CAMINA members we need you!
As part of our participatory action research we want YOU to INVITE someone to WALK (and talk)…
The point of the walk is to discuss and explore some key questions around critical education whilst passing through your/their/a community or space that feels relevant. Ideally the conversations will be recorded in some way – though this isn’t compulsory…
Here’s a simple guide to what/how/why and here’s a great wee pilot that Isabel did with Bob Hamilton (of Citystrolls and the Radical Imagination Project): https://vimeo.com/205794010
So what are you waiting for? Get in touch if you’ve still got questions!
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By Nicky Bolland
The names we give people are important. They define how we relate to them and how they relate to the wider world. A name can open doors and it can close them. It indicates where we fit and where we don't, our past, our present and our future. The same too can be said of the things we do. How we name the actions and processes we are involved is important. The names and language we use provide foundations onto which our practice is built.
So how do we choose the 'right' names and words for what we do? What do we need to consider in finding the right name for what we do? How do we find a common language through which we can include many voices but which also accurately defines what we do and how we do it?
My daughter has come to be known to the world as Iris Saima May. The reason she is called that is a complex mixture of relationships, history, possibility, phonology, country singers and what felt right when she finally arrived in the outside world (she had previously been known as Jerry). In trying to find the right name my partner and I had to weigh up lots of different values: we wanted to connect her to her family and her history but also made a conscious decision to disconnect her from the parts of history or tradition that did not feel right to us: we wanted to honour people that were special to us and hopefully to her: we wanted something that we liked the sound and semiotics of and that would be easy to spell.
Around the same time that my daughter began growing as an idea and a being, so did CAMINA. We wanted to develop something that would connect with and support people doing educational work that challenged the status-quo, which aimed to transform lived-experience and that was creative and critical in terms of principles and approaches. But what name to use for this work?
It seems to me that the journey to my daughter’s name has a lot in common with the journey to finding a name for what we're interested in in CAMINA (a journey we are very much still on). For before we can find a language that works, we have to ask - what do we need the language to work at? What does it need to do? Does it need to connect to history and tradition – or does it need to depart from it? Does it need to be open and accessible (easy to say/understand/spell) or does it need to speak only to those who are willing to do the hard work of understanding what it is?
To some extent – we need to do all of this.
Thinking first about history and tradition, perhaps we can find answers in the language that has come before – the family line, if you will. Much of the language that is used today to discuss education that departs from the mainstream springs from the work of Latin American educator Paolo Freire, whose influential theories certainly provide us with an important touchstone. The term 'critical pedagogy' was used by Freire as was the term popular education or to be more accurate 'educação popular'– for Freire's native tongue was Portuguese). But whilst we are keen to connect our present work to the historical work of Freire and critical pedagogy, and whilst many practitioners in Scotland use these terms, it is my feeling that there are limitations in this language.
In part my concerns are around the difference between our context and that which Freire was working in. Whilst the term ‘popular' means one 'of the people' in Portuguese (and Spanish) – it’s connotations in English are quite different. Furthermore, the term pedagogy – whilst appropriate in English in terms of its semiotics, is not often used in everyday language and might therefore be considered inaccessible to those for whom pedagogy is not part of their lexicon. In this sense – what worked for Freire might not work for us.
Another pitfall of this language is that it risks being too exclusive. If we use the language of Freire we risk limiting our exploration only to the practices he developed and theorised around, and only to those practitioners who can articulate explicit links with the work they do and the work of Freire (for example there is plenty of work going on that fits under the definition of critical pedagogy but which practitioners aren't calling critical pedagogy). Whilst undoubtedly practice which has explicit links to Freire is important – it is only one strand of the landscape we are keen to explore and one that has not always been agile in moving forward from its historical context.
We would like this research and the projects that might follow it to be open to a range of different approaches, theories and encounters and in this sense perhaps we require a more spacious language. But does such a spacious language exist?
The terms 'alternative education, 'radical education', 'global education' are all used today to talk about education that departs from 'banking education; that promotes new kinds of relationships, approaches and curriculums.
Yet we face dangers in the other direction also. For example, whilst the term alternative education has become popular, it poses the challenge of being too broad. An alternative to mainstream education could be anything from education in a different context to education that focuses on different topics. There are many education projects which might be labelled 'alternative' which do nothing to challenge oppression, disrupt traditional learning relationships or critique the status-quo.
Whilst the term radical education is more likely to be linked to these practices, it also runs the risk of connecting to practices and education models which we have no interest in speaking to, since 'radical' refers to the level of change rather than the type of change. As such, 'radical education' could as easily refer to an ultra-conservative approach – which is not something we at CAMINA are interested in exploring or developing.
An alternative then to these terms is to seek out a hybrid- an amalgam: to take what works from the past, whilst discarding what doesn't.
For our daughter this meant choosing a name that connected to our family history, but that disconnected from patriarchal lineage - my mother's middle name has become her family name. And whilst her middle name honours a dear friend, her first name is all her own. Iris Saima May.
In the case of CAMINA, we have come to critical education. For me the phrase critical education speaks back to the historical lineage of Freire - it is a descendent of critical pedagogy and of popular education. Yet by combining these terms it seems to open up more space - presents new possibilities. The words it is made up of are accessible (most people can interpret what it's about even if they haven't heard or used the term before); in terms of semiotics it signposts key elements of what we are exploring 'education' and criticality'.
To amalgamate, to depart from what was in it's purer form, is a risky undertaking: it risks leaving us too far from the past but not fully in the future; it risks being only fleetingly relevant to a particular time and space. But if we want things to work for us now – we must be willing to try doing things differently – to experiment.
The work of naming Iris began in the early months of her gestation but didn't end till hours after she was born when we had to break the news and needed a name to go with it. In the end Iris's name became final because there was a deadline on it. Naming what we do is also subject to the deadlines of the wider world – we must name it so that we can share it - so that we can talk about it - but this doesn't mean the name can't change.
The names we have come to are by no means the only possibilities (as we have demonstrated) and neither are they by any means final: they are for now (and for birth-certificates). Once they come into contact with the wider world they are subject to adaptation. I am wide open to the possibility that Iris's pals will find nick-names for her, or that she will reject her given name, to that she will eschew the matriarchal line and take her future partners name or the name of her favourite pop-star. We don't know. The same is true of critical education - it may fit - or it may not. Only time and sharing will tell.
And in case you're still guessing – the country singer is Iris Dement.
Hope that you are staying warm and well this winter! We thought now would be a good time to update on what's been happening and where we are so far.
Since September CAMINA has grown from 2 of us to over 20. We now have a small core team of 5 people who have been involved in planning some of the processes we're beginning to take forward (more below). As well as the core team, a diverse range of people have come on board as collaborators from different parts of Scotland.
We have also had input from a number of supporters/allies in Scotland and beyond, who have experience to share but limited time.
Online collaboration space
The idea behind creating and maintaining an online space is to build stronger connections between folk and allow a space for dialogue, sharing ideas, knowledge etc. We wanted this space to be accessible, easy to use/organise, and collaborative.
After a couple of months trying to develop the google plus site for these purposes we are wondering whether there might be a better alternative. So far the google plus has only been used in a very limited way without much in the way of dialogue, and we have the impression that folk haven't found it very accessible or haven't been finding time to access it.
On this basis, we're asking those involved in CAMINA so far for feedback. However, we also welcome ideas and suggestions from folk as to useful/appealing online platforms they've used before or ways to make online spaces more accessible/inviting. What do you think?
After our first meetings and feedback from the first draft CAMINA Plan we would like to propose the following 3 research themes as most pertinent. We're very open to feedback about what might be missing but we feel that we need to explore these 3 at least in some depth.
We've begun to identify, consolidate and develop potential research processes which can help us to address the above questions. Some of these are fairly straightforward and are beginning to happen, whilst others need to be developed further.
1) Webinars/online discussions
These will link specifically to research theme 2 (challenges and opportunities), and will be held every 6 to 8 weeks (approximately). For future discussions we aim to link in more resources in advance of discussions, as well as providing a space for ongoing discussion on the issues/topics raised during webinars. So far we have explored the relationship between critical education and the State. Collaborators are very much welcome to propose key topics for future exploration within the wider theme(s).
2) Map of practice (current and past)
This will link to research theme 1 (what exists and where are the gaps).
Ideally, we would like this to be both online and a physical artefact, with information around what/who/how/where. We are encouraging folks in different parts of the country to contribute to this process so that we gather a detailed and contextual picture of what's happening where and with whom.
3) Challenges of Practice Reading groups
A research process with a focus on action, this will link to research theme 2 (challenges and opportunities), though may also draw on theme 3 (what we need).
Caminantes based in Edinburgh have already begun and looked at the relationship between ideology and popular education for their first session (drawing on Liam Kane's work). The next text they are looking at is In, Against and Beyond Capitalism by John Holloway. (We're looking to make sure both texts are available to those collaborating in CAMINA.)
Is there any interest in similar groups beginning in different parts of Scotland? Or, online? Get in touch if you'd be interested to start something similar!
4) Postcards from practice (idea still being developed)
This will link to research theme 2 (challenges and opportunities) and 3 (what's needed).
CAMINA members will attend events and visit groups of educators across Scotland. We will invite folk to create visual post-cards that respond to one of the research questions (primarily around theme 2). We will then ask participants to write their post-card to another educator, sharing something useful they have learned from practice or something they hope for.
Got an event or a group who might like to participate in this process? Let us know!
5) Invitations to Walk (and talk)
This will link to all 3 research themes but particularly theme 3.
A more interesting take on interviews, drawing on the meaning of 'camina' (an invitation to walk, in Spanish), CAMINA collaborators will invite participants (other educators or community members) to walk with them in their community and talk through one of the themes in relation to their own context and ideas. Conversations will be audio-recorded where possible and photographs may also enhance this process. If each collaborator invites 2 others on a walk we will have a great number of conversations to draw on.
Is there someone you would like to or think we should invite for a walk? Let us know!
6) Community Workshops
This will link to research theme 3 (what's needed).
We would like to deliver a series of workshops in the community which bring educators (and community members) together, to explore what is needed to support more effective, sustainable and transformative practice. These workshops will be delivered by educators across Scotland and will hopefully employ a range of creative methods which adhere to the principles of critical education, e.g., Forum Theatre.
Fancy running a workshop? - let us know and we'll support how we can!
7) Developing a critical education toolkit for Scotland
More of an action than a research process (though certainly feeds both), this will link to theme 1 and theme 3 (what exists and what is needed).
Could we draw our knowledge/experience and ideas together to compile a comprehensive and context-specific toolkit for critical educators in Scotland? What would this include? Do similar things exist already? How can we make it as accessible and useful as possible?Tell us what you think!
If you're not yet involved in CAMINA and would like to be...
We’re getting ready to launch our participatory action research project and we’re looking for collaborators!
As CAMINA we want to develop sustainable and effective support for critical educators in Scotland and in Spain. We recognise that in order to do that we need to speak to people, we need to gather experiences, collect ideas and take stock of what has come before and what might be genuinely useful as we move forwards. In short we need to do some systematic research to fully understand the problems we want to solve.
But we think the best way to do this research is together – as a community of critical educators (and those who have an interest in it). That way the lessons we learn will be shared, the connections we make will be collective and the solutions we chose to take forward will be chosen by many – not just a few.
In this spirit we have chosen to use the participatory action research approach to explore what support critical educators need.
This is where you come in. In order to carry out this project we need those engaged in critical education across Scotland to get involved – as collaborators and as participants.
How can I be involved?
Collaborators will be actively involved in defining our research (questions/methods/analysis), gathering data, analysing it and agreeing on what we do about the understandings we gain. Whether they do this on a daily, weekly or monthly basis is up to them – as is ‘what they actually do’ (within the scope of our living research plan).
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in – contact us now to find out how you can be part of it.
What will it involve?
We’re asking collaborators to be involved in:
• 2-3 face-to-face gatherings
• Regular collaborative planning, dialogue and reflection online
• Ongoing individual and collective research activity
• A residential summer-school/follow up conversations
Participants won’t play such an active role in the carrying out of research but will contribute their experiences, ideas and input where possible and appropriate on an ad-hoc basis.
We know you are busy, and we are striving to ensure this project and process is flexible around different levels of commitment. We also recognise that this project will involve work: we hope this work will be worthwhile to all involved, and we feel it is likely to open up opportunities for individual and collective benefits in the future.
Why be involved?
We hope that the process of collective exploration, reflection and creation will be a rewarding one for everyone involved and ultimately will allow us to positively impact on critical education practice across geographies.
Our long-term hope is that this research process and actions will give rise to actions (as well as further questions), including, but not limited to:
the formation of a collective/cooperative of critical education practitioners
a network of educational organisations, groups and projects committed to critical practice
the creation of space(s) dedicated to critical education activity.
We're excited about the possibilities and we hope that you are too.
Up for it?
If you think you’d like to be involved in some capacity, or would like to hear more, please get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our first meetings will be:
Glasgow: 10am - 2pm Tuesday 13th of September
Dundee: 10am - 2pm Friday 23rd of September
venues to be confirmed.
Get in touch if you'd like to attend either of these! We are happy to discuss the project further or answer any questions you might have.
Join us to begin developing our par project:
Glasgow / Tuesday 13th September /10-2pm
Dundee / Friday 23rd of September / 10-2pm
Get in touch to tell us you want to participate.
We've got lots to say - but we've been busy getting our website fleshed out first. Stay tuned for our first blog-post coming soon!
In the meantime check out this cool resource, Beautiful Trouble.
In the meantime check out this cool resource, Beautiful Trouble.
Whats going on?
This is where we will keep you up-to-date with the project as well as sharing regular insights/findings/resources.
Check out upcoming events here: