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Myles Horton and Paulo Freire knew about each other more than twenty years ago. Paulo read part of the growing literature about Myles and Highlander, and Myles read Paulo's early works. Both men explained to their admirers how their ideas were similar and how they were different. The two actually talked with each other for the first time in 1973, when asked to participate in an adult education conference held in Chicago. They met again in similar circumstances in New York and California and at a conference in Nicaragua. But these meetings were for other people and other occasions, affording Myles and Paulo little opportunity to confirm what each had grown to believe about the other man and his ideas. However, when they met at a conference in California in the summer of 19B7, the time had come for them to talk, to explore ideas, to get to know one another–really know each other. It was also time to let the world in on what each man, whose work was already well known, had to say to each other.
Paulo came to Los Angeles to participate in a conference in honor of his late wife, Elza. Myles was visiting his daughter there and was convalescing following an operation for colon cancer. Paulo asked him to consider "speaking a book." Paulo, as people familiar with his writings know, had used this method to get his own ideas into print. Myles, not known for publishing his own ideas, characteristically let go a hearty laugh, perhaps because he saw the irony of the situation, but more likely because he immediately felt the joy that such an experience would bring to both men. Others around them, including Sue Thrasher of Highlander, saw the historical possibilities, and went to work to bring the idea to fruition.
The clear, cool days in early December 19B7 were generous to the mountains around Highlander, allowing participants to converse on the idyllic Highlander hilltop where Myles lived. Paulo particularly enjoyed occasionally gazing through the expansive window to the long, wide view beyond Myles's hearth. They could relax, explore their histories, and feel the texture and depth of each other's experiences as they grew closer as good friends. Their conversations soon became like a dance between old companions accustomed to the subtle leads and responses by one, then the other.
Members of the Highlander staff and friends occasionally participated in the conversation, tugging on the dialogue, sometimes clarifying a difference in ideas, sometimes netting an elusive thought in need of illustration, but never breaking the rhythm of the conversation. Myles, Paulo, and the "third party" conversationalists were recorded on audio tape, the tape was transcribed verbatim, and the long editing process began.
As editors, we have worked to give the conversations some structure and have presented them in a series of chapters that are very close to the order in which the themes emerged in the conversations. However, we tried to preserve the subtlety of each man's critique of the other's ideas, the immediacy of their dialogue, the occasional discontinuities in conversational themes, the spontaneity of their remarks, and the cognitive leaps revealed in their conversations. We wanted others to feel a part of this remarkable conversation, as we did when we read the transcripts, and to experience what Paulo frequently referred to as the "sensualism of reading, full of feelings, of emotions, of tastes."
Two years after the conversations took place, Myles and Paulo were reunited at Highlander, where Paulo came to review the manuscript draft and. sadly. to see Myles for the last time. Three days later Myles slipped into a coma. He died January 19. 1990. At their final meeting. Paulo and Myles were pleased that they had made this road together.
We Make the Road by Walking
This book brings together two figures who, as activists and educationists, have revealed a lifelong commitment to transformative radical adult education. Both Myles Horton and Paulo Freire have a lot in common, as the editors of this publication point out in their introduction. Throughout their adult education work, Horton and Freire have underlined the distinctly political nature of educational activity, insisting that there can be no 'neutral' education. They have also promoted the view of the learner as 'subject' rather than 'object' of the learning process. Furthermore, they both devised their adult education strategies within the framework of an ongoing struggle for the generation of radically democratic social relations within the respective contexts in which they worked.
As far as Paulo Freire is concerned, this is, to date, his third 'talking book' in the English language. My reactions to this style of publication have been expressed in another review of a 'talking book,' involving Freire, which appeared in a previous issue of this journal. They therefore need not be reiterated here. Myles Horton was definitely less prolific as a writer than Freire and it is possibly for this very reason that his contribution to transformative radical adult education has not been accorded the international recognition that it deserves. If only for this reason, I regard the publication of this taped conversation a most welcome initiative, more so in consideration of the fact that Myles Horton passed away soon after the two authors' final revision of the manuscript.
This book virtually represents Myles Horton's last testament with respect to his ideas concerning adult education and social change. It constitutes a fitting tribute to him. Although Freire undoubtedly makes his presence felt throughout the conversation, it is Horton who takes up most of the space, encouraged, in this regard, by the third anonymous participant who, at times, makes special efforts to bring the best out of him.
