Embodied Mind, Earth Ethics, and Grassroots Globalization: A Case Study in Popular Education
City University of New York, U.S.A.
It seems to me that Western society today is moving in two distinct and opposing directions. On the one hand, mainstream culture led by government and industry moves relentlessly toward continued economic growth and technological development, straining the limits of nature and all but ignoring fundamental human needs. On the other hand, a counter-current, comprising a wide range of groups and ideas, has kept alive the ancient understanding that all life is inextricably connected. At present, it is only a minority voice, but it is growing in strength…
I teach a philosophy course with a promisingly vague title. It’s called, “Great Issues in Philosophy”. Needless to say, a course like that provides a great opportunity for the educator to focus on whatever issues he or she deems ‘great’. Of the many great issues in philosophy, I chose two for a couple of recent rounds of the course. The first issue is the problem of consciousness (a more avant-garde naming of the traditional concern of the “philosophy of mind”), and the second is the ethics of globalization. In what follows, I want to touch briefly on three things. First, I want to say a bit about the nature of consciousness—about what it’s like, what it’s good for, and about some of the things philosophers and cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists have to say about it these days. Second, I want to say a bit about the nuts and bolts of globalization—again, about what it’s like and how it works—in order to highlight certain of the conflicting ethical implications raised by the direction it is headed. Third, I want to share a bit of my recent experience in and beyond the classroom thinking and arguing and asking and wondering with students about consciousness, ethics, globalization, and social change, and more importantly, about the connections among them. Placing these ‘great issues’ side by side in a single course—in the context of an historically black, major urban two-year college where a vast majority of students are socio-economically underprivileged first generation college attendees, many of whom are from the far corners of the world, a substantial percentage of whom are just this side of remediation with basic reading, writing, and critical thinking skills, and a goodly portion of whom fail ever to complete their two-year degree—has given me an unexpectedly fruitful opportunity to tease out some of the connections, and to think about what those connections might have to do with the challenge of popular education in this rampantly globalizing world of ours.
My purpose here is to facilitate a conversation, not to make a case or defend a thesis. My hope for the workshop is to discuss some of the theoretical and practical issues raised when the educator treats the ‘classroom’ (whether in a two-year college, a vocational-technical school, a conventional four year college, or a more unconventional grassroots learning environment) as at once a site of formal and popular education; as a place where learners can pursue their legitimate desire to better their own circumstance and a place where the educator can pursue his or her legitimate desire to elicit from students a clearer understanding of the world they live in, of what this world is really like and how it works and how it got that way, of whether and to what extent it can be improved, and how. To this end, I will approach things somewhat informally and a bit impressionistically. This approach, I believe, will better serve our heuristic and critical dialogue—which matters more than any mere argument could—and is in keeping with the promise of transformative engagement that is the lifeblood of popular education.
Popular Education for Rural Women in Mexico: The National School for Leadership Training
Comaletzin, A.C., Mexico
“Being in the Escuela de Dirigentas, the School for Leadership, has helped me change on a personal level, has helped me grow in order to be able to help other women in need of information. Knowledge is the most important foundation on which to build a life; it gives us the ability to have a different vision; it’s like changing the world to a different color.”
- Martha García Carreón, Youth Leader of Zautla, Puebla
I wanted to begin this presentation with the words of a young campesina, or farm girl, because, in a manner that is clear and fresh, she expresses what she has achieved in her life as a rural woman through the training program based on the theory of Educación Popular which this paper addresses.
It is worth remembering that the so-called Educación Popular is a movement that goes back to 1962, initiated by Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator and social activist who worked in many Latin American countries, executing adult literacy campaigns amongst farmers and laborers.
For Freire it was fundamental to link the reading and writing of words with the reading of the world in order to be able to transform it through collective action. Using these principles, Freire built a pedagogical and political proposal that went far beyond literacy and was based on the importance of promoting a critical awareness, a conciencia critica, in all who participated in social programs and action.
Over time, his proposals have been enriched through the support of educators from different parts of the world1 and are given form in reality in multiple methodological tools that serve the traditional sectors and particularly those whose people previously had no opportunities to study.
In this text I analyze some of the theoretical principals that sustain Educación Popular as well as the principle contributions towards feminism in this political-pedagogical proposal. At the same time, a concrete program is presented for the training of rural and indigenous women. Finally, a few questions are posed which give a base to the discussion on gender relations and the role of Educación Popular in the formation of a new society.
South African Politics, Inequalities, and HIV/AIDS: Applications for Public Health Education
University of Massachusetts, U.S.
