The Critical Teaching and Learning Forum
By Erik Jacobson
The website for the group is criticalteachingandlearningforum.org/
The Critical Teaching and Learning ForumSep 11, 2023
The University of Orange: Popular Education and Restorative Urbanism
For this episode of the podcast, my guests are Margaux Simmons, Molly Rose Kaufman and Doug Farrand. They are staff and organizers at the University of Orange, a free school of restorative urbanism located in Orange, NJ. The discussion reviews the University of Orange’s activities and its founding principles. For example, one key idea is that the city itself is the university, and that you can learn everything you need to know about US history, both the good and the bad, by walking around and engaging with Orange as a resonant locale. In addition, in keeping with the approach of popular education, the University of Orange ethos is that everybody has something to learn, and everybody has something to teach. During the conversation the guests identify how this approach is made concrete in particular programs, what it takes to run a free people’s university and lessons they have learned.
University of Orange: https://universityoforange.org/
Developing Data Literacy and Fighting for Data Justice
This episode of the podcast features a conversation about working with adult learners around data literacy and data justice. I’m joined by Sherry Ruff and Bonnie Taylor, two long time adult educators who are committed to connecting the work done in their classrooms with the lives and concerns of their students outside of them. Earlier this year the three of us took part in a study circle on communicative and data justice sponsored by San Francisco State University. During the discussion, Sherry and Bonnie describe the action research projects they engaged in and share lesson they learned about teaching from a data justice perspective. A key point is how adults should not just be the object of somebody else’s study – they should be identifying issues and leading the research and analysis themselves. The discussion also touches on how to communicate their findings in ways that are most effective– this means working with learners on the nature of rhetorical strategies and creating visuals to make data easier to understand.
WE LEARN - History and Future
This episode of the podcast features a conversation about the history and future of WE LEARN – the Women Expanding Literacy Education Action Resource Network. WE LEARN is an organization that promotes women’s literacy as a means of fostering empowerment and equity for women. In the conversation I am joined by three leaders of WE LEARN. The first is Mev Miller, the original founder of WE LEARN and veteran community educator and activist. The second is Stacie Evans, a long-time WE LEARN board member and adult educator. The third is Jaye Jones, director of WE LEARN’s advisory committee and higher education administrator. The conversation begins with Mev explaining how WE LEARN began and then covers what it has accomplished over the last two decades. A key point is how work related women’s literacy has played out differently in community-based projects and academia. WE LEARN has always kept the focus on women’s experiences as learners and amplifying student voices, and the three guests share insights about what that has meant to them, and what the implications might be for the field of adult education.
WE LEARN: https://www.welearnwomen.org/
Rethinking Adult Education
This episode of the podcast features a conversation with Paul Jurmo about ways to rethink adult education. Paul has spent his career in the United States and internationally working in a variety of contexts, with a concern for social justice being a consistent element of his practice. He prioritizes a participatory approach, and has brought this commitment to his projects with unions and developing countries in Africa and the South Pacific. During our discussion, we strive to push back against historical amnesia and to identify existing models of adult education that are grounded in social justice. These models have already proven to be effective and demonstrate that it is possible to work outside of a limited and limiting workforce development model, given the pedagogical and political will.
Paul's work can be found here: www.pauljurmo.info.
Working With Conservative Students
This episode of the podcast features a conversation with four teachers who work in a range of contexts – elementary, middle school, high school and adult education. Although they work with different student populations, they deal with many of the same issues. One in particular arises again and again -when teaching from a critical or liberatory perspective, what is the best approach when you have students in the classroom who have conservative or reactionary world views and opinions? These students often actively resist considering new information, ideas or perspectives. If we remain committed to a pedagogy that does not simply dictate to students what they need to believe, that means we need to explore multiple ways of getting critical dialogue started. Each of the teachers in this discussion share their own experiences and insights, and a group we push ourselves to clarify our thinking.
Writing and Learning While Incarcerated
The guests on this episode of the podcast are Cynthia Peters and Sergio Hyland. Cynthia Peters works at World Education where she is the editor of The Change Agent – a magazine featuring pieces written by adult learners, with a focus on social justice. Cynthia also provides professional development to adult education teachers and staff. Sergio Hyland is an author, speaker, and human rights activist. He also works as an organizer in Philadelphia for the Working Families Party. While incarcerated, Sergio was a frequent contributor to the Change Agent., and during the discussion Cynthia talks about how Sergio’s work is a great representation of the philosophy informing the magazine. Sergio then shares his experience of writing while incarcerated, talks about mentors who shaped his thinking and identifies systemic and structural issues that are at the root of so many problems.
The Change Agent: https://changeagent.nelrc.org/
An Update on Education in Brazil
Women's Perspectives: Adult Learner Writers Share Their Work
WE LEARN is an adult education organization that in their own words focuses on the issues, needs, concerns, viewpoints, strengths, and wisdom of women. The latest issue of Women’s Perspectives, their annual collection of writing by adult learners, is out now and some of the writers graciously agreed to read and talk about their work. This includes writers Marcia Costa, Norby Vilario and Jessica Ramos, who is also a WE LEARN Advisory Committee member. Stacie Evans and Shellie Walters, WE LEARN Board members, are also on hand to talk about WE LEARN’s work and the Women’s Perspectives publication.
The theme for the issue is: "We Are Still Here: Women and Resistance."
The issue can be downloaded for free here.
Adult Literacy and Social Justice
Today’s guest on the Podcast is Ira Yankwitt, a long-time adult educator. Over the years, Ira has been as a teacher, the director of a community based program and an administrator working within the New York City adult education system. He is currently Executive Director of the Literacy Assistance Center in New York City.
Throughout his time in adult education, Ira has grounded his work in a commitment to social justice. This has often time put him at odds with approaches that speak in terms of human capital development, and during the conversation he notes how this tension has shaped the field. Ira highlights current openings for social justice work and he shares what he thinks the field needs to learn from its history in order to move forward.
Resources/Click for Links
Investing in Quality: A Blueprint for Adult Literacy Programs and Funders
Health Literacy and Communicative Justice
Today’s guest on the Podcast is Maricel Santos, an adult educator, researcher and professor with extensive experience in the field of health literacy. During the episode, we discuss moving beyond decontextualized approaches to health literacy and towards education that is grounded in the lived experiences of patients. Maricel is particularly concerned with issues of communicative justice, and she centers her analysis on the interpretive burden that is put on some patients, particularly those from immigrant communities. This approach highlights the links between adult education, health literacy and social justice.
Teaching the Troubles
Today’s guests on the Podcast are Saul Fussiner and David Senderoff, two high school teachers from New Haven, Connecticut. Saul and David have extensive experience with Facing History and Ourselves and the discussion focuses on how they refined their own approach to the material. A pivotal moment in their experience was when an African American student challenged them to move beyond units of study that all involved the oppression of Black people. In response, Saul and David were part of a team that developed a curriculum for teaching the Troubles in Northern Ireland as means of exploring issues of political violence and reconciliation. During the episode they talk about creating lesson plans, what they learned on a research trip to Northern Ireland and what student response has been.
Teaching the Troubles: http://teachingthetroublesatnha.blogspot.com/
In previous episodes of the podcast, I have had conversations with one or two people about their work. This episode is slightly different, as I am joined by four other teachers for a group discussion about teaching Palestine. Two of the teachers work in high schools, with one being an art teacher and the other being a language arts teacher. Another guest teaches social studies at the middle school level, and the last teaches at the college level. None of the participants claims to be an expert on Palestine or the Middle East, but we all have an interest in helping our students move beyond narratives that marginalize and silence Palestinian voices. Rather than providing clear answers, the conversation captures the work we are all doing to improve our own practice when it comes to teaching Palestine. We believe that there are many other teachers out there who are in the same position, and we hope that our conversation can contribute to the ongoing struggle.
Resources Mentioned in the Podcast Can Be Found Here: https://criticalteachingandlearningforum.org/curriculum-resources/
The Politics of Everyday Literacy Practices
The guests on this podcast are Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear, literacy scholars who have long been at the forefront of New Literacy studies. Their work has been a key part of efforts to re-examine the nature of everyday literacy practices. They are also interested in the opportunities that new digital technologies present for re-thinking learning and teaching. In the conversation, they discuss the politics of everyday literacy practices, how literacy research has been depoliticized and the ways in which neoliberalism domesticates and narrows what is possible in classrooms, schools and communities.
Using Music to Create Critical Dialogues in the Classroom
Today’s guest on the Podcast is Danné Davis, Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Montclair State University. Danné works with pre-service elementary school teachers and much of her activity focuses on helping these future teachers recognize and be responsive to the diversity within their classrooms. A key interest of hers is using stories, poems and popular culture to start and frame critical dialogues. In the conversation, she discusses how she uses music to help her students make deeper connections to the topics they are discussing and to understand key aspects of the Black experience in the United States.
Comic Books and Critical Pedagogy
Today’s guest on the Podcast is Kevin Pyle, a comic artist and working teacher. He is the author of a number of books, including Bad for You, Take What You Can Carry and Blindspot. He has also helped create comics that focus on the issues of wage theft, migration and the prison industrial complex. His non-fiction graphic work has also appeared in the LA Times. In the conversation, he discusses how he connects political commitments to comic art, and what that looks like in the classroom.
I encourage you to check out his work at https://kevincpyle.com/
Immigrant Student Activists Fighting for Justice
Today’s guest on the podcast is Giovana Castaneda, a youth leader at Make the Road New Jersey in Elizabeth, NJ and a student at Rutgers – Newark. Giovana has been an activist since she was 16 years old, focusing on immigrants' rights and workers' rights. She is currently involved in an effort to remove police from Elizabeth’s public schools. In the conversation, she discusses the criminalization of students, getting the receipts via Open Public Record Act (OPRA) requests and making unexpected connections.
Information about Make the Road New Jersey can be found here: https://www.maketheroadnj.org/
Presence and Socioemotional Health in Correctional Education
Today’s guest on the Podcast is Bill Muth, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Bill spent many years as an educator working in correctional institutions and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Hope House, a non-profit organization that helps families separated by prison to remain connected through literacy projects, video conferencing, summer camps and other activities. He is a founding co-editor of The Journal of Prison Education and Reentry and the author of the recent Fathers, Prisons, and Family Reentry: Presencing as a Framework and Method.
The Critical Teaching and Learning Forum website: criticalteachingandlearningforum.org
Critical Pedagogy in the Suburbs
This episode features a discussion with Andy Beutel, a middle-school social studies teacher working in suburban New Jersey. Andy discusses the need for critical pedagogy in contexts where students' experience of privilege limits their ability to empathize with communities they have little contact with. Andy shares samples lessons and explains his approach to helping students rethink their frames of reference when it comes to issues like immigration, Islamophobia and how social class impacts health outcomes. Samples of Andy's writing on this topic can be found here and here.
The Critical Teaching and Learning Forum website: criticalteachingandlearningforum.org