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Article: Notes On An Anarchist Pedagogy – AnarchistStudies.Blog
"But, at this particularly dark moment in our nation’s history, I feel the need to act inside the classroom in a manner that more readily and visibly embodies the important and insightful critiques and guideposts of critical pedagogy,[2] perhaps in a manner, inspired by Graeber and Haworth, that rejects and abandons (education) policy, and more demonstratively and communally embraces the liberatory and transformative power of education itself, free from the bondage of neoliberalism.

Early on in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Graeber offers us: “against policy (a tiny manifesto)”. Graeber tells us:

The notion of “policy” presumes a state or governing apparatus which imposes its will on others. “Policy” is the negation of politics; policy is by definition something concocted by some form of elite, which presumes it knows better than others how their affairs are to be conducted. By participating in policy debates the very best one can achieve is to limit the damage, since the very premise is inimical to the idea of people managing their own affairs.

(2004: 9)

And, as the people I have identified in these notes thus far all document, policy (education reform) is little more than a “governing apparatus which imposes its will” on teachers, students, administrators, and entire communities with high stakes testing, the deskilling of teachers, the cuts to and diversion of funding for public education, and the imposition of the corporate model to direct and control all “outcomes”. And, following Graeber’s pushback to “policy”, I want to enact, to whatever degree possible, “an anarchist pedagogy” to acknowledge, confront and overcome the very dominating and authoritarian dynamics at work in the classroom today from kindergarten right on through to graduate school.

I want to evoke and provoke the issue of anarchy as a counterforce and impulse to the “governing apparatus which imposes its will on others”. I want to engage education as the practice of freedom methodologically, and not just ideologically (of course, I would agree that a genuine embracing of education as the practice of freedom ideologically would axiomatically mean to embrace it methodologically as well – as I believe Paulo Freire and bell hooks demonstrate, and many others also successfully participate in such engaged pedagogy).

But for my musings here, I want to consider enacting freedom directly and in totality throughout the classroom. This is the case, in part, because I want to challenge myself, and to some degree many of my colleagues, to once again consider and reconsider how we “are” in the classroom, living and embodying education as the practice of freedom, and, in part, to accept the need to acknowledge, confront and address the reality that we “operate”, however critically, within the very “governing apparatus which imposes its will”. As a result, I am, for the sake of these notes, forcing myself to fully embrace freedom, and, to whatever degree possible, attempting to reimagine and recomport myself toward promoting education as the practice of freedom.

As good a “critical” pedagogue as I believe I am and have been, for me these notes are a call to identify my beliefs, habits and pedagogy, not unlike Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy were for him. These notes are a consideration of how I embrace and enact those beliefs, habits and pedagogy, and represent a challenge to improve upon my pedagogy. I have decided that rethinking my own pedagogy in light of an anarchist pedagogy might prove the most challenging, informative and constructive mediation on pedagogy I could contemplate and enact at this moment."



"As many of us directly involved in the “field of education” (working as teachers and administrators from kindergarten through twelfth-grade, or those working in schools of education and on various education initiatives and in policy think-tanks) have witnessed (and sometimes promote and/or confront), there is much emphasis on a “best practice” approach and on “evidence-based” support for said practices. As a result, so much of education research and teaching is “data-driven”, even when the data is suspect (or just wrong). And, still more harmful, there exists a prejudice against “theory” and against a theoretical approach to teaching within a social/political/cultural context that emphasizes other aspects and dimensions of teaching and learning (such as the history and legacy of racism, sexism, class elitism, homophobia and biases against those with abilities and disabilities that render them “problematic” or outside the mainstream of education concern). All of this leads to an obsession with “information”, to the detriment of teaching and learning (see Scapp 2016b: Chapters 5 and 6). We also wind up with no vision or mission – education becomes little more than a “jobs preparatory program” and a competition in the market place. This is what leads us to the litany of reform programs (from the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” to Obama’s “Race to the Top”, never mind the practically innumerable local initiatives attempting to “fix” education). The results are proving disastrous for all.

