Folklife in Education
Come with me, dance with me,
Give me your hand,
Hum to me softly an old tune,
Tell me a story of when you were young.
—Greg Dale and Erik Sessions*
After examining the thousand-year-old etymology of the word folklore, a researcher might regard the phrase “folklife in education” as an oxymoron. Jeffrey Mazo writes that the Anglo-Saxon term folclar was in circulation by the year 890.1 Meaning “knowledge held in common,” the term that gave us folklore is in contrast with the term boclar, which referred to “knowledge kept in books” or “doctrine.” Mazo points out that the contrast runs parallel to the difference between folcland and bocland, which marks a distinction between “land subject to the provisions of common law versus land subject to the provisions of royal charter.” As nineteenth-century Scandinavian thinkers transformed the term into folkliv2 and twentieth-century English speakers created the American term folklife, the contrast between academic and nonacademic forms of cultural expression is a salient concern in a “folklife in education” project.3
These projects contribute to compensatory education that integrates and affirms the value of knowledge found outside the canon of academic instruction. American folklorists originally established “folk arts in the schools” programs during the late 1970s.4 They continue to administer these projects across the nation today. They are modeled after artist-in-residence programs developed by state and local arts agencies and inspired by numerous projects that use folklife as a resource for enhancing instruction in language arts, history, music, and art in primary and secondary schools. I met Richard Seaman because I was