South Africa is home to 5 million of the total 45 million people living with HIV and AIDS. The enormity of the South African AIDS crisis is almost too great to imagine; except, the immense suffering demands that we pay attention.
We may consider the South African AIDS epidemic from a host of disciplines ranging from sociology to political science and, indeed, we would do well to discuss the problem in such an interdisciplinary manner. As a public health educator, I have begun a journey into various fields of study to improve upon and broaden my own approach to HIV/AIDS prevention.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss global capitalism’s influence on the politics of nations and, ultimately, the health of individuals. To accomplish this goal, I will describe the influence of neo-liberal policy on the economic and social structure of post-apartheid South Africa and examine how these structural conditions have lead to increased levels of poverty, social inequalities, and HIV/AIDS. Understanding these connections, I will provide recommendations for public health researchers and educators who continue often ignore established links between politics, inequalities, and health.
by Cliff DuRand
August, 2005 – “For a Better World” column,
revised and reprinted in MONTHLY REVIEW
Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959, this beautiful island in the Caribbean has aroused passions everywhere in the Americas. Since its inception, the revolution has had a profound impact on the popular classes throughout Latin America and haunted the political elites and wealthy classes in the United States and oligarchies elsewhere in the hemisphere. Admirers have often praised Cuba as the model for the future; its detractors have portrayed it as an oppressive regime. In reality, Cuba is neither heaven nor hell.
Instead, the revolution is a bold social experiment to find a way out of the underdevelopment that centuries of colonialism and neo-colonialism have imposed on Cuba, an effort to open a path toward a more just society than was possible under its pre-revolutionary domination by the United States. It is this quest that has brought on it the untiring enmity of U.S. governments for nearly a half-century now.
For forty-five years, ten U.S. administrations have sought to end the “threat” of a good example by subversion, sabotage, invasion, assassination, diplomatic isolation, economic embargo, propaganda, etc. The embargo — which Cubans call a blockade because it also seeks to prevent other countries from trading with Cuba — has cost the Cuban people well over $72 billion to date. The Bay of Pigs invasion and the numerous acts of terror, launched mostly from U.S. soil, have taken 3,478 lives, making this a kind of slow-motion 9/11 (the proportional impact of which, given Cuba’s small population, exceeds that of U.S. casualties in both the Korean and Vietnam wars). This little country has paid a heavy price for its independence. Read More...
Education Profiteering; Wall Street’s Next Big Thing?
Originally published on the Huffington Post – 9/28/12
Founder and now Distinguished Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute. His latest book is, The Servant Economy; Where America’s Elite is Sending the Middle Class (Wiley, 2012)
The end of the Chicago teachers’ strike was but a temporary regional truce in the civil war that plagues the nation’s public schools. There is no end in sight, in part because — as often happens in wartime — the conflict is increasingly being driven by profiteers.
The familiar media narrative tells us that this is a fight over how to improve our schools. On the one side are the self-styled reformers, who argue that the central problem with American K-12 education is low-quality teachers protected by their unions. Their solution is privatization, with its most common form being the privately run but publicly financed charter school. Because charter schools are mostly unregulated, nonunion and compete for students, their promoters claim they will, ipso facto, perform better than public schools.
On the other side are teachers and their unions who are cast as villains. The conventional plot line is that they resist change, blame poverty for their schools’ failings and protect their jobs and turf.
It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class. For over twenty years large business oriented foundations, such as Gates (Microsoft), Walton (Wal-Mart) and Broad (Sun Life) have poured billions into charter school start-ups, sympathetic academics and pundits, media campaigns (including Hollywood movies) and sophisticated nurturing of the careers of privatization promoters who now dominate the education policy debate from local school boards to the US Department of Education.
In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and — most important — have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post-Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats. Read More...
Women on the Margins (Borders): Passage to Center through Education
B. Lara Lee
UNC Greensboro, U.S.
Woman herself recognizes that the world is masculine on the whole; those who fashioned it, ruled it, and still dominate it today are men. As for her, she does not consider herself responsible for it; it is understood that she is inferior and dependent; she has not learned the lessons of violence, she has never stood forth as a subject . . .— Simone de Beauvior
Simone de Beauvior’s words and views regarding woman as the second sex within man’s world are no more glaringly powerful than when placed in the context of Spanish-speaking women entering the United States . What hope do they have in realistically and viably changing a life path that keeps them trapped within a cycle of poverty, subjugated to those privileged by nationality, race/color, gender, class and holding power over their lives? Whether through illegal or legal immigration these women soon realize that they may aspire and even attempt to resist oppressive frameworks, but they are met with the realization that they do not have the communicative competency, cultural capital, and social power to successfully do battle with the Goliath of oppressive structures, institutionalized inequities in government and education, and constructed realities that view them as less than, or other. Notably, women born, or who gained entry through legal immigration into the United States have historically encountered the gendered politics that keep them from engaging their highest human potential; and fullest participation within society and politics. If this be the case, then the scenario for immigrating, Spanish-speaking women is all the more dire.
