Friday, February 26, 2010

What Is Popular Education?

My Fellow Americans,

As a follow-up to the piece about the conference at Hampshire College, I would like to speak with you today about the ideology of one of the conference’s sponsors: Project South.  As part of my research for the conference post, I looked into some of the various groups that I didn’t recognize.  What I seemed to find was more of the same.  Then I came across Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide.  From there, I learned that Project South supported what is called “Popular Education.”  And well, it only goes down hill from there.

Here we go…

Let’s define Popular Education, first, shall we?  According to an article published by the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany (and first prepared for the Popular Education Forum for Scotland), “Popular education is understood to be popular, as distinct from merely populist, in the sense that:

• it is rooted in the real interests and struggles of ordinary peopleheader1b
• it is overtly political and critical of the status quo
• it is committed to progressive social and political change.

Popular education is based on a clear analysis of the nature of inequality, exploitation and oppression and is informed by an equally clear political purpose. This has nothing to do with helping the 'disadvantaged' or the management of poverty; it has everything to do with the struggle for a more just and egalitarian social order.’

Furthermore, one of the general characteristics of Popular Education is that “attempts, wherever possible, to forge a direct link between education and social action.” 

How does that not sound like the Progressive movement of today?  Do we really want to be more like Europe – more like Scotland?

The article goes on to say:

Although the term has come to be associated with relatively recent developments in Latin America, it has strong resonances with both the radical tradition in British adult education and the distinctively Scottish interest in promoting democratic access to the exploration of ideas and to the debate about what counts as worthwhile knowledge.

Popular education seeks to connect the local and the global. In every context it proceeds from specific, localised forms of education and action, but it deliberately sets out to foster international solidarity by making these local struggles part of the wider international struggle for justice and peace.

What you need to be concerned about here is the fact that Popular Education “seeks to connect the local and the global.”  That part of the description is very important.  What ties progressives and Popular Education together is the idea of a “welfare world,” a place where – in a global or collective sense – we are all responsible for each other.

And those that support Popular Education believe that the only way to do this – is through a grassroots movement.  In a paper presented by Jerome Scott, the founder of Project South, along with Walda Katz-Fishman and Ralph Gomes at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia, PA in August 2005, we learn exactly what people behind this idea of Popular Education are truly thinking (both Katz and Gomes are professors at Howard University and have ties to Project South).  The paper, titled “A Bottom-up Southern Strategy for Power in the 21st Century – Freedom is through the South,” explains that:

To build today’s movement to fight for and to win justice, equality, peace and popular democracy we must understand how the ruling class has historically controlled the American people and what we must do to break that control. The short answer is that the ruling class has controlled us through a southern strategy rooted in superexploitation, white supremacy, male privilege, division, and brutal repression. Today’s bottom-up movement needs its own southern strategy to challenge white supremacy at its core, capitalist private property, and male domination, etc. We need to build unity across historic divides and to model the principles and processes of popular democracy in our movement as we struggle to transform society. To win nationally, we must win in the South.

We begin to further understand Scott’s background and Project South’s mission – and thereby Popular Education – in another paper jointly-authored by Scott and Katz-Fishman, titled “America Through the Eye of Hurricane Katrina – Capitalism at its “Best” – What Are We Prepared to Do?”  This work was written in response to what they call the “human-made disaster of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita” which “devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, contextualizes the destruction of human life, community, and environment in history, economy, power, and peoples' struggles.”  (Human made disaster?  I guess somebody still believes in the global warming hype).

Scott and Katz-Fishman claim that:

The horrific destruction reflects the intentional abandonment and criminalization of the poor, working class, communities of color-- African American, Indigenous, immigrant-- especially women, children, elders, and environmental crisis over centuries. It teaches us two critical lessons. One, that the economic and political system of global capitalism, including the [United States] government at all levels, is broken and cannot be fixed. Two, that only a powerful bottom-up movement led by those most adversely affected can reconstruct New Orleans and the Gulf Coast around a transformative vision rooted in twenty-first century economic, political, and social realities that addresses their needs and hopes.

And now we see a prime target of the whole Popular Education ideology: capitalism.  What’s interesting is how this is connected to what is called Historical Materialism.  According to Wikipedia, “Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans collectively produce the necessities of life.”

Who initiated Historical Materialism?  Karl Marx – the father of communism.  Marx predicted Historical Materialism, or as he called it “the materialist conception of history,” would cause “the breakdown of capitalism (as a result of class struggle and the falling rate of profit), and the establishment in time of a communist society in which class-based human conflict would be overcome. The means of production would be held in the common ownership and used for the common good” (Wikipedia).

The problem is that Popular Education has been around for hundreds of years.  It is ingrained in the fabric of our society.  It is part of the mainstream.  It’s in our culture and schools.  It’s talked about on television.  It has become the norm – because the progressive movement has become the norm.

We see that these ideologies have the common goal of destroying capitalism and blaming it for all of society’s problems.  What we need to remember as Americans is that our country’s founders did not intend for things to be this way.  I ask that you learn about the things I introduce to you in here and pass them along to your friends and family.  Do your own research.  Tell me what you think.  Talk about it.  We need to understand where the other side is coming from if we want to have any hope of bringing about real change in this great nation.

Stay vigilant,

The Refounding Father

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