Lessons in Educational Emancipation from the Radical Teaching Life of Hal Adams
Edited By Bill Ayers, Caroline Heller and Janise Hurtig
Chapter Eight: Listen to me, listen to us: Lives made better (Janet Isserlis)
l i s t e n t o m e , l i s t e n t o u s In late November 1994, Lee Weinstein, part of the founding team of Voices maga- zine1 in Vancouver, BC, told me about Hal Adams, a man in Chicago doing com- munity writing, adding that he’d be at the family literacy conference in Ottawa we were about to attend. Before we’d even left Vancouver, I was angry at the family literacy people, at the rhetoric that normalizes family in prescriptive ways. Family Literacy? That’s so heteronormative, I’d come to believe, and with good reason. I’d been to other conferences and participated in listserv discussions dominated by uncritical assumptions about parenting, teaching, and learning, and especially about what comprises family. I’d come to wonder why we didn’t just change the language—what about communities? What about families that don’t look like families? Who decides and in whose interest? Why can’t we just acknowledge family literacy as a form, an element of community literacies? We arrived in Ottawa the night before the conference began. I remember the lobby’s shiny beige and brown tiles, the linoleum, the plants, though I can’t recall the name of the hotel. It bothers me, this forgetting, because I learned from Hal Adams the importance of the specific, the small particular. In that tiled lobby, looking for coffee the next morning, I ran into Lee walking with Hal. This is Hal, he said. To which I replied, Delighted to meet...
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