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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 Eleven: Writing and changing together: Reflections on writing workshops in Chicago neighborhoods (Hal Adams)


Photo by Sarah Hoskins Editors’ Note: We opened this book with an article Hal Adams wrote about the work of community writing groups in order to give readers a sense of the sensibility and purpose c h a p t e r e l e v e n Writing and Changing Together Reflections on Writing Workshops in Chicago Neighborhoods hal adams 130 | hal adams Hal brought to that project as a critical educative endeavor. In bringing the book to a close, we return to Hal’s writing—in this case, a series of short essays he wrote over a period of years, reflective stories that draw on writing workshop experiences. Each essay does what Hal knew the local stories of ordinary people do best—convey wisdom and offer counsel. It is fitting that the wisdom and counsel of Hal—adept as he was at nur- turing others in the telling of their stories—comes to us in the form of his own. 1. d o r o t h y a n d e a r l For 12 years I’ve been teaching adult writing workshops in poor neighborhoods in Chicago and putting out a magazine of their writing for distribution in the neigh- borhoods and schools where the workshops meet. In those 12 years I have seen the relationship between language and power play itself out in many different ways, some quite obvious, others more subtle but no less significant. There was a writing group once that got the city...

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