In their introduction, the editors, all of whom were close associates of Myles Horton, divulge background information concerning the development of this book and contextualize the two men's efforts in the field of adult education, providing, in the process, useful biographical data on both. This is followed by the transcribed conversation which is divided into six chapters. In the introductory chapter, Freire and Horton give their reasons for engaging in such a project, outline the major themes and indicate what they regard as the merits of "speaking a book." In the second chapter, Horton and Freire reflect on their formative experiences, outlining the major influences on the development of their ideas and pedagogical practice. The conversation deals, among other things, with the emergence of the ' Citizenship Schools,' in Horton's case, and Freire's early literacy work in Brazil. The chapter also highlights the theological and philosophical influences on Myles Horton, notably the work of Reinhold Niebuhr. There are, of course, references to his stay in Denmark where he came into contact with Bishop Grundtvig's ideas and, presumably, those of Kristen Kold, ideas one associates with the Folk High School concept. Yet we are provided with no sustained account, in this publication, of the extent to which these ideals from Denmark influenced Horton's thinking. References to the authors' formative experiences can be found in different parts of the book, especially in the concluding chapter where they reflect on some of the episodes which, they feel, had a bearing on their formation as activists and educators.
The third chapter consists of a discussion on some of the ideas that are central to the adult education philosophy of Horton and Freire. The conversation deals with a number of themes with which readers of Freire's other work would be familiar. These include the importance of generating ideas rooted in material practice, the need to convert "common sense' into 'good sense', the issue of directiveness in adult education, commitment or neutrality in education, charismatic leadership, the distinction between organization and education and the contrast between a prescriptive education and one geared towards empowerment. In this chapter, Horton stresses the importance of competence and directiveness. He insists that the adult educator should have a "vision of what ought to be or what they (the learners) can become." Nevertheless, Horton underlines the importance of dialogue in the educational process, insisting that the ideas which the facilitator has should not be imposed upon the learners. In the chapter which follows, the one on 'Educational Practice,' he states:
"You can get all your ideas across just by asking questions and at the same time you help people grow and not form a dependency on you. To me it's just a more successful way of getting ideas across."
For Horton, therefore, the competence which the facilitators have should not lead to their becoming prescriptive. They should engage with learners in a problem posing education. It is the learners who should come up with the answers or solutions to problems and he illustrates this point by means of a memorable anecdote, which has been referred to elsewhere in the literature on Highlander. He recounts how he once had a gun pointed at him by a frustrated learner who insisted that Horton should provide the solution to the problem posed, an indication that a problem posing education can create its own tensions.
Horton's views regarding competence and directiveness, within the context of a dialogical education, are supported by Freire's reiteration, in the section on 'Educational Practice,' of the distinction between authority and authoritarianism in education.
This theme was introduced by Freire in the conversational book with Ira Shor and it marked a decisive break with his earlier work in which he had not rendered explicit the belief that educators and educatees are not on an equal footing in the learning process. Another important issue which emerges is that of showing discretion when facing people who, for years, had been accustomed to prescriptive teaching methods. Horton makes the point in his account of his introductory meeting with farmers who expected him to demonstrate his "expertise". Not to disappoint them and make them lose interest, he decided to deliver a speech, followed by a discussion, therefore doing, as a teacher, "part of the old and part of the new". Likewise, Freire stresses the need to "be 50 percent a traditional teacher and 50 percent a democratic teacher," at least in the first session with the learning group. This may be taken as a recognition of the fact, often pointed out with respect to his advocacy of a dialogical education, that adult learners, conditioned by years of exposure to 'banking education,' would not always be disposed to partake of a dialogical, democratic education. As Freire himself would put it, going by one of his earlier formulations, they would be fearful of freedom itself. These considerations can be taken as clarifications of Freire's earlier views regarding the social relations of education. Nevertheless, the central emphasis on a dialogical and empowering education remains.
The penultimate chapter deals with the issue of social change. I consider of particular importance, in this chapter, the theme of commitment. Horton develops this theme through his account of his experience as a foreign observer during the elections which took place in Nicaragua in the early eighties. There he experienced the deep rooted sense of commitment exhibited by popular educators who would risk life and limb in persisting in their efforts to educate for social transformation. It affirms his belief, shared by Freire, in the effectiveness of carrying out transformative adult education within the context of movements which can have a great mobilizing effect on people, causing them to be prepared to face death for the advancement of their cause. Horton had direct experience of such mobilization and accounts of the coal miners', bugwood cutters' and the shirt factory strikes indicate that he and his associates faced their organizing and educational tasks, in relation to these strikes, with the kind of courage which he calls for in this section of the book.
In this chapter, a fundamental difference in the ideas of the two speakers can be noticed. Horton tends, through his examples and anecdotes, to portray the formal system of education, as well as other formal social institutions, in a pejorative light. The message which seems to come across from Horton is that transformative social practices are most likely to occur outside the formal system: "We concluded that reform within the system reinforced the system, or was co-opted by the system." This explains his focus on adult education and the formation of potential leaders of social movements. Freire argues that one should engage in transformative action both outside and inside the system, and that opportunities to work within the system should not be missed. In his view, one should have one foot in the system and another outside. This seems to have been the philosophy throughout his life as an adult educator and is reflected in his recent work as Education Secretary in the Municipal Government of Sao Paulo where he worked 'within' the system in concert with agencies operating 'outside' the system–the social movements. His views on the issue of co-optation (he argues that co-optation represents a tactical moment in the struggle) must offer hope to all those adult educators, working within the State system, or in organizations which depend on state funding, who see themselves operating 'in and against the state'--an engagement in a Gramscian 'war of position.'
Despite such a difference in point of view, there seems to be no tension running through any part of the conversation. There is, for instance, none of the tension we discover in the discussion, by Freire and Antonio Faundez, on the literacy campaign in Guinea Bissau. This lack of tension in any part of the conversation is quite surprising, considering that one is confronted by two forceful personalities, people who hold strong opinions on various issues. The two seem ever so agreeable with each other.
As Henry Giroux states, in one of the blurbs on the back cover, the book conveys a strong sense of hope. The two authors had been going through a difficult period at the time of the conversation. Freire had just lost Elza, his first wife and, as he stresses in the first section, a great source of inspiration to him. Horton had suffered a bout with colon cancer and was later to undergo surgery in the brain. Each of these experiences would be enough to dampen one's spirits. The two educationists/activists, however, come through, in this work, as people of vision who are also dynamic and ever so ready to scale new and higher mountains, to borrow a metaphor from this book.
For Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, the quest for social transformation is an ongoing and a relentless process, requiring an all consuming, lifelong effort.
You have to bootleg education…The people begin to get their history into their hands, and then the role of education changes.
—Myles Horton, Highlander Research and Education Center
Régis Debray, Unearthing Potentials
‘Since 1789, ideas alone have constituted the strength and salvation of the proletariat. It owes to them its every victory’, wrote Blanqui (one of those who passed the ideas of 1789 on to the Paris Commune). Abstract concepts were the abc of a militant’s apprenticeship. The notions of proletariat and bourgeoisie, like those of labour power, surplus value, relations of production, etc., that underlie them, are not apprehensible by the senses. Secondly, whether project or myth, the idea of the Revolution as ‘what should be’ is the denial and transcendence of the immediate, the overcoming of the present. Both as logical discourse and as moral undertaking, the socialist utopia demanded an inner break with the ‘stream of everyday life’, an act of faith that mobilized the powers of conceptual analysis to break the accepted social imagery down into elemental abstracts, like ‘exploitation’.
Writing collectivizes individual memory; reading individualizes collective memory. The back-and-forth between them fosters the sense for history by unearthing potentials within the present, creating backdrops and foregrounds; it is fundamental for the idea of socialism. When it is cold outside and the night is long, memory means that we are not alone. Alphabetical memory, as Hegel would put it. Contrasting ‘the inestimable educational value’ of learning to read and write with alphabetical characters, as opposed to hieroglyphics, he described how the very process of alphabetical writing helps to turn the mind’s attention from immediate ideas and sense impressions to ‘the more formal structure of the word and its abstract components’, in a way that ‘gives stability and independence to the interior realm of mental life’.
All the revolutionary men of action I have met, from Che Guevara to Pham Van Dong by way of Castro (not the autocrat, but the one-time rebel), to say nothing of the walking encyclopedias known as Trotskyists, were compulsive readers, as devoted to books as they were unreceptive to images. A Hegelian would explain this by saying that reading leads to critical detachment, and—given that there is ‘no science that is not hidden’, nor future without ‘rehearsal’ of the past—to utopian anticipation. Abstraction encourages action, as remembrance leads to innovation. The greatest modernizers inaugurate their career with a backward leap, and a renaissance proceeds through a return to the past, a recycling, and hence a revolution. Columbus discovered America in a library, through the perusal of arcane texts and cosmographies. The Ancien Régime in France was overthrown by admirers not of Montgolfier or Washington, but of Lycurgus and Cato. Chateaubriand and Hugo revolutionized literature by dint of Gothic ruins, Nietzsche vaulted over Jules Verne with the aid of the pre-Socratics, and Freud revisited Aeschylus.
Régis Debray, Socialism: A Life-Cycle, NLR 46, July–August 2007
Debray is the initiator and chief exponent of the discipline of médiologie or "mediology", which attempts to scientifically study the transmission of cultural meaning in society, whether through language or images. Mediology is characterized by its multi-disciplinary approach. It is expounded best in the English-language book Transmitting Culture (Columbia University Press, 2004). In Vie et mort de l'image (Life and Death of Image, 1995), an attempted history of the gaze, he distinguished three regimes of the images (icon, idol and vision). He also strove explicitly to prevent misunderstandings by differentiating mediology from a simple sociology of mass media. He also criticized the basic assumptions of the history of art which present art as an atemporal and universal phenomenon. According to Debray, art is a product of the Renaissance with the invention of the artist as producer of images, in contrast with previous acheiropoieta icons or other types of so-called "art," which did not primarily fulfill an artistic function but rather a religious one.
Fulfilled Life in Images of Delight
“The teacher of art is a teacher of possible fulfillments of experience (the imagist), who conveys the lesson of fulfilled life in images of delight. The values he presents are not the themes of argument but the images of enjoyment. (Image/Imagination)”
A Gift is not a Gift unless it remains in circulation.
A Boot is not a Boot unless it remains in circulation.