts of teaching, adult education, cultural studies, schools and communities, and popular education.


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Hal Adams: A Brief Biographical Sketch


Harold John Adams, known to family and friends as Hal, was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1939. Hal was the oldest of four children, an avid swimmer and base- ball player in his youth, not much interested in reading or writing as he would tell it. Hal graduated from Albion College in 1961 and became a middle school teacher and counselor. He went on to study education at the University of Michigan. In 1968 Hal earned his doctorate and took a faculty position in Counselor Education at the University of Iowa, where he taught for nearly 20 years. It was during his years in Iowa City that Hal became radicalized politically and pedagogically, engaging in activism that integrated anti-imperialist/anti-war and anti-racist work within and beyond the university. At Iowa Hal worked to develop anti-racism workshops. At the same time he joined an anti-war group, and later the Sojourner Truth Organization, oriented towards organization in the workplace. The STO distinguished itself from other New Left groups of the time in its critical approach to the role of race in the formation of the American work- ing class, and its incorporation of the dialectical praxis of such cultural Marxists as Antonio Gramsci and C. L. R. James. In 1987, Hal gave up tenure at the University of Iowa with the intention of engaging more directly in community education work, which he began in Seattle. It was there, as an outgrowth of his work teaching homeless children and their parents, that he developed...

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