To date, the US has yet to give reaffirmation of the United Nations Platform of Action on Women’s Rights an effort that grew out of the World Conference on Women in Beijing that occurred in September of 1995.
The Americanization of Spanish-speaking women has had a direct corollary impact on the US economy for their ability to contribute to labor-force demands. In McLaren’s (Sleeter & McLaren, 1995) thinking, “difference is intimately related to capitalistic exploitation.” Beyond their Anglo and African-American peers, Mexican women greatly outnumber others as blue-collar workers (Ruiz, 1998). These women have a long history of laboring for transnational organizations at inhumanely low wages in the fields or as domesticated servants, seamstresses, laundresses, and overall service workers, which make them the new underclass within American society. Minimal attention has been given to the plight of these women due to the politics of color. They are “subject to the ‘racial discounting’ routinely experienced by . . . Mexicans in the United States . . .” (Ehrenreich & Hochschild, 2002, p. 3). There is a silencing, which Spivak writes of, drawing from Gramsci’s theorizing. The subaltern are without privilege. Those confounded by this condition “cannot speak” because they “cannot be heard by the privileged of either the First or Third worlds (p. 5).
Throughout her work Spivak has been concerned with addressing questions of the international division of labor (of the super-exploitation of Third World female labor in particular) and she is well-known for her formulations on the subaltern, that constituency which remains most excluded from the circuits and possible benefits of socialized capital . . . she claims that the subaltern ‘cannot speak,’ . . . they cannot be heard by the privileged of either the First or Third Worlds —Landry & MacLean 1996
In this work I address some of the legitimated institutionalized inequities that fetter these women to living lives as second-class citizens within both public and private spheres. Finally examined is how these women can begin to transcend or even transform their lives through the empowerment of education as well as communicative competency and social literacy.
Questions of gender and race take on a new significance at the turn of the century, when, as a consequence of the massive incorporations of Third World women into a multinational labor force and into domestic service, feminist theorists have had to rethink such fundamental concepts as the public/private distinction in explanations of women’s oppression—Chandra Talpade Monhanty
Universalization of Higher Education in Cuba
by Dr. Rosa López-Oceguera
Center for U.S. Studies, University of Havana
The university, as any other institution, emerges in response to a social claim in a determined political context. As an institution dedicated to knowledge search, transmit and advancement, its social tasks has changed alongside history, in correspondence with the changing needs of the concrete society in which is inserted and of which is part.
In the Cuban case, the University of Havana, born as a religious institution 278 years ago and the country’s only university during two and a half centuries, emerged as an answer to the claim of a social sector, that of the moneyed classes, whose children –male, of course- were forced to travel abroad, mainly to Europe, generally to Spain, the metropolis, in order to satisfy their educational needs. The political context in Cuba at this point in history during the third decade of the 18 th Century, was that of a colony of a backward metropolis, marauded in feudal institutions and ways of thinking, with no interest whatsoever in promoting education or cultural development as part of its colonial policy. Read More...
Environmental education and citizen participation as tools for community action for local and global change
by Jorge Tadeo Vargas
Red Fronteriza de Salud y Ambiente A.C. Mexico
During the last decades, citizen participation has moved away from neoliberal discourse and absurd governmental policy to real action and community resistance. No longer depending upon the legitimizing initiatives of governments, community action, in some cases, accomplishes changes in regional public policies.
Alternatives have been created by communities that do not find in neoliberal policies real options for change and improvement of their economic, social and environmental situation; these alternatives are more and more concrete; likewise, the global fight against economic and cultural homogenization, symptoms of global neoliberalism, has enabled community actions to disperse and re-unite, forming networks of support and solidarity allowing us to share experiences, not only to learn and but also to work together for the changes necessary to obtain just and equitable development. Construction of this new world, this new reality, in which there is environmental, social and economic justice, comes from the bottom up, from the local to the global. The main source and motor for this is changes in municipal administration and regulations.
The lack of social and environmental sustainability of the neoliberal system is so bound to disinformation that it sometimes makes suitable action impossible; this is why we needed adequate information based on science to reach the sustainability that we needed to create a just reality for all. Education, information and training have become vital parts of this fight against the neoliberal system. Read More...