Reflecting on Popular Education

One of the great gifts I have received from the labour movement, has been a return to, and deepening of, my appreciation for popular education after years of teaching in a university context. After all, it was through the excitement of popular education that I was first introduced to the world of activist education and social justice as a teenager.


Last night I had the opportunity to reflect on this path while working with a group of students at Trent University. We were discussing teaching and learning in a community setting and I was once again brought face to face with the power of an approach that invites the whole person to be present.


Body, mind, spirit, emotions… the lot.


Paulo Friere, in his critique of the banking model of education (where students are turned into containers to be filled by teachers), calls out for a true dialogue between teacher and student. We become more fully human in the process, he argues.


“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful enquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world and with each other.” We begin to think of ourselves as capable of transforming the world. We do not simply adapt to current inequalities. We reject the fragments of knowledge tosssed our way and seek to make connections.


This is not to say that workers or activists should ignore reading, or writing. I believe there is liberation in both and these conscious acts become part of the dialogue as well.


I am, this morning, quite moved after having had the privilege of these conversations.  I’m so thirsty for more like them and to experience more often, the profoundly disruptive power of this approach.

Teaching Beyond the Academy: Methods of Popular and Adult Education

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