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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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Praise for Every Person is a Philosopher


“If ‘every person is a philosopher,’ then Hal Adams was a midwife for bringing forth generations of everyday wisdom. This gathering of essays, written as if huddled at a wooden coffee table, reveals the sweet music of people and communities becoming, writing, imagining, revolting, hesitating, trying on selves, and sometimes moving to action. The words on the page embody the soft, generous spirit of Adams as he channeled the souls of Freire, Gramsci, Du Bois, C.L.R. James, and also homeless adults, rap musicians, and Somali immigrants whose names we don’t know. Hal carved small spaces where everyday people could gather to write on ordinary thought, real conditions, what has been, what is, and what must be. He asked his comrades to see themselves as writers as he invites those of us who remain, yet, to re-fashion ourselves as humble architects of the next generation of spaces, where hesitant voices and drafty writings meet politics, human (in)securities, and humor, to create a tomorrow not yet.”

Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor, CUNY Graduate Center


“This wonderfully humane and instructive book pays tribute to Hal Adams, a community educator with a deep belief in the ability of common folk, and also pays tribute—beautiful tribute—to the writers themselves, poor people of color who arise from these pages in their eloquence and agency.”

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