Facilitators: Addyson Frattura & Koji Pingry
Faculty Advisor: Tamara Cooper (Addyson) & Victoria Lawson (Koji)
Focus Group Spring Quarter 2016
Radical Roots: Exploring and performing the role of student activism in a University setting
“Utopia lies at the horizon
When I draw nearer by two steps,
it retreats two steps.
If I proceed ten steps forward, it
swiftly slips ten steps ahead.
No matter how far I go, I can never reach it.
What, then, is the purpose of utopia?
It is cause us to advance.”
Our seminar has three main goals.
- To look at historical and contemporary examples of student activism in order for us to define, as a group, what student activism means and looks like.
- Collectively imaging what student activism can look like here at the University of Washington
- Perform student activism as a group.
In order to build a foundation of knowledge for the class we will be looking briefly at historical and contemporary examples of student activism both here in the United States and transnationally. We will be looking to answer as a class: what has student activism meant in the past? What were the goals? What were the strategies? What do they look like now? We hope that by examining our historical roots we will be able to better imagine what our radical student activist tree can look like. The goal of this section will be collectively define what Student Activism.
In the second part of the focus group, we will provide different frameworks and examples of activist in which students can then fill those frameworks with content they are interested in. For example, we could use the framework of a zine (a handmade radical magazine intended to be an alternative form of education that is easily produced and shared). With the zine, the seminar participants could then add the layer of their student activist interests. In the end, this could look like a radical eco-justice zine with information on local histories of eco-colonialism or a Black Lives Matter inspired zine about racial justice practices that disrupt and transcend a white supremacist, capitalist society. Other frameworks might include things such as teach-ins, demonstrations, performances etc.
Lastly we will spend the last three weeks of the quarter picking a strategy and issue as a group in order to put into practice what we have spent the first two sections of the class discussing. This will be the performative section of the class so that we are not just talking about student activism, we are embodying that identity.
Throughout the quarter, we will be thinking about how to approach this content through radical pedagogy and a pedagogy of love, two terms which we have defined below. The very nature of a peer run seminar within the University setting is radical in and of itself. We will push that forward through collectively building out the bulk of our seminar with our peers in the class. Seminars will be facilitated democratically with rotating weekly facilitators. And lastly we will have a collaborative project putting into practice the theory that we will spend the first part of the quarter talking about. In addition, we will be enacting a pedagogy of love through the building of intimacy and trust. In order to begin establishing intimacy and trust, we will work through essential groundwork practices such as building community agreements and identity work (Ex: Where I’m From).
Definition of Radical Pedagogy
"Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse."—Ira Shor, Empowering Education, 129
Radical pedagogy centers around rethinking the student and teacher relationship. Building a classroom space where students are not in competition with one another, but are working together collaboratively in order to problem solve. Radical pedagogy also acknowledges that people are entering a space with different backgrounds and different starting points. And so rather than prescribing certain ways of knowing, radical pedagogy offers an opportunity for students and teachers to engage in critical discussions in order to work through difference. Yet the project of radical pedagogy, as we are defining it, goes beyond the subject being able to critically think and self reflect. It goes beyond the actual methods used in order to instill these qualities. Radical pedagogy is deeply political. The content matters as much as the methods. Radical pedagogy, as we are defining it, seeks to challenge the systems of oppression in which we live through changing our understandings of ourselves.
Definition of Pedagogy of Love
Education is an institution that is supposed to enlighten and nourish learners, yet it has enabled oppression in the form of racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism etc. There is an urgent and profound need for pedagogy of love in order to illuminate and transcended these discriminatory and oppressive pedagogies. Pedagogy of love aids in interrupting the marginalization of communities. Without intimacy, love, and trust in the classroom, facilitators and students may be perpetuating the very power and oppression they seek to analyze. Education as an institution has the power to move learners from recipients of oppression to agents of justice. Love is defined as not only acceptable pedagogy, but as a necessary framework for education that does not reject reason nor does it neglect love and intuition (Rocha, 2009, p. 586). A pedagogy of love is defined as open arms, open eyes, and open hearts willing to challenge institutional marginalization and to unlearn oppressive behaviors in order to transcend. In this manner, pedagogy of love is love in action; it is the vision and the practice combined (prefigurative politics); it is the tool and the theory for transcending systems of domination in education and thus society.
If all of this sounds ambitious and idealistic so be it. As Eduardo Galeno says, we can not begin to move forward unless our goals are ambitious, idealistic. Our class structure is purposefully flexible and democratic to adjust to our students collective knowledge and comfort level. Our overall goal as facilitators is to provide a space in which radical student activism can be imagined and discussed.