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Every Person Is a Philosopher

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

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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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Chapter Four: Showing up: Writing, reading and cross-cultural awarenessin community literacy work (Stephen Mogge and Kate Power)

Extract

As graduate students in the early 1990s, our first exposure to the community of literacy research scholars came at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Midwinter Assembly for Research. During that era, the Assembly was held each winter at the old Bismarck Hotel in downtown Chicago. As locals, we would ride the Ravenswood L-train to the stop at Wells and LaSalle and then walk the few blocks—always, it seemed, against a fierce, biting, and windy snow- storm—to the Bismarck where, once inside, the chill gave way to the warm and intellectually invigorating gathering. The midwinter assemblies were intimate af- fairs in which graduate students could sip coffee and share ideas and aspirations with leading international literacy scholars. In 1997 the Assembly organizers in- vited our friend and community literacy colleague, Hal Adams, to be one of the presenters. We began our work in Chicago adult literacy education spheres in the 1980s. Steve spent years directing a second-chance school for high school dropouts and wards of the state and, as presented in this chapter, later taught adult immigrants in a settlement house. Kate taught adolescents in second-chance schools, adult women in welfare-to-work classes, and trained and supervised volunteer tutors. The two of us were members of a coalition of community-based adult literacy workers from across the city and collaborated to develop curriculum and lead city- wide professional development for teachers and volunteers. Eventually, we both entered the doctoral program in Reading, Writing and Literacy at the University...

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