YES, it is a brilliant insight, and one that really caught my attention as
well! And YES, there has been much work done in the area of adult literacy
--WHEN ADULTS ARE MOTIVATED BY A CAUSE--by Miles Horton & Paulo Friere and
other "popular" educators, that might perhaps be of interest to those in
democratic schools as well.
Here, I use the term "popular" to mean of, for, & by the people, not
popularity. These movements in adult education often go by "emanicipatory
education" and "folk education" as well. (I think we may have touched on
this topic some months back as well.) Not surprisingly, the places where
such literacy movements have really taken off were places/countries where
people were quite oppressed (whether by capitalist bureaucracy or other
systems) and were MOVED to learn to read/write because they began to
understand their condition _AND_ began to BELIEVE that they had some POWER
to change it. This latter issue is a big one when teaching adults
literacy. (And I think it's an issue that by the very nature of democratic
schools, youth at your SVS schools learn--while many adults world-wide have
learned the opposite, in accepting their "powerlessness" in face of the
Anyway, I think Eric's ideas that WHY learn before you're really motivated
to do so are worth further dialogue. Personally, I think there's nothing
"wrong" with adults who don't learn to read & write until later in life.
They've obviously learned other "survival skills" to get by in their world.
Perhaps, their soul had other more critical things to deal with prior to
that moment. Who are we to judge? Yet, I believe as we create
environments for people to learn, it is always important to help them
realize (through perhaps just our own beleifs in the fact) that they can do
more than "get by"--that they have the RIGHT to learn to thrive joyously in
the world. (Whatever it takes, though, need not be predefined by someone
else's definition of literacy.)
At the same time, I admire Peter as well for having the courage to question
the pervasive attitude of democratic school advocates around this issue.
Where is the line between encouraging & promoting literacy, and neglecting
to even show learners the significance of literacy in our society?
I had an adult education professor who often questioned the issue of: What
IS LITERACY? Is it merely reading & writing, or should we begin to
conceptualize it in broader terms of skills for living & surviving in any
given culture? If we reconceptualize literacy, how does that change WHAT
EDUCATION IS, and how we go about it? Much I beleive has been done in this
area as well, within adult education--though, like democratic schooling,
it's "on the fringes" (or leading edge!) and sometimes difficult to
find...but it is out there...
Anyway, if anyone is interested in learning more about emanicipatory
education, I have outlined some resources about Folk & Popular Edudcation
on the Net at:
Overall, though, the Net is rather LACKING for significant materials in
this area. In the bookstore that I recently set up at the Center, there's
a section on "Education for Liberating Learners" which includes some books
that I've read or reviewed about BOTH democratic & emanicipatory education.
(Just wanted to let you know about it as a resource--in case you're
interested.) You can just as easily, pursue the topic at the nearest
library. Or better yet, further discussion on this list, related to how
such ideas might apply, or not, to the SVS-model.
p.s. Sharon, I cc'd you because it just seemed like a topic that might
intrigue you as well!
Coordinator & Co-Creator of
The Center for Inspired Learning
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe