Friday, June 29, 2007

This year's talk about Human Rights Education and Advocacy

Each year for the past three i've been invited to give a talk (along with Chrysogone Zougmore Secretary General of the Mouvement Burkinabé des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples in Burkina Faso) on the relationship between human rights education and advocacy. I called this year's talk The Warp and the Weft and you can download a version of it here:

Friday, June 15, 2007

Invisible Theatre to the power of 10

The Yes Men are up to their antics once again. This CBC story reports the latest (thanks, Matt). The Yes Men are merry pranksters who monkey-wrench corporate conference events by posing as official representatives of various corporate interests. This documentary chronicles some of their pranks. It's interesting to compare their work to invisible theatre, one of the methods of Theatre of the Oppressed developed by Augusto Boal (if you can read Portuguese check out Boal's organization in Rio: CTO-Rio and there's an english page here about international exchanges). Invisible Theatre is an interventionist form of theatre in which a group of actors stage and perform scenes that expose various forms of injustice. The goal is to provoke dialogue about oppression and, hopefully, contribute to resisting oppression if not promoting justice. The actors never reveal that it is theatre and so people who have witnessed/participated in the event would never know that they had been part of something that had been planned. The ethics of doing this are, to say the least, fuzzy - worth debating. Since first doing Theatre of the Oppressed in the mid 80s i have seen a consistently enthusiastic response on the part activists and educators that usually sounds like, "That's so cool. Let's DO IT!" This enthusiasm can eclipse the need for careful preparation including discussion of the why's and wherefore's of doing it. The Yes Men eventually expose what they have been doing so it's not exactly invisible theatre but it does share some elements in common up to the point they reveal themselves or get exposed. The curious thing is why people are suckered by them when they are presenting incredibly outlandish things as in one presentation where they advocate for slavery. But, having come across Confessions of an Economic Hit Man i can see that believing the Yes Men is actually not as hard as believeing the extent to which the forces of U.S. capitalist democracy are willing to go in manipulating other countries economies for the benefit of the U.S.

Monday, June 11, 2007

John Perkins on "The Secret History of the American Empire

This episode of Democracy Now features an interview with John Perkins who wrote Confessions of an Economic Hitman. It's an illuminating, if discouraging, interview. It makes me wonder what chance the forces for social justice have when capitalism can function as Perkins describes:
We work many different ways, but perhaps the most common one is that we will identify a third world country that has resources our corporations covet, such as oil, and then we arrange a huge loan to that country from the World Bank or one of its sister organizations. The money never actually goes to the country. It goes instead to US corporations, who build big infrastructure projects -- power grids, industrial parks, harbors, highways -- things that benefit a few very rich people but do not reach the poor at all. The poor aren’t connected to the power grids. They don’t have the skills to get jobs in industrial parks. But they and the whole country are left holding this huge debt, and it’s such a big bet that the country can't possibly repay it. So at some point in time, we economic hit men go back to the country and say, “Look, you know, you owe us a lot of money. You can't pay your debt, so you’ve got to give us a pound of flesh.”
Here's the Democracy Now interview with Perkins from November 2004.

A few things worth checking out

Culture Collective
A source of on-line videos, that Jacob of the Living Folklore says is "a place to cultivate dreams - a collection of stories and voices to inspire hope and to create a meaningful dialogue across cultures and generations." There's a blog, too.

International Summer Institute Lifelong Learning
Faculty of Education, University of Malta 18-19 September 2007 with Professors Peter Jarvis, Margaret Ledwith, Peter Mayo and Kenneth Wain. Click here for a PDF flyer describing the event.

The Popular Education News #49 - June-July 2007
Produced and distributed by Larry Olds from Minnesota this issue features reports from the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed conference that happened a few weeks ago.

Highlander’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Educational Institutes
On Friday, August 31, in celebration of its 75th Anniversary, Highlander will conduct day-long, single-topic trainings on the core methodologies that have been the backbone of Highlander’s ability to impact communities for the last 75 years. Choose from one of five core methodologies and spend an entire day with Highlander Staff and other nationally known leaders in their field. Topics of study include: Popular Education, Participatory Research, Cultural Organizing, Multilingual Capacity Building and Communications for Change.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Redesigning the Popular Education Class

As some of you know, i've been teaching a popular education class at the Faculty of Environmental Studies for the past several years. In 2001 and 2002 i co-taught it with Matt Adams of the Catalyst Centre. I then co-taught (in the Winter semestre of 2003) the new second part (focusing on practice) with Christine McKenzie who was a new member of Catalyst at that time (and, like myself a graduate of FES). And i've taught it solo for the past few years. And this coming Fall i'll co-teach it with Deborah Barndt who's been on faculty at FES since 1993 thereabouts. So, it's time to redesign the course. Here's the syllabus from this past season. And for those of you interested in the individual session designs you can download a Word document here (it's 451K) with 11 of the 12 sessions. It's a very popular course that has always attempted to give a critical survey of the field of popular education (broadly interpreted). You can get a sense of this from the syllabus and session designs.

Now, Deb and i are talking about reorienting the course. It will still be survey-like. But we're going to feature three frames of reference: contemporary Latin American popular education, postcolonialism and aboriginal ways of knowing. We're still sorting what the texts will be and, thus far, have agreed to the following:
And we're looking at choosing one of the following:
Tough choices. And i'd love to add more. There will be a selection of readings as well, albeit less than in the past since we'll be concentrating on a few texts for a change. Opinions on this course, our text choices and how you think popular education should be taught are most welcome.