Climate change / the refugee crisis / austerity / Brexit...
...these are indeed uncertain times.
As we witness the continuing rise of neo-liberal politics prioritising profit, concentrating wealth in the hands of a few, and pitting communities against each other, - locally, nationally, internationally -, it seems clear to us that critical education is more necessary than ever.
But we know that across these communities there are many people (community members, educators, activists etc.), on the ground doing their very best to promote critical education and dialogue - to ask hard questions and search collaboratively for answers.
We also know that in the face of so many challenges, these individuals and groups tend to be sorely under-supported, under-resourced and isolated. We believe that this fundamentally undermines the transformative capacity of critical education locally and globally.
So what do we do about it? How do we support critical education practice in ways which are useful and sustainable?
This is what we want to explore in a systematic and collaborative way through our participatory action research project. Once we've started to gain a picture of the needs, we can start to look at how best to address them.
We know there won't be any simple answers. We know that many before us have tried to do the same. We know that creating anything sustainable will take all of our collective energy.
But in these uncertain times - we have to try.
...The main reason is that we feel there is valuable insight, knowledge, understanding and mutual benefit to gain from creating a "bridge" with another cultural, socio-economic and political context, but by no means do we wish to exclude or limit the possibility of more "bridges" to other contexts/locations being created and developed in the future! However, we have chosen to connect with Spain for the following reasons:
- Practical/logistical: one of the founding members of CAMINA is bilingual and a dual-national (British/Spanish), and although currently based in Scotland, plans to re-locate to Spain in the not-so-distant future, and therefore has the communicational/physical means at present to lead on research on critical education activity currently happening in Spain, and create a base for/build on CAMINA there in the future.
- Socio-political 'climate' and needs: while recognising that comparisons can be made between Scotland and other countries also, we feel that in many ways, significant comparisons and contrasts can be made between Scotland and Spain's educational and socio-political contexts currently and historically. The current state-of-affairs in Spain is arguably just as, if not more, in need of (and perhaps 'ripe' for) support and development of critical education activity. We will soon be expanding on this perspective through an entry in our Blog.
Precarious - Peripheral - Popular
Nevertheless, we are aware that as an emerging group we cannot do it all. We are also aware that we do not need to do it all, – for there are already groups working to support critical education in particular contexts (for example; the Popular Education Network exists to support those in higher education with an interest in critical education).
In considering who we want to work with and for, we have asked ourselves the following questions:
In an effort to recognise our capacity, how our experience can be best utilised, and to avoid reinventing the wheel, we will initially seek to work with and in support of critical educators who consider their work to be precarious, peripheral and popular:
By precarious, we mean those who are carrying out work which is unsupported, un/underfunded, or difficult to sustain/keep going. For example; - those who are doing projects which are precariously resourced (little, short-term or not funded), - those whose working capacity is precarious (activists; those on short-term contracts), - and those who are embedded within and perhaps limited by institutions which do not support the principles of critical education.
By peripheral we mean those whose work tends to sit on the edge of or even outwith the 'mainstream'. I.e., on the periphery of formal or mainstream educational agendas; the periphery of political agendas; the periphery of grant funding agendas. Often the peripheral nature may interact with the radical nature of the work.
By popular we mean those whose work is in essence/nature in the Spanish sense of the word 'popular': “of the people”. I.e., doing work which is genuinely embedded within communities with a focus on meaningful participatory practice – taking community experiences as a starting point.
These three concepts resonate strongly with the kind of work we have been involved in, and the key challenges that we have faced as critical educators. (For instance; how do you manage the precarity of short term/limited funding whilst sustaining the 'popular'? How do you stay peripheral to mainstream agendas, but still speak to communities' needs in an accessible and engaging way?)
It can be argued that all critical education work fits into these three categories. In this sense, these criteria allow our project to be inclusive to all educators who feel they need support, but by using these concepts to define who we want to address first and foremost we hopefully can target our work (in partnership with existing networks/groups), where it is most needed and to those who are and who are carrying out work which is most precarious, most peripheral and most popular. It can also allow us to start drawing out some of the key issues that impact critical education.