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Anarchist Pedagogies:

Collective Actions, Theories, and

Critical Reflections on Education

Edited by Robert H. Haworth

Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education

Edited by Robert H. Haworth

© 2012 PM Press

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978–1–60486–484–7

Library of Congress Control Number: 2011927981

Cover: John Yates / www.stealworks.com

Interior design by briandesign

PM Press

PO Box 23912

Oakland, CA 94623 www.pmpress.org Printed in the USA on recycled paper, by the Employee Owners of Thomson-Shore in Dexter, Michigan.

www.thomsonshore.com contents Introduction 1 Robert H. Haworth

Section I Anarchism & Education:

Learning from Historical Experimentations Dialogue 1 (On a desert island, between friends) 12 Alejandro de Acosta cHAPteR 1 Anarchism, the State, and the Role of Education 14 Justin Mueller cHAPteR 2 Updating the Anarchist Forecast for Social Justice in Our Compulsory Schools 32 David Gabbard cHAPteR 3 Educate, Organize, Emancipate: The Work People’s College and The Industrial Workers of the World 47 Saku Pinta cHAPteR 4 From Deschooling to Unschooling: Rethinking Anarchopedagogy after Ivan Illich 69 Joseph Todd Section II Anarchist Pedagogies in the “Here and Now” Dialogue 2 (In a crowded place, between strangers) 88 Alejandro de Acosta cHAPteR 5 Street Medicine, Anarchism, and Ciencia Popular 90 Matthew Weinstein cHAPteR 6 Anarchist Pedagogy in Action: Paideia, Escuela Libre 107 Isabelle Fremeaux and John Jordan cHAPteR 7 Spaces of Learning: The Anarchist Free Skool 124 Jeffery Shantz cHAPteR 8 The Nottingham Free School: Notes Toward a Systemization of Praxis 145 Sara C. Motta cHAPteR 9 Learning to Win: Anarchist Infrastructures of Resistance 162 Jeffery Shantz

cHAPteR 10 Inside, Outside, and on the Edge of the Academy:

Experiments in Radical Pedagogies 175 Elsa Noterman and Andre Pusey cHAPteR 11 Anarchy in the Academy: Staying True to Anarchism as an Academic-Activist 200 Caroline K. Kaltefleiter and Anthony J. Nocella II Section III Philosophical Perspectives and Theoretical Frameworks Dialogue 3 (On a mountaintop, between two who are in fact one) 218 Alejandro de Acosta cHAPteR 12 To Walk Questioning: Zapatismo, the Radical

–  –  –

A s I sit to write this introduction I am reminded of a particular teaching experience I had almost a decade ago. During class, I was passing out the dreaded federal standardized test when one of my students who considered himself an anarcho-punk yelled out, “Hey . . . Mr. Haworth, you are a fucking sell-out!” I couldn’t help but think about the two decades I had been involved in punk and hardcore, as well as the intense collective work many (including myself ) had participated in throughout those years. How could I be a sell-out? I stopped everything and asked him what it meant to be a “punk,” and how he identified and acted as an anarchist within the overwhelming functions of the state and capitalism? I went on to ask the rest of the class specifically, “If I don’t have a certain punk aesthetic and work as a teacher in the public schools, is that considered selling out?” After that experience, I went home frustrated. As a student, I didn’t like high school or the ridiculous standardized tests either, but I asked myself an important question: “Was I doing something different in my classroom or just reinforcing and reproducing state and corporate interests?” As an educator, I worked diligently to teach through a more creative, dialogical, and critical framework. I worked as a social studies teacher because I felt it was a space where I could engage students in important discussions surrounding the problems of capitalism and the injustices in the world. I believed public schools were potential spaces to experiment in different pedagogical practices and at the same time cultivate dissent against a system that has been so oppressive to young people and anyone living outside of dominant cultural practices.

I have to be honest that I don’t agree with my student’s judgment that I am a “sell-out,” although there are times I feel differently. Throughout my


transition into academia, I have realized how much those comments and that conversation with the class had an impact on my thinking. Experiences such as these have led me to think more critically about the complex relationship anarchism has with education. In fact, the more we engage in conversations about these intricate relationships the more we see that they are filled with tensions and ambiguity. Should we place our bets on a state-run educational system that anarchists have always been skeptical of (including my student)—one that is hierarchical and extremely authoritative? For me, and probably my old student, the answer is no, but I don’t make that decision lightly or without bringing up more inquiries.

For example, scholars within critical pedagogy (see Paulo Freire) have not only written extensively on pedagogical processes that question and resist authoritative structures, but they have also taken into consideration the transformative possibilities and spaces of resistance that teachers form within different public school settings. Tensions definitely emerge with the deskilling of teachers (Giroux, 1988) as our schools are inundated with prescribed curriculum and there is very little room to discuss ideas and critical perspectives outside of the scripted materials. On the other hand, anarchists have taken a different direction. Historically, anarchists have steadily criticized the state and public schools and have considered them mundane institutions that uniformly reinforce capitalism and hierarchical models of control. However, over the last century, anarchists have made numerous attempts to create educational processes that transgress authoritative factory models and deterministic curriculum of the state and corporate entities (see Paul Avrich).

