I can’t sleep, but there are dreams….Myles Horton

Quote from Myles Horton:

I can’t sleep, but there are dreams. What you must do is go back, get a simple place, move in and you are there. The situation is there. You start with this and you let it grow. You know your goal. It will build its own structure and take its own form. You can go to school all your life, you’ll never figure it out because you are trying to get an answer that can only come from the people in the life situation.

From We Make the Road by Walking, Conversations on Education and Social Change: Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, ed. By Brenda Bell, John Gaventa and John Peters, PA: Temple Univ. Press, 1990.

Posted in Education & Social Change, Folk School Movement and Grundtvig, Happiness Factor, Liberatory Education, Paulo Freire | Leave a comment

Let Us Live For One Another

I first learned this song at the 75th anniversary of the town of Rosholt, South Dakota where a large part of my family settled after coming from Sweden in the late 1800s.  An older man played this song in Norwegian or Swedish on an old gramophone record player with the large speaker that comes up like a flower.  I kept singing the song in my head until one day I found it in Mike & Else’s Norwegian Songbook.  Then later I found the Swedish version below  which I’ve made an effort to translate into a singable English version.

Translating, especially Swedish songs, is an art that I work at with some success though there is always criticism that follows and one can always try to improve upon these. However,  I have dedicated time to doing translations because I want English speakers to know these songs and poems and to know their meaning, especially those with Swedish ancestry but others too of course.

The folk high school movement encouraged this kind of song of good will to be sung as a way to bring people together.  It’s important when working for positive social change to be finding ways to get along and see the fun and family in our interconnections.  This song speaks to the importance of this and offers instruction for having a spirit of getting along with one another that I hope you will enjoy.

Where I’ve found the melody sung is on youtube.  I’ve found both Swedish and Norwegian (La Oss Leve for Hverandre) versions sung there, and of course you can learn it from Mike & Else’s Norwegian Songbook.

Let Us Live For One Another
Translation by Marilyn Jackson     

(Chorus) Let us live for –one another
Cherish all of the time we share.
Let us live for –one another
for one day only a mem’ry will remain.

We all have moments, in life’s charade,
With fortunes turning
and quarrelling too.
There is a meaning
Whate’r befall.
But our hard words
Can make the problems worse to bear.

Who can answer all the questions
That we face from day to day.
To be a friend is just one part,
We can learn to share our troubles on our way.

Man Skall Leva För Varandra
Text & musik: Bengt Sundström

(Chorus)   Man skall leva för varandra
och ta vara på den tid man har.
Man ska leva för varandra
för en gång finns bara minnen kvar.

Det bara händer i livets spel
att lyckan vänder
och det blir gräl.
Det finns en mening
med allt som sker,
men hårda ord,
det gör problemen fler och fler.

Vem kan förklara och ge ett svar
på alla frågor som jämt vi har?
Att vara vänner är blott en del,
och kan man lära sig utav varandras fel.

Posted in Communicating, Folk School Movement and Grundtvig, Happiness Factor, Mediation, Mental Health, Peacemaking, Social Change, Songs | Leave a comment

Ira Shor on Interactive Learning and Communication

I wrote this article in April, 1993 about liberatory education after going to a talk at La Pena in Berkeley, California, by Ira Shor.

When I first went to hear Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he didn’t speak very long.  He encouraged others to talk and said he was tired and had been talking too much all week.  The second time I saw him the same thing happened and he asked if people had met with each other for several months before he came, as that is how he normally agrees to come and speak.  In this way, it was impressed upon me that he didn’t intend to play guru.  He wasn’t the entire answer; the answer lay in the process created by the whole group.

This philosophy of education really came alive for me when I attended a presentation on liberatory education at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley by Ira Shor, Associate Professor in English at Staten Island College at the City University of New York.  He has written Critical Teaching in Everyday Life and Cultural Wars, School and Society in the Conservative Restoration 1969‑1984.  He was then working with Paulo Freire to co‑write a book.

