Anarchist Pedagogies Reviewed in Free Voices

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

By Sharon Presley
Free Voices
Spring 2013

As with many anthologies, this one is a mix, some I like very much, some not so much. The ones that I like the best are the practical ones in Section II: Anarchist Pedagogies in the “Here and Now.” The story about Padeia, the one remaining anarchist school in Spain, is worth the price of the book alone. This glimpse into the real thing is fascinating and inspiring. Maybe even a blueprint for others. There’s more details about it in my article on anarchist education (see p. 2).

Others that gave useful insights into the practical workings and problems of anarchist education include “inside, Outside, and on the edge of Academy: Experiments in Radical Pedagogy.” This essay examines the Free Skool projects ini the US and the college experiments in various countries. The strategies of these alternative and the risks of various tactics are discussed.

“From Deschooling to Unschooling: Rethinking Anarchopedagogy after Ivan Illich” gaive us ideas about not only why to do it but how, including learning webs (a la Illich) and networks. “Homeschooling” writes Joseph Todd, the author, “can be viewed as a direct action of the gamily against the institutional structure of school and deschooling, in its most overly political and activist-oriented manifestation, could be viewed as a form of institutional sabotage, another anarchist technique to use against compulsory schooling.” He also writes about creating educational autonomy as well as the politics of homeschooling.

In the introductory section, Justin Mueller’s thoughtful essay on anarchism, the state and thee role of education talks about the foundations of anarchist education: values, equality, and solidarity. He writes: “As Berkman suggests, while most anarchists advocate some form of cooperation and equalitarian socioeconomic system, this is not rooted in an aesthetic valuation of ‘equality for equality’s sake’ or a conflation of equality with identical good received. Rather equality of conditions and opportunity are seen as instrumental and necessary conditions for everyone to be able to full develop and express their individuality.” He talks briefly about how the educational views of de Cleyre, Ferrer, A.S. Neill, Paulo Fiere fit this model. He concludes that the anarchist 4educational values are distinct from other educational values and provide a plausible way to imagine and cultivate alternative social relationships.

The most disappointing theoretical essay was on anarchist feminist psychology. I since I am an anarchist feminist psychologies, I had been looking forward to this one, but what I found was mostly arcane “postformalist” blather. Yes, language is seated in culture; psychologists have been saying that for years, but this kind of trendy talk just seems like the Emperor’s new words rather than anything actually useful. When I got to the author’s section on anarchist psychology I found very little psychology. Late breaking bulletin here— Noam Chomsky is not a psychologist and he doesn’t have the last word on the subject. In fact I find the often uncritical duration of Chomsky to be tiresome. Silly me, when it comes to this subject, I want to hear from actual psychologists, feminists, and oh yes, women. There was precious few of any of these represented in this essay, which seemed be very odd indeed. I guess I’ll have to write my own essay.

On the other hand, the theoretical article, “Padeia for Praxis: Philosophy and Pedagogy as Practices of Liberation” is both thoughtful and humble. The author, an academic, discusses the prejudice that some left anarchists have against academia, pointing out what anarchists like Berkman, Gramsci, and others have said about intellectuals. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that the world has been built with hands only,” quoting Berkman. “Similarly does the revolution need both the man of brawn and the man of brain.” I should think so. Anyone who thinks intellectuals are not needed has been reading way too much Marx. But funny thing, Marx was an intellectual…oops. The author also talks about the increasing acceptance of anarchist scholarship within academic circles. He discusses philosophy as in “man ways, the heart and soul of paideia (the Greek word for education or learning), making a good case for the usefulness of this discipline and indeed other academic disciplines.

Another thought-provoking essay in the theoretical section was “against the Grain of the Status Quo: Anarchism Behind Enemy Lines” by Abraham De Leon. He discusses the “infiltration” of anarchism into the system— “what anarchism has to offer those who wish to teach in coercive and hierarchal educational institutions.”

If you are seriously interested in the subject of anarchist education, beyond simply the practical level of parenting, this is a book to read. In spite of my initial skepticism, I have to say that this is a book well worth digesting and mulling over.

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