Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Organizing against the Neo-Liberal Privatization of Education in South Los Angeles: Reflections on the Transformative Potential of Grassroots Research

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Organizing against the Neo-Liberal Privatization of Education in South Los Angeles: Reflections on the Transformative Potential of Grassroots Research

Article excerpt

THIS STUDY CONTRIBUTES TO THE EMERGING SCHOLARSHIP ON PUBLIC PEDAGOGY it takes place within collective, grassroots spaces. My attempt is to expand on the burgeoning public pedagogy research that has documented how public spaces mediate pedagogical processes that are themselves political strategies of community resistance and struggle (see Brady, 2006; O'Malley & Roseboro, 2010; Roseboro, O'Malley, and Hunt, 2006). Thus, I build upon the conception of public pedagogy as a rich, nuanced, yet contested "organizing framework" (Sandlin, Schultz, & Burdick, 2010) for understanding pedagogical processes outside formal educational sites, a project that de-centers cognitivist notions of "pedagogy" (Ellsworth, 2005) and problematizing "the public" and "public space" (Savage, 2010).

In their review of the literature on public pedagogy, Sandlin, O'Malley, and Burdick (2011) identify several tensions that are a resource for enriching, conceptually, what we mean by public pedagogy. First, a clearer articulation is needed with respect to the theories (and politics) that inform the public pedagogies we enact, document, reflect upon, and investigate. Second, existing public pedagogy scholarship can be strengthened by studies that demonstrate, theorize, and unpack how various non-institutional sites function as pedagogy. This latter concern is, as I see it, a question of pedagogical mediation. In the ensuing reflection, I invite readers to inquire how the set of experiences within the grassroots campaign against the privatization of a public elementary school in South Los Angeles are mediated and mediate a critical, political and social consciousness among its participants. Rather than define the set of practices within the campaign as instances of public pedagogy, I argue that an investigation of the pedagogical dimensions of practices such as community organizing and action-research as they take shape within grassroots organizations leads us to an investigation of the transformation of practices and participants.

Focusing on action-research as a practice and strategy within the campaign, I reflect upon the ways in which action-research is pedagogical, thus providing a closer analysis of how it functions as public pedagogy. Drawing upon a rich Latin American tradition, I make use of the concept of educación popular (popular education) in my analysis of action-research as organic popular education. Further, I argue that action-research within the campaign is a form of educación politica (political education). By delineating how action-research functions as organic popular education, political education, and organizing research, I provide a working framework for thinking through how action-research as mediating praxis and political strategy functions pedagogically. This investigation, therefore, ask not just how alternative, public spaces such as grassroots organizations, are pedagogical, but how particular practices are transformed and transform its participants, thus becoming pedagogical by virtue of these transformation and public by virtue of the politics that guides such practices and the spaces that make them possible, here the spaces of progressive, grassroots organizations.

Enacting a Mestizaje Methodology

By virtue of their position, the poet and the researcher (working strategically from peripheral locations) can challenge existing frameworks that are invested in maintaining the academic boundaries between discipline and knowledges. The mestiza scholar attends to her research with the tools of multiple sources and multiple ways of knowing. Mestizaje informs our choices as researchers and we garner our knowledges through an interrogation of the lived conditions of our communities. (Cruz, 2006, p. 73)

Enacting Cruz's (2006) mestizaje methodology this inquiry attempts to rupture traditional ways of "reporting" that position texts and subjects in rather restrictive ways. Rather than represent the social interaction that transpired in the South Los Angeles Elementary Campaign as something fossilized in the past, excavated from ruminations, fieldnotes, and reflections, I suggest an alternative, radical strategy that asks readers to enter these spaces of struggle and thus make them come alive through their very recollection. …

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