I waited for the presentation to begin, while chairs were arranged in rows of semi‑circles.  I sat few a rows back and presently a man standing to my left introduced the evening and himself as Ira Shor.  He directed us to gather in small groups of two or three to discuss any questions we had concerning liberatory education.  We discussed for 20 minutes, becoming acquainted with each other.  Ira sat in the front row, near one end of the semi‑circle.  He stood up and asked what the questions were.  People stood up to tell about their group and Ira asked who else had the same question.  This went on for several minutes.  Then Ira talked for awhile until finally someone said she thought he had been talking long enough, reminding him that it was not in keeping with his style to dominate the entire evening.  At that point he faded into the background and merely pointed to hands to speak, interjecting something now and then.  Then someone suggested it was time to quit and Ira asked for someone to sum up the evening.  One woman gave a final testimony.  I felt as the group broke up, that we were a group, not just individuals who had attended a lecture.  I also knew one new person, the woman next to me with whom I had talked at the beginning of the evening.

One issue participants brought up was that school is often an interference to what matters most to students.  They discussed how to get students to recognize the oppression of their school confinement while in the midst of it.  One woman said she thought school, as confining as it is, is very liberating for some, compared to one’s home environment.  Criticisms and disagreements flowed back and forth throughout the evening and this process was affirmed by Ira Shor as being part of the process of liberatory education which is dialogic and participatory.

Ira said it is his practice to give students in his classes equal time to speak as himself.  He said he does the same assignments he gives students.  He often sits at the back of the classroom, and when students speak he looks down so they won’t just speak to him.  If their voice drops he looks up again until the volume picks up and then he looks down again.  Ira begins each class with the assumption that he and the students each have zero knowledge and 100% knowledge.  All have equal amounts to contribute.  As teacher, he finds he has to fight to direct the discussion and to defend his own ideas, but that he always goes into class with a world vision which guides everything he does.  He tries to make some part of that dream happen every day.

Shor described liberatory education as being a “highly conscious artifice” directed by the teacher.  The teacher doesn’t direct the students but directs the process.  His classes start with students discussing their issues with each other and agreeing on an agenda with the teacher.  This is not a “one to one press conference” but democratic directedness in which people introduce their own agendas to each other.  The teacher comes to class with a lesson plan and is prepared to abandon it and do something else.

Ira stated that the “verbal density of an over trained intellectual” can easily silence the inexperienced working classes and cause them to stammer and daydream about food and sex.  Ira develops a strong presence and then disappears and creates a vacuum into which student discourse emerges.  He listens for how to proceed, for what openings to get across some of his global vision.  He always tries to stop talking as soon as possible‑‑as soon as critical thinking is on its way‑‑rather than to give pieces of meat to swallow and check digestion by giving a grade.  Paulo Freire has called this process in which the teacher deposits knowledge into the student’s brain, the “banking method.”  In liberatory education the teacher facilitates a process by which all teach each other and build democratic community in the process.  Every time two people meet, they “commit an act of education,” Shor said.

Shor described a particular lesson in an environmental issues class.  The students divided into peer groups of threes.  Each group decided which of their papers they would read to the class.   As the students themselves evaluated whose paper was the best, this was an alternative to grading.  From hearing them read, Ira gleaned two main topics: environmental problems caused by car exhaustion and kids cussing.  He divided the class into two sides.  One side wrote about car pollution; the other, about kids cussing.  Ira himself wrote on both topics.  After the groups of three read papers again, each student drew pictures showing how car pollution is related to kids cussing.  Ira passed around his own drawing of this phenomenon and had them draw on this theme once more.  After the second time, he gathered their pictures and made a book for each student.  Then he sent a copy of it to students on an Indian reservation in South Dakota who in turn told them they were full of “it.”  This was done to put what they were doing into some kind of real, social context.

At the end of each class Ira asks three students to sum up the class.  If there are no volunteers, he offers to start it if someone will finish or says he will finish if someone will start it, but he refuses to sum it all up himself.  My own summation of this essay is to recommend a good project for dialogic education would be to invite some anti‑nuclear activists and anti‑drug crusaders to come together to talk about the interconnections, and then perhaps some Native Americans would have something to say about that.

Posted in Communicating, Liberatory Education, Paulo Freire, Uncategorized, WