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 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)