Lessons in Educational Emancipation from the Radical Teaching Life of Hal Adams
Chapter Five: Evidence of things unseen (Caroline Heller)
When I interviewed for a teaching position at the University of Illinois at Chicago in early 1993, there was not one person I talked to who didn’t mention to me the work of Hal Adams, the community writing classes he’d organized in the poorest schools in Chicago, and the Journal of Ordinary Thought (JOT), the magazine Hal published of the writing class participants’ work. I went back to my hotel room after my interviews, loaded down with copies of JOT. There was a lovely miniature refrigerator in my hotel room and I raided it for a jar of cashew nuts, then lay in my hotel bed, eating the luxurious cashews, and read the Journal of Ordinary Thought —the worlds described there so glaringly in contrast to my salted nuts and fancy hotel room. More than anything else, Hal’s work influenced my decision to come to UIC to work as a professor in the College of Education. People had mentioned Hal’s name because his work closely aligned with the work I’d done in San Francisco before I came to Chicago. There, I too participated in adult writing groups made up of writers who were poor and who had rarely experienced positive acknowledgment for their ideas, much less the public acclaim of being published. In fall of 1993, Hal and I finally met. He carried not a trace of the self-display or self-importance that is epidemic in academia. There was something so quietly authentic about his presence and this made me trust...
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