Thursday, February 27, 2020

Some thoughts on Emancipation

Happiness is the Longing for Repetition (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

What does emancipatory education mean? How does it mean?  I have been thinking a lot about the idea of freedom for the last few months.  I wish I was at a place where my thinking was more certain, but it is not.  And so, I have turned to other resources to help me think about freedom and what it might mean, how it applies to education, and if it is different from emancipatory education. To consider these questions, I am reading three books right now and all three seem (at least in my mind) to be in dialogue with one another. 

The texts are:

  1. Freedom Summer: Education for Liberation in the African-American Tradition (edited by Charles  M. Payne and Carol Sills Strickland)
  2. An African American and Latinx History of the United States (Paul Ortiz)
  3. Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy (Gholdy Muhammad)

I want to extract just a few lines from each and juxtapose them here. 

"The confluence between the resurgence of interest in social justice education and the dominance of hip-hop as the mode of cultural expression for a generation raises some interesting issues about the future of education for liberation. It is clear that the two will feed off each other. Hip-hop has strong elements of social critique built into it, and even some of its most negative elements--the misogyny, individualism, and materialism--can serve as points of entry into important conversations" (Payne, p. 10).

"Douglass toiled to change his listeners' understanding of their history in order to make them realize the damage their politics had wrought. Above all Douglass had to dismantle what Americans have always treasured most: their innocence and the sense that their history was so exceptional that they had managed to avoid the problems other nations faced" (Ortiz, page 2).

"Literary pursuits are specific acts of literacy that are both individual and collaborative. In the most simplistic form, one may think of literary pursuit as literacy activities; however, members of literary societies did not label their endeavors as simple activities. Rather these acts of literacy embodied greater goals and were consequently referred to as pursuits that they believed would lead to liberation, self-determination, self-reliance, and self- empowerment" (Muhammad, p. 28)..."Cultivating genius speaks to the responsibility and work that educators have.  We must keep ourselves accountable to this responsibility, because it's for our students and their families, not a state test" (Muhammad, p. 169).

"The foundation of the thinking of a Septima Clark or an Ella Baker is their profound confidence in the capacity of ordinary people to grow and develop. If we can just give light, we can leave the rest to the people. The confidence by itself vaults them ahead of most contemporary American thinking about social inequality. The forces of hegemony successfully keep critics on the defensive by framing the issues in terms of the character of the poor. Do they really want to succeed? Couldn't they do more to help themselves? Organizer-teachers don't have to expend much energy in that unwinnable battle.  To the degree that they are focused on what people can become and the developmental steps that they need to get there, they can look unflinchingly at what people actually are at the moment. Their deepest commitment isn't just to what people are, but to what they can become" (Payne, p, 62).

If we can just give light. 
Give light.

I wonder if Muhammad's description of literary pursuits and the historical context that give rise to these gatherings of African Americans in the 1800s isn't built upon the same enduring understanding of profound confidence in ordinary people.  

There's something here--in all of this that I want to explore more.

Curious as to your thoughts.