Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Developing Political Activism Awareness: An Interview with Jack Trammell

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Developing Political Activism Awareness: An Interview with Jack Trammell

Article excerpt

Dr. Jack Trammell's contribution to the field of education encompasses a variety of areas with one common denominator: equal access to higher education for all. He currently serves as the director of Disability Support Services at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA, where he is also an assistan t professor, teaching Disability Studies in the Sociology Department. Dr. Trammell serves as the College Reading and Learning Association's (CRLA) Political Advocacy Committee representative to the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations (CLADEA). Over the past decade, Dr. Trammell has become a leading experts in helping postsecondary educators develop political activism awareness. Dr. Trammell obtained his undergraduate degree in political science from Grove City College, PA and his master's degree in Social Studies Instruction and Doctorate in Research and Evaluation from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. He has published over 24 books and numerous articles including his most recent publication With Justice for All: A History of Disabilities in America (Lynne Rienner Publishers, in press).

Tamara Shetron (T.S.): Currently you serve as the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) Political Advocacy Committee (PAC) liaison to the Council for Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations (CLADEA). Can you explain what your duties are in this position and how these organizations benefit from having a PAC liaison?

JackTrammell (J.T): I've been a long time CRLA member and in this position, I gather and disseminate information about issues that have political aspects to them. These are issues that I feel might be of interest to people like me in disability support, or people in DE (developmental education), or people with tutoring programs and other types of learning assistance programs. My job is to try to sift through, prioritize, and share information with people and also to think about ways that we can be more politically astute within our organization. My primary duties are to be a conduit for that information to go to CLADEA and for reaction and policy from CLADEA to go back to CRLA and to people I interact with. I also see this as an opportunity to highlight a personal axe I have to grind: get disability in higher education.

Both organizations benefit primarily by not working in a vacuum. CLADEA's purpose is to bring together resources and common interests and communication between sister organizations that should, and in fact do, have a lot in common with each other. They should demonstrate common cause in the political arena, in media, and so on. Part of the role of the PAC position is to keep that information flowing back and forth and to keep up the energy for being politically active and politically interested.

I have also seen this role as an opportunity for me to actually bean advocate, be out there meeting politicians, meeting with power brokers, interacting with administrators at other universities and in other systems, and so on. For me, it's also been a happy marriage of opportunity to talk to people in positions of authority and power about how disability intersects developmental education, learning assistance, and higher education.

T.S.: Judyth Sachs (2000), a leading scholar in educational political activism, stated that the main questions educators should ask themselves regarding activism are: "What is the best place to accomplish the project ofbecoming activist professionals in teaching?" "What is the best place for ME to be?" "What can I do from where I am?" (p. 78). Referring to Sachs's questions, can you describe your political activism from these three perspectives?

J.T.: In answer to the first question, the best place to accomplish the project ofbecoming political activist professionals in teaching is in your classroom. By that, I don't mean that you should be radically active in your classroom protesting or enlisting your students to protest or to become political activists. …

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