The Radical Education Forum
For over forty years, Lib Ed has actively promoted freedom in education by organising meetings, conferences and other events and by publishing books, pamphlets and magazines.
The last printed issue of the magazine was in the summer of 1999 and for a few years Lib Ed limited its activities to the publication of books, but since 2006 groups of articles have been published on this website three times a year. This decline in activity illustrates our need for new blood, and it looks as though the Radical Education Forum may well provide it. There will be a joint meeting of Lib Ed and the Radical Education Forum on February 4th from 7-9 pm. It will take place at Freedom Books (through side door rather than main shop entrance, meeting room on 2nd floor), Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 (nearest tube Aldgate East) , and it will be open to all.
As an introduction The Radical Education Forum, here is their own account of their recently produced Radical Education Workbook.
The production of this workbook began at the onset of the movement against the austerity programme that had been laid out by the Coalition Government in Britain in 2010. In this moment and in the years and months since, students, teachers, nurses, doctors, migrant people, firefighters and many others have begun to invent and re-engage with practices of organisation: questioning measures of austerity and, more fundamentally, the process of neo-liberalisation that preceded them.
This UK dimension of a global movement, including occupations, street protests, strikes, people's rebellions and anti-capitalist co-operatisation has consistently struggled with the need to move beyond spontaneous actions. It has attempted to move away from big speeches and A to B marches, towards broader consciousness-raising initiatives, community and grassroots organising practices, consideration for the politics of speaking and listening, and attention to the dynamics of teaching and learning within our movements.
As a collective of students and educators working in a diversity of settings, from primary schools to universities, social centres to swimming pools, and straddling this work with our involvement in struggles on the education front, we found ourselves poorly educated in the histories of radical education that have circulated in the UK and elsewhere. This, we understand, is not by any particular mistake or ignorance but because of the systematic erasure of questions of radical pedagogy from curriculum and, to a certain extent, from social movements themselves.
In the making of this workbook we have recounted our own experiences of teacher training – increasingly focused on behaviour management and test score achievements. Where radical education has been introduced, it is often marginalised to the theory section of our courses, divorced from our experiences, removed from the practical aspect of the teaching that constitutes the majority of our time as educators. The staff room, the only place for teacher congregations – where it has not been removed following current managerial trends – provides neither the physical space nor the time to allow for discussion of critical approaches to curriculum. This leaves teachers and teachers of teachers attempting to make even minor changes within the current system stigmatised if they propose critical or radical strategies. This absence of critical approaches for curriculum also exists within social movements themselves. Where many radical bookshops have extensive sections of political analysis they rarely have sections on community organising, popular education, radical research or their histories. Many movement organisers are not aware of these practices, used in revolutionary and everyday struggles for social justice around the world and focus more on readings of key theoretical texts. For others, these histories of radical education are implicit in practice, but are rarely valorised as bodies of knowledge to be understood alongside key analytic debates. For a new generation of activists entering into struggles for a non-coercive, anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist education, there is often a feeling that one is beginning from scratch.
Initiated in 2010, the Radical Education Workbook has been an attempt to rectify these different absences. It was created through collective readings and workshops exploring practised concepts. These spaces have provided moments of solidarity between students and educators across many practices, and support for those bearing the physical and emotional stress of the education system as it currently stands. In creating these spaces, we have been careful not to re-assert a new professionalised 'radical education' sector or subjectivity, but proceeded with the idea that education (and radical education in particular) is not only the domain of teachers and students – it is fundamental to the production of life, as opposed to production of workers and 'good' citizens. In this, practices of education are central to social and political organisation.
The 'Radical' in Radical Education
Our use of the term radical is not meant to make grand claims of political purity, nor to be off-putting for those who don't think of themselves as 'radicals'. It is used provisionally to mark out a terrain that includes many forms of practice, including popular education and research, militant or co-research, collective practice, popular theatre, critical literacy, participatory action research, social justice education and many others. We felt it important to encompass these practices with a more jarring and questionable term to counter the very nice language that can be used when speaking about education and to suggest that a focus on social justice is most definitely at radical odds with the forms of education we are forced to work in today.