Lessons in Educational Emancipation from the Radical Teaching Life of Hal Adams
Chapter One: A grassroots think-tank: Linking writing and community-building (reprinted from Democracy and Education) (Hal Adams)
In a small wooden structure across the blacktop playground from their children’s elementary school, a handful of adults smoke cigarettes, eat doughnuts, drink cof- fee, and talk about their lives. The focus of the discussion is a short piece one of them wrote last weekend. The author is 23 years old, pregnant with her third child. Her oldest is seven. She has no husband, no job, little formal education, and uncertain housing. Because of her situation she thinks she is a failure. Her writing is self-critical. She fears she has violated God’s plan for her life. She is weeping as she responds to others’ comments, though the comments are gentle. They say it is not God’s plan she has violated, but her own. They say she is following God’s plan by preparing for her baby’s arrival and providing for her other children as best she can. The con- versation alternately focuses on her writing, offering her emotional support, and debating religion. She begins to reconsider her writing and her views. Sometimes these meetings unfold as literary criticism sessions, other times as church revivals, coffee klatches, therapy groups, or political caucuses. But mostly they are writing workshops, which turn out to be a kaleidoscope of possibilities and enactments. The participants are preparing their work for publication in a magazine that will be distributed in their school and community. The magazine is called the Journal of Ordinary Thought. For three years I have been offering a parent writing program in local ele-...
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