At the same time, even though someone may employ a theoretical stance and perspective, this doesn’t guarantee a successful classroom dynamic. We need to remember that how we are (a concern of these notes from the very start) is just as important as what we are presenting, and even why. We need to establish trustworthiness and a sense that students have the freedom to explore, challenge, work together, and even be wrong. Of course, I recognize that the classroom dynamics will look different in elementary school than in a graduate seminar, but for the sake of this meditation on pedagogy, I would like to posit that while acknowledging the differences that exist at different levels of instruction, the essential character of “education as the practice of freedom” ought to be manifest at every level, and at every turn. The hard and important work of good teaching is helping to create and establish that freedom."



"There is a long tradition of attempting to create such an “other space”. Feminist pedagogy has argued for and provided such other spaces, at times at grave personal and professional cost (denial of tenure, promotion, as well as ridicule). So too have disciplines and perspectives as diverse as Ethnic Studies and Queer Studies, and Environmental Studies and Performance Studies offered challenges to the constrictive traditional learning environment (space) and also offered new possibilities of reconfiguring those spaces (in and outside the classroom). In his essay “Spaces of Learning: The Anarchist Free Skool”, Jeffery Shantz rightly notes that:

Social theorist Michel Foucault used the occasion of his 1967 lecture, “Of Other Spaces”, to introduce a term that would remain generally overlooked with his expansive body of work, the notion of “heterotopia”, by which he meant a countersite or alternative space, something of an actually existing utopia. In contrast to the nowhere lands of utopias, heterotopias are located in the here-and-now of present-day reality, though they challenge and subvert that reality. The heterotopias are spaces of difference. Among the examples Foucault noted were sacred and forbidden spaces which are sites of personal transition.

(in Haworth 2012: 124)

It is precisely this effort to help create another kind of space, a “heterotopia”, that leads me to disrupt the distribution of the syllabus as the first gesture of the semester, and to solicit and elicit contributions and participation from the class toward this end.

Part of the reason that complying with the “syllabus-edict” is problematic is that it fully initiates and substantiates “the banking system” of teaching that Paulo Freire so astutely identified and named, and so thoughtfully and thoroughly criticized (as oppressive). Participating in the automatic act of handing out the syllabus (hardcopy or electronic) constitutes the very first “deposit” within the banking system, and renders students passive from the very start: “This is what you will need to know!”. So, the very modest and simple gesture of not distributing the syllabus initiates instead the very first activity for the entire class, specifically, a discussion of what the class will be.

Of course, such a stance, such a gesture, doesn’t mean that I would not have thought through the course beforehand. Certainly, I envision a course that would be meaningful and connected to their program of study. But, what I do not do is “decide” everything in advance, and leave no room for input, suggestions and contributions to the syllabus that we create, to enhance the course we create. This offers students a (new?) way of interacting in the class, with each other and the teacher, a way of engaging in social and educative interactions that are mutual and dialogic from the very start. As Shantz claims:

Anarchist pedagogy aims toward developing and encouraging new forms of socialization, social interaction, and the sharing of ideas in ways that might initiate and sustain nonauthoritarian practices and ways of relating.

(in Haworth 2012: 126)

I am claiming that the simple and modest gesture of extending a welcome to participate goes a long way “toward developing and encouraging new forms” of teaching and learning, new forms of mutual and dialogic interaction that are both respectful of the subject matter and of the students, and, if successful, does create the very “heterotopia” Foucault and Shantz describe.

I also ask students about the ways we might be able to evaluate their work and the course itself, evaluate the success of the teaching and learning, and my ability to help facilitate successful teaching and learning. The results vary, but students always come up with interesting and innovative ways to evaluate and … [more]
pedagogy  anarchism  anarchy  deschooling  decolonization  unschooling  learning  teaching  bellhooks  ronscapp  paulofreire  freedom  liberation  neoliberalism  capitalism  lucynicholas  postmodernism  michaelapple  angeladavis  henrygiroux  roberthaworth  descartes  stanleyaronowitz  stephenball  pierrebourdieu  randallamster  abrahamdeleon  luisfernandez  anthonynocella  education  dericshannon  richarkahn  deleuze&guattari  gillesdeleuze  michelfoucault  foucault  davidgraeber  jürgenhabermas  justinmuller  alanantliff  kennethsaltman  davidgabbard  petermclaren  alexmolnar  irashor  joelspring  gayatrichakravortyspivak  colonialism  highereducation  highered  cademia  politics  2018  resistance  corporatization  betsydevos  policy  authority  authoritarianism  howweteach  government  governance  colonization  homeschool  power  control  coercion  félixguattari  conformity  uniformity  standardization  standards  syllabus  heterotopia  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  sfsh  cv  utopia  collaboration  evaluation  feminism  inclusion  inclusivity  participation  participatory  mutu 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Movement Pedagogy: Beyond the Class/Identity Impasse - Viewpoint Magazine
"Ellsworth had studied critical pedagogy carefully and incorporated it into her course, which she called Curriculum and Instruction 607: Media and Anti-racist Pedagogies. She describes the diverse group of students it drew, including “Asian American, Chicano/a, Jewish, Puerto Rican, and Anglo European men and women from the United States, and Asian, African, Icelandic, and Canadian international students.” This diverse context seemed ideal for engaging in critical pedagogy. And yet, problems arose as soon as the class began.

