Category Archives: Podcasts

The Freedom University Georgia Podcast: Part 2

In Part 2 our guests from Freedom University Georgia (FUGA) talk about their definition of leadership–from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ model of “we are all leaders”–through students as “co-conspirators” in their educational experience. Their questioning of the master narrative of current U.S. immigration policy has led them to collective action, with the Georgia Board of Regents and the state legislature. For all the leaders in FUGA, the university is practice for a better world.

As they have found their voices, the media often revises or erases their voices. FUGA speaks truth to power, and those outside can never fully understand the context. In addition, the idea of a democratic classroom is open to sabotage, for those beholden (whether they acknowledge it or not) to the master narrative of traditional banking education (in its various forms) have to find a fatal flaw in the utopian experiment, even if they have to invent a flaw.

It is my hope that this podcast provides some space for these voices to be more fully heard, and the butterflies to soar (see Part 4 for more on butterflies!).

 

The Freedom University Georgia Podcast: Part 1

Freedom University Georgia (FUGA) is “a modern-day freedom school based in Atlanta.” They meet the needs of undocumented students who are denied access to Georgia’s top public universities and to in-state tuition. FUGA offers college-level classes, SAT prep classes, and leadership training.  The director and student leaders of FUGA, Mileidi Salinas, Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis, Arizbeth Sanchez, and Rafael Aragon, met with me for a conversation on June 16, 2017. We discussed their work as learners who share the roles of teachers and students in the work of living into Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948):

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human
personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Note that this article says “everyone” not “citizens.” The students of FUGA are undocumented because of a broken and unjust immigration system. They are part of “everyone.”

Human rights are universal, inalienable, and indivisible and interdependent. FUGA takes an activist stance to hold the state of Georgia accountable, while they call out the state legislature and the Board of Regents of the university system as human rights abusers.

In their document, “A New Appeal for Human Rights” (May 16, 2017), members of FUGA respond to the Georgia state legislature’s passing of HB 37, the nation’s first “Anti-Sanctuary Campus Bill.” Along with the right to education, they address the rights of non-discrimination, housing, voting, religious freedom, workers’ rights, and healthcare. This document, available on their website, provides the most current context of undocumented students in Georgia, and highlights the urgency of democratic education in the midst of many roadblocks.

In this podcast in Parts 1 and 2 they talk about shared power and speaking truth to power, leadership (especially when faced with the consistent attempts to erase their voices), movement building and strategy setting, non-violent direct action and civil disobedience, along with subsequent arrests. And they respond to a recent (May 22, 2017) article by Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker  in Part 2 in a bonus track. In another bonus track, Arizbeth, Rafael and Mileidi graciously share their poetry with us. The students in Freedom University are taking risks, modeling liberatory education, connecting to other struggles through coalition building, and facing the impossible possibilities with wisdom and courage.

 

Pre-Texts Part 2

Doris Sommer

Cultural Agents at Harvard University

In Part 2 of our conversation Vialla Hartfield-Mendez and Doris Sommer takes us further on some wonderful creative tangents on generative learning and democratic education. They discuss the (re)use of art as a vehicle for getting “unstuck” in imagining  just societies, and the practice of Augusto Boal’s theatre of the oppressed as a way of embodied learning. The pronouncement of the death of the humanities is not only premature, it has served as an impetus for rethinking students and teachers as cultural agents for creative change. The changes to classrooms, through the examples they discuss from k-12 to higher education, are inspiring.

 

 

Pre-Texts Part 1

Tina Pippin, Doris Sommer, Vialla Hartfield-Mendez

Pre-Texts is an expansion of critical pedagogy using the arts to create democratic discourses and connections between university and the world for social transformation. Pre-Texts is part of Cultural Agents (culturalagents.org) at Harvard University: “arts and humanities in civic engagement.” Pre-Texts is an approach to the humanities and to social change, grounded in student-centered learning. The handmade books from recycled material (Cartonera) in Latin America, and the art activism of Antonus Mockus, former mayor of Bogata, are two example of art in the world.

Doris Sommer, Ira and Jewell Williams jr. Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and Vialla Harfield-Mendez, in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and Professor of Pedagogy at Emory University, joined me in a conversation on May 24, 2017 at Emory. They talk about Pre-Texts origins and evolution, the train-the-trainer pedagogy sessions, and the re-imagining of the humanities in the world. The tangents they follow provide examples of new ways of defining leadership, learning, and innovative change practices.

The foundational sources by Doris Sommer include her edited book, Cultural Agency in the Americas (Duke University Press, 2006) and The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities (Duke, 2014).

Seeds of Fire: An Interview with Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele

Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele & Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

 

 

 

 

 

The Highlander Research and Education Center has been at the heart of popular education and social change. In 1932 Myles and Zilphia Horton, Don West, and others founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee as a place of cultural memory and organizing, participatory action research, and racial, economic, and environmental justice. Highlander has been causing beautiful trouble since its training of union leaders in the 1930s on, in its first interracial workshop in 1944, through its involvement in the civil rights movement and citizenship schools in the 1950s and 60s, and its support of movement building for groups working for justice and human rights in southern Appalachia and beyond.

In this podcast the two new co-executive directors of Highlander share their visions for the Center. They take us through the basics of popular education and the importance of communities defining “what is and what ought to be” in their local situations, while building coalitions with other resistance movements.

Ira Shor on Critical Pedagogy: Questioning the Status Quo – Part 1

March 13, 2017

Ira Shor is Professor of English at the College of Staten Island and Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at The Graduate Center, CUNY. He is a leading theorist and practitioner in critical literacy and pedagogy and democratic classroom spaces. Shor is the author of numerous books, including: Critical Teaching and Everyday Life (1980), Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change (1992), When Students Have Power: Negotiating Authority in a Critical Pedagogy (1996), and a 1987 “talking book” with Paulo Freire at The Highlander Research Center, A Pedagogy of Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education. In our conversation on March 13, 2017 Shor offered his definition of critical pedagogy and his critique of mainstream practices in higher education, along with insights into risk-taking and creating just and democratic spaces in the classroom.

“We have been allowed to know only one definition of rigor, the authoritarian, traditional one, which mechanically structures education, and discourages us from the responsibility of recreating ourselves in society.” (A Pedagogy for Liberation, p. 77)

“Fear comes from the dream you have about the society you want to make and to unmake through teaching and other politics.” (A Pedagogy for Liberation, p. 56)