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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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Chapter Seven: Philosophers in la casita: Hal adams’ politicsin theory and practice (Anne Carlson and Michael Staudenmaier)


c h a p t e r s e v e n i . i n t r o d u c t i o n Hal Adams befriended us individually before the two of us met, and he was wit- ness to the beginning of our relationship in the spring of 2003. Prior to meeting each other, we had come to know different sides of the same person: Michael had befriended Hal through a common interest in radical politics, while Anne’s con- nection was through the writing workshops Hal coordinated with Janise Hurtig. As our relationship developed, our contact with Hal ebbed and flowed, but his influence on our lives remains palpable. Our essay is a joint effort, which we see as a way of honoring the legacy of collaboration that was so central to Hal Adams’ vision for social change. Michael’s contribution is based in large part on his research into the history of the Sojourner Truth Organization (STO), a radical group opposed to white supremacy and cap- italism, to which Hal belonged in the 1970s and 1980s. In Part Two of this essay, we describe the work and theory of STO, focusing on the group’s internal educa- tional efforts and the special importance to the group of Antonio Gramsci and C. L. R. James, two twentieth-century Marxists whose influence is clearly visible in Hal’s subsequent work and writings. We believe that Hal’s experience of partici- pation in a revolutionary organization, one with an especially active and critically reflective...

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