In Part 2 of this conversation, share with us their strategies for creating open and democratic spaces in the classroom through specific games and other techniques such as storytelling, poetry, and the arts. They share their joy at being surprised at the creative innovation of their students, whether in k-2, university level, or k-12 teachers. In doing so, they share how they bridge the theory and practice divide, value the knowledge of their students, and engage in new meaning-making for a more just world.
Misha Cahnmann-Taylor and Mariana Souto-Manning are “rehearsing for the revolution” (Augusto Boal’s term) in their creative teaching. In Part One of this podcast they share with us their stories of using theatre “as a way to train new teachers, and ourselves,” as well as create democratic spaces in classrooms through “culture circles” (Souto-Manning) and poetry and the arts (Cahnmann-Taylor). Join me in learning from these inventive teachers who are committed to embodied learning and serious play for transformative learning and social change.
Melisa “Misha” Cahnmann-Taylor is Professor of TESOL & World Language Program (TWLE), Dept. of Language & Literacy Education, College of Education, The University of Georgia. Her blog is https://teachersactup.com/
Mariana Souto-Manning is Professor of Early Childhood Education & Teacher Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; Founding Co-director of the Center for Innovation in Teacher Education and Development (CITED).
Rebecca Martusewicz (pronounced: marta-savage) is Professor of Social Foundations and Community Education in the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University. She was a founder and director of the Southeast Michigan Stewarship (SEMIS) Coalition, developing “citizen stewards of the Great Lakes.”
I spoke with Prof. Martusewicz about her new book, A Pedagogy of Responsibility: Wendell Berry for Ecojustice Education, (Routledge, 2018). She draws inspiration for ecopedagogy from the life and writings of conservationist, novelist, essayist, poet activist Berry. In her teacher education classes Martusewicz works with students on developing a cultural-ecological analysis. Berry’s writings helped in understanding the systemic causes of the contradictions in the anthropocene. Using C.A. Bower’s concept of root metaphors: emancipated individualism, a linear view of progress, and anthropocentrism, Martusewicz shows how humans are implicated in climate change and ecological destruction. Using Berry’s writings, especially his poetry and essays, she shows how to rebuild relationships back to wholeness.
“United, Unafraid, Undefeated, Unstoppable Leaders.” That is the description by the students of U-Lead Athens. Since August 2014 they meet every Thursday night at Oconee United Methodist Church, on the boundary of the University of Georgia (a university that bans undocumented students). Mentors and allies from the university (the UGA Undocumented Student Alliance) and the community gather to eat and study and plan for the future. Their mission statement states that they assist high school and recent graduates in preparing for college, identifying schools that are open to un(der)documented students, and applying for scholarships and other financial support. U-Lead Athens is a sanctuary, in the many meanings of that term, providing a supportive community.
In August 2018 my daughter Jacy and I visited U-Lead on a Thursday evening and interviewed current college students who returned to visit or volunteer, some current students, the director of volunteers, PhD student Nikki Luke, and two of the co-directors, Prof. JoBeth Allen and Prof. Betina Kaplan. The conversations set the context of the discrimination and anti-immigrant laws in Georgia, the activist work of students and allies to change these laws and provide access to higher education and in-state tuition, as well as working on justice issues around TPS and DACA status. The students shared their stories, their art, and their hopes and challenges.
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This October podcast is a bit self-serving. Our Religious Studies Department has been on a 30+ year journey into what it would be to live into Freire’s vision for democratic education. How can liberatory pedagogies inform our work at the department level? In what ways can we model our commitment to an education for freedom as opposed to an education for domestication? How do we extend what we are learning in our classrooms to our practices at a more systemic, departmental level? What would a truly democratic/liberatory department look like?
There is important work being done by our students in a student leadership group, Safe Agnes Scott Students (SASS). Leaders in this group partner with faculty in around 10 disciplines to offer syllabus workshops and midterm evaluations, as well as assistant around difficult dialogues. There are more expansive models at Bryn Mawr and Carleton and other colleges, all supported by their institutions and usually housed in a center for teaching and learning that offers student fellowships and pedagogical training. These models of “engaging students as partners in teaching and learning” (see Alison Cook-Sather, et al.) include students participating in curriculum design, as we practice in our department. A list of basic resources is on the Resource page of this podcast website.
We want to get a conversation started about why the Freirean vision is not being implemented by departments in their work with students. The obvious answers include an embedded hierarchy, the blame game on student involvement, lack of faculty commitment (and perceived threat to faculty authority and power). Students and I have presented at several national conferences hoping to engage more critical dialogue. We’ll be presenting at AAC&U in January 2019. What we are doing is at once radical and not radical enough. So we evolve and assess. And this conversation with Religious Studies and Religion and Social Justice alumnae and majors is representative of our on-going conversations. We hope you will listen to the insights of these students and engage us in further conversation!
In the second half of our conversation Victoria Rue talks about the
importance of theatre in the classroom as a way to break out of the ruts and old habits of traditional teaching. She offers suggestions for tools on the journey, as well as stories of her own experiences of transformative teaching and learning with students. Rue, like Marc Weinblatt in the previous podcast in July, calls attention to theatre as a necessary pedagogical method for social justice education.
Victoria Rue is a professor, author, playwright, theatre director and workshop leader, and Roman Catholic womanpriest. She has taught at San Jose State University from 2004 to the present in Comparative Religious Studies and Women’s Studies. In the Fall of 2018 she will be at Dar Al Calamar University College in Arts and Culture (http://www.daralkalima.edu.ps/en) Palestine as a Fulbright Scholar. For Rue learning is an encounter with the self and others, and theatre is a way to engage the whole person in critical thinking and engaging stories. She uses theatre as a way to teach cooperation, community building and somatic learning (embodied pedagogy). Through theatre games, improvisation, writing exercises, and the performance of plays, Rue creates learning communities that explore new possibilities for social change. Her work addresses issues such as HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, lgbtq issues, and homeless youth. With Augusto Boal, Rue sees “theatre as rehearsal for revolution.” According to Rue: “Theatre is an arena in which we can dream what we want in our society.” Her book, Acting Religious: Theatre as Pedagogy in Religious Studies (Pilgrim Press, 2005) has both theory and practical examples of her pedagogy and theatre work. For more information see her website: www.victoriarue.com
In Part One, Victoria talks about her theatre background and the major influences on her work.
In Part Two: Theatre for Systemic Change, Marc talks about his experiences with Forum Theatre and Legislative Theatre in addressing community issues. With over 30 years experience, Marc shows the successes, opportunities, and future vision of his theatre work.
The Mandala Center for Change: “Founded in 1999, the Mandala Center is a multi-disciplinary arts education organization dedicated to community dialogue, social justice, and societal transformation.”
Read the article by Marc Weinblatt & Cheryl Harrison, “Theatre of the Oppressor: Working with Privilege Toward Social Justice,” pp. 21-21 in “Come Closer”: Critical Perspectives on Theatre of the Oppressed, eds. Toby Emert & Ellie Friedland (Peter Lang, 2011).
“Theatre is a form of knowledge; it should and can also be a means of transforming society. Theatre can help us build our future, rather than just waiting for it.”—Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed
Marc Weinblatt has been a professional educator, theatre director, activist, and workshop facilitator since 1980 having extensive experience with both adults and youth. An internationally recognized leader in the use of Augusto Boal’s renowned Theater of the Oppressed (T.O.) to stimulate community dialogue and social change, Marc has worked with diverse communities ranging from police to homeless youth, grassroots organizers and laborers to University deans. Internationally, he has worked with activists in Norway, Holland, and Canada, youth workers in Guatemala, refugees in Azerbaijan, ex-combatants in Northern Ireland, construction workers in South Africa, slum families in India, community workers in the Republic of Congo, and victims of war, among others, in Afghanistan. Marc was named “Cultural Envoy” by the U.S. State Department for his work in the Congo in spring 2010. Marc regularly facilitates T.O. based diversity / anti-oppression workshops in a wide variety of contexts across the U.S. with a commitment to bringing a deep sense of spirit and humanity into social justice work. He also directs the multi-generational Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble which incorporates T.O. and Playback Theatre techniques to generate community dialogue on burning social issues. One of Augusto Boal’s “multipliers”, Marc has trained thousands of people in the use of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques through his classes and annual week-long intensive trainings since the early 1990′s. Marc is also a dedicated father of 4 beautiful boys. (bio from the Mandala Center for Change website: http://www.mandalaforchange.com/site/about-us/our-team/)
In Part One: Theatre of Liberation, Marc shares his theatre background and outlines Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) and Playback Theatre (founded by Jo Salas and Jonathan Fox). He draws examples from his experience with homeless and lbgtq youth.
A Podcast of Radical Musings on Social Justice, Pedagogies for Transformation, and Feminist Activism