Popular Education

What we refer to as “Popular Education” could really best be described as ancient methods of cultural transmission, skills transfer, and education, before the Academy. It’s the way that human societies have always built their communities – through stories, behavior modeling, inclusiveness, dynamic activities, storytelling, and allowing everyone to participate and letting the group wisdom emerge.

In the last 100 years, the most prevalent use of Popular Education as a pedagogical approach comes from Paolo Freire in his literacy work among Brazilian farmers. Educación Popular is well developed throughout Central America, particularly El Salvador.

P-P-T PDX’s Voz Alta Approach is intended to be a Popular Education model for community-based language learning. This has been a difficult model to implement in the US in an ESOL context for two reasons:

  1. Popular Education was never really designed for learning a language – the classic Freirian program was a literacy program, but it assumed the ability to communicate orally in Portuguese.
  2. a Popular Education approach is roughly the opposite of an academic approach – Popular Education is synthetic, integrative, and inclusive; the academic approach is analytic and relies on separation and categorization.

Both modes are valuable and can be productive for a learner to pursue at the same time, but P-P-T PDX is not an academic approach. The key turned out to be creating a highly facilitated space which allows for all participants to know what their role is and how to “do it right” as a way to build security first.

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