When invited to speak about injustices they had experienced and witnessed on campus, students struggled to communicate clearly about racism. They had a hard time speaking and listening to one another about the main subject of the course. Rather than dialogue providing grounds for solidarity, “the defiant speech of students and professor…constituted fundamental challenges to and rejections of the voices of some classmates and often the professor.” Ellsworth began to question the limitations of an approach to dialogue that assumes “all members have equal opportunity to speak, all members respect other members’ rights to speak and feel safe to speak, and all ideas are tolerated and subjected to rational critical assessment against fundamental judgments and moral principles.” These assumptions were not bearing out in her classroom due to the vastly different histories, experiences, and perspectives of those in the room.

There was difficulty, pain, and deadlock in communicating about the social structure of the university, a deadlock that fell along classed, racial, gendered and national lines. Like a broken window, fissures between the experiences and perspectives of Ellsworth and her students formed cracks, which then caused more cracks, until no one could see each other clearly.

Contrary to critical pedagogy’s promise of liberation through dialogue, Ellsworth’s classroom was filled with uncomfortable silences, confusions, and stalemates caused by the fragmentation. The students and professor could not achieve their stated goal of understanding institutional racism and stopping its business-as-usual at the university. She recalls that
[t]hings were not being said for a number of reasons. These included fear of being misunderstood and/or disclosing too much and becoming too vulnerable; memories of bad experiences in other contexts of speaking out; resentment that other oppressions (sexism, heterosexism, fat oppression, classism, anti-Semitism) were being marginalized in the name of addressing racism – and guilt for feeling such resentment; confusion about levels of trust and commitment about those who were allies to one another’s group struggles; resentment by some students of color for feeling that they were expected to disclose more and once again take the burden of doing pedagogic work of educating White students/professor about the consequences of White middle class privilege; resentment by White students for feeling that they had to prove they were not the enemy.

The class seemed to be reproducing the very oppressive conditions it sought to challenge. As they reflected on these obstacles, Ellsworth and her students decided to alter the terms of their engagement. They replaced the universalism of critical pedagogy, in which students were imagined to all enter dialogue from similar locations, with a situated pedagogy that foregrounded the challenge of working collectively from their vastly different positions. This shift completely altered the tactics in the course. Rather than performing the teacher role as an emancipatory expert presumed able to create a universal critical consciousness through dialogue, Ellsworth became a counselor, helping to organize field trips, potlucks, and collaborations between students and movement groups around campus. These activities helped to build relations of trust and mutual support without presuming that all students entered the classroom from the same position. Rather than holding class together in a traditional way, Ellsworth met with students one on one, discussing particular experiences, histories, and feelings with them, talking through these new activities.

As trust began to form out of the morass of division, students created affinity groups based on shared experiences and analyses. The groups met outside of class to prepare for in-class meetings, which “provided some participants with safer home bases from which they gained support…and a language for entering the larger classroom interactions each week.” The affinity groups were a paradigm shift. The class went from a collection of atomized individuals to a network of shared and unshared experiences working in unison. Ellsworth writes that, “once we acknowledged the existence, necessity, and value of these affinity groups we began to see our task as…building a coalition among multiple, shifting, intersecting, and sometimes contradictory groups carrying unequal weights of legitimacy within the culture of the classroom. Halfway through the semester, students renamed the class Coalition 607.” Ellsworth describes this move from fragmentation to coalition as coming together based on what the group did not share, rather than what they did share. Ultimately the class generated proposals for direct action to confront structural inequalities at the university.

Why doesn’t this feel empowering?

In 1989, Ellsworth published her now-famous article reflecting on the Coalition 607 experience. Provocatively entitled, “Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering? Working through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy,” she used her experiences in this course to critique what she saw as a universalist model of voice, dialogue and liberation embedded within the assumptions of critical pedagogy. At the heart of this problem was a failure to recognize the fact that students do not all enter into dialogue on equal terrain. Instead, the social context of the classroom – like any other – is shaped by the very unequal histories and structures that critical pedagogy seeks to address. Thus, the idea that Ellsworth and her students might set aside their differences in order to tackle institutional racism on campus proved naive, and even harmful. Instead, it was through a pedagogical shift to coalition that they were ultimately able to build collective action. These actions were rooted not in claims of universality, but in a commitment to building solidarity across structural divisions.

Ellsworth’s story offers useful lessons for contemporary movement debates – debates that are often framed around an apparent dichotomy of class universalism versus identity politics. The question, “why doesn’t this feel empowering?” gestures toward the subtle (and not-so-subtle) processes of exclusion that occur within many movement spaces, where the seemingly neutral terms of debate obscure the specific perspectives that guide our agendas, strategies, and discussions. As Peter Frase notes, “appeals to class as the universal identity too often mask an attempt to universalize a particular identity, and exclude others.” Yet, Ellsworth and her students did not simply retreat into separate corners when these divisions flared; instead, they rethought the terms of their engagement in order to develop strategies for working together across difference. It was by thinking pedagogically about organizing that Ellsworth and her students arrived at a strategy of coalition."



"Ellsworth’s coalition – what we call thinking pedagogically about organizing – is an example of how to get to the imagined relation that dissolves the alleged impasse between class struggle and identity politics: thinking pedagogically creates an ideology of coalition rather than an ideology of impasse.

We can apply this insight from classrooms to activist spaces by examining a recent proposal adopted by the Democratic Socialists of America. At the national convention in August 2017, DSA members debated a controversial resolution calling for a rigorous program of organizer trainings. “Resolution #28: National Training Strategy” proposed to train “some 300 DSA members every month for 15 months” with the goal of ultimately producing “a core of 200 highly experienced trainers and 5,000 well trained leaders and organizers to carry forward DSA’s work in 2018 and beyond.” The proposal asked delegates to devote a significant amount of DSA’s national funds ($190,000) toward creating this nationwide activist training program, which includes modules on Socialist Organizing and Social Movements and Political Education.

The resolution emerged from a plank of the Praxis slate of candidates for the National Political Committee. On their website, the slate described this “National Training Strategy” in detail, emphasizing the importance of teaching and learning a “wide array of organizing skills and tactics so members develop the skills to pursue their own politics” (emphasis in original). Noting that “Poor and working people – particularly people of color – are often treated as external objects of organizing,” this educational strategy explicitly sought to use positionality as a strength. They elaborate: “If DSA is serious about building the power of working people of whatever race, gender, citizen status or region, we must re-build the spine of the Left to be both strong and flexible.” Aware that DSA members would be coming from a variety of positions, the slate made education a central plank of their platform. Members pursuing “their own politics” based on their precise structural location would create a flexible and strong spine for left politics. They write: “It’s not just the analysis, but also the methods of organizing that we pursue which create the trust, the self-knowledge, and the solidarity to make durable change in our world.”

While we can’t know for sure how the training strategy will work out, we highlight the resolution as an … [more]
criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  2017  davidbacker  katecairns  solidarity  collectiveaction  canon  affinitygroups  affinities  salarmohandesi  combaheerivercollective  coalition607  via:irl  elizabethellsworth  currymalott  isaacgottesman  henrygiroux  paulofreire  stanleyaronowitz  petermclaren  irashor  joekincheloe  trust  commitment  resentment  vulnerability  conversation  guilt  privilege  universalism  universality  dialogue  peterfrase  empowerment  repression  organizing  organization  identity  coalition  exclusion  inclusion  inclusivity  identitypolitics  azizchoudry  socialmovements  change  changemaking  praxis  dsa  socialism  education  learning  howwelearn  politics  activism  class  race  stuarthall  articulation  ernestolaclau  plato  johnclarke  fragmentation  generalities 
december 2017 by robertogreco

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