The early twentieth century was full of criticisms and philosophical discussions surrounding education. John Dewey and others brought into question the very nature of schooling and what it means to be an educated person (see My Pedagogic Creed). Unfortunately, many progressive criticisms and pedagogical practices had limitations. Their notions of education were more in line and embedded in school reform under the state and limited to what can be imagined and created within a managed or representative democratic society. One of the many significant anarchist voices that challenged state-run schools and their oppressive pedagogical practices was that of Emma Goldman. Inspired by Francisco Ferrer’s (1913) work in Spain, Goldman wrote scathing critiques of classroom teachers, specifically their troublesome teaching practices under capitalism and the suffocating implications they had on the larger society: “The ideal of the average pedagogist is not a complete, well-rounded, original being; rather does he seek that the result of his art of pedagogy shall be automatons of flesh and blood, to best fit into the treadmill of society and the emptiness and dullness of our lives” (p. 8).


Clearly Goldman’s statement is not limited to that particular time period.

Her foretelling words resonate deeply into schools in the twenty-first century.

In many cases, schools are still dull and lack inspiration, creativity, and spontaneity. From an anarchist perspective, public schools are connected to and guided by the state, whereby they are infused with authoritarian relationships between the student and teacher, they uphold corporate structures and are inundated with standardized curriculum. Under these particular state structures, teachers’ work lacks autonomy and many (particularly failing schools under federal mandates) are forced to conform to curriculum standards, meritocracy, and quantitative outcomes.

Therefore, important questions need to be addressed. For example, “Are there spaces where discussions surrounding education and connections to anarchism are occurring?” and “Are there movements to create alternatives to schooling under capitalism and state structures?” It is quite evident that the body of writings by Goldman and others who challenged the dominant practices of state-run education are considered less frequently within academic settings and in the larger public school discourse. However, there are locations where alternative learning spaces are being created and where discussions are happening surrounding anarchist pedagogies. This is particularily evident in the struggles against neoliberalism and in the current Occupy movements. Yet it is still not seen as a relevant philosophy or theoretical framework. This should probably not be a surprise to anyone. For over a century, anarchism has been predominantly misunderstood and definitely misrepresented in political, economic, social, and cultural spaces. Graeber (2004) points out that “most academics seem to have only the vaguest idea what anarchism is even about; or dismiss it with the crudest stereotypes” (p. 2). Unfortunately, the dismissal of anarchist thought tends to move even further away when discussing philosophical and theoretical frameworks in education. Although there are many educational researchers who frame their work within critical perspectives (Marxism, neo-Marxism, Autonomist Marxism, and Marxist Humanism), the majority of research and teaching practices are confined to “liberal” and “conservative” ideological debates.

The issues emphasized above are some of the major factors that motivated me create this book. I wanted to emphasize the important contributions anarchism has made to educational praxis. Additionally, I wanted the book to disrupt dominant discussions regarding formal state-run education and explore the more creative spaces of resistance that emerge out of anarchist pedagogies and nonstatist structures. Moreover, from the body of work illustrated by the contributors, it is evident that there is not one defining position on anarchist pedagogy. In some cases, the fluid characteristics of anarchism and the pedagogical processes that individuals and collectives engage in are situated and nestled into the different educative spaces we


inhabit. With this in mind, within these pages there are opportunities for anarchists to explore and critically reflect.

Knowledge and the Marketplace This leads me to consider another important factor as to why I wanted to create this volume. There is a critical need to realize anarchism within an educational context in order to provide alternatives to the intensive shifts to universalize global capitalism at all levels of society. Part of this shift is due to the fact that, “conservative, neo-conservative, and neoliberal educational reforms are gaining momentum and have been quite successful in making their arguments clear and concise” (DeLeon, 2008, p. 137). As globalization “from above” has dominated the discourse surrounding educational reform so has the relationship solidified between knowledge production and marketplace values. Michael Peters (2009) describes the shift into the “creative economy” as a way of moving the global economic order into one that focuses on “the growing power of ideas and virtual value chain—the turn from steel and hamburgers to software and intellectual property” (p. 45). Education is thus adrift within the shifting tides of capitalism. In fact, Dokuzović and Freudmann (2009) point out that even investors in the music industry are altering their capitalist energies to focus on education, highlighting that “knowledge is a tradable commodity and considered profitable.” With the massive international movements to standardize curriculum, commodify knowledge, and privatize public institutions, it is evident that state education has deepened its relationships with capitalism and embracing the move to the new knowledge economy (Giroux, 2004; Saltman, 2007).

But why should anarchists care about how capitalism and the state operate within educational structures? Public schools and universities under state control continue to have oppressive tendencies. They rely on relationships and financial backing by corporations, while operating extensively under hierarchal structures. These modes become intensified under neoliberalism and the attempts to universalize globalize capitalism.

However, it is vital that we not view or discuss these dominating forces as impenetrable (Day, 2007). According to Day (2004) a “multiplicity of new forms of struggle is emerging” (p. 741). Struggles within multiple fronts contest the overbearing reaches of global capitalism. Students, workers, activists and other community members have organized in different capacities. They form creative and innovative interventions that challenge the dismantling of public spaces, while at the same time, “create alternatives to state and corporate forms of social organization” (Day, 2004, p. 740).

At the university level, it is vital to recognize that contemporary uprisings to contest neoliberal policies and austerity are not movements to reclaim these institutions in order to “rewind” them back to some romanticized liberal


democratic spaces. In contrast, the movements are much more privy to the complex historical problems of how universities operate, they are working diligently to distance themselves from the reestablishment of these structures of the past. However, if universities operate under rigid and hierarchical settings, why are they important within an anarchist context? Stephven Shukaitis (2009) makes an important argument that “one can find ways to use the institutional space without being of the institution, without taking the institution’s goals as ones own” (p. 167). Shukaitis’s suggestions are important to underline as the movements to contest neoliberalism unfold. As we participate in liberating spaces out of the clutches of neoliberal policies and global capitalism, it is critical that anarchists continue to develop their reflective capacities.

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