Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Learning in Social Action: Students of Color and the Québec Student Movement

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Learning in Social Action: Students of Color and the Québec Student Movement

Article excerpt

THIS PAPER OFFERS OUR CRITICAL RELFECTIONS AND STORIES as active participants within the 2012 Québec student movement, in relation to our diverse social locations and the various Indigenous, racial and migrant justice movements that are at the heart of our activist scholarship. Through this collaborative project we seek to emphasize the importance of teaching and learning that takes place away from the traditional academic classroom and specifically, "the widespread and powerful informal and incidental education and learning that occur around social and political struggle" (Foley, 1999, p.7). Our commitment to learning in social action and documenting the complex and contradictory processes involved in social movement building is intended as part of a collective ongoing project of challenging the neocolonial assumptions and institutions of the Canadian and Québécois settler states.

Our collaborative work serves as an alternative to the isolating and individualizing model of academic knowledge production. As activist-scholars, our research offers examples of knowledge production and pedagogical practices that are actively engaged with, and in the service of, grassroots social movements (Sudbury & Okazawa-Rey, 2009). We reject the tendency to separate activism from scholarship, and instead, like many women of color feminists who have served as "radical bridge builders" (Sudbury, 2003, p. 135; see also Moraga & Anzaldúa, 1983), we argue for activist scholarship as a model of active engagement between the institutions and the many movements we tactically move within.

The academic system does not consist of neutral or benevolent institutions that simply require adjustments to their policies and procedures. Rather, there must be a concerted effort to challenge the myth of meritocracy and uproot the academy's colonial and capitalist logics (Smith, 2007). Andrea Smith (2009) encourages activist-scholars-whether within academic institutions or community organizations-to focus on social movement building outside of the individualist, hierarchical system of academia:

To foster oppositional work, it is important to examine to whom we are structurally accountable. 'Decolonization' is a political practice that is rooted in building mass-based movements for social change. The implications of this conceptualization are that those in the academy who are committed to decolonization would actually need to be part of or develop relationships of accountability to movement-building work. By movementbuilding work, I mean work that is focused on organizing people who are not already activists for the purpose of building a sufficiently large base of resistance that can challenge the status quo. (Smith, 2009, p. 41)

Our collaborative project is inspired by Smith's call for "relationships built on mutual responsibility and accountability" (2009, p. 41). By providing our own oppositional counterstories in this essay, we situate ourselves centrally within the Québec student movement.

Context: A brief chronology of the Québec Student Movement

Since the 1960s, the Québec student movement has been able to assert significant political power. Organized pressure tactics, including student strikes, have led to access to higher education for working class Francophone students through the creation of the Québec University network; improvements to the loans and bursaries system; the cancellation of planned tuition hikes, and a decade-long tuition freeze from 1996 to 2007 (ASSÉ, 2012; Ayotte-Thomson & Freeman, 2012; Brett, 2012; CLASSE, 2012; Mills, 2010). These struggles have earned student federations seats at decision-making tables alongside administrators and politicians and lay the foundations for the Québec Spring1 of 2012, the largest student mobilization in Canada's history.

In early 2010, in response to the Québec Liberal government's announcement of their plan for tuition increases, 30,000 students signed a petition against the hikes and began organizing a series of one-day strikes and massive demonstrations (Sorochan, 2012). …

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