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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 Ten: Goldfish in the river: Stories capturing moments in time (Annie Knepler)


The Mabel Manning public library writing group met every Monday evening in the building’s community room. The large, open space—often used for public meetings or lectures—was designed to help serve the social function of the library, allowing people to gather and talk while the rest of the library remained quiet. As the workshop facilitator, I would arrive a bit early each week, leaving time to rear- range the tables and chairs to form a circle and greet participants as they walked in. Usually, a couple of the group’s participants were already there to help out. We’d chat and catch up as we reworked the design of the room, turning it into a place where we could read, write, and discuss. As the group’s official start time neared, more participants would trickle in, some coming from home, some from work, some from running errands, and some from school. This was the third community-based writing group associated with the Journal of Ordinary Thought (JOT) that had been formed on Chicago’s Near West Side. The neighborhood—like many of the writing groups where JOT groups met—had changed dramatically since Hal Adams started a workshop in the early '90s at Dett elementary school, down the street from the Mabel Manning library. The Dett workshop, a lively group that involved parents of students at the school, was started when Hal was still at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), running writing workshops through UIC’s College of Education. The Dett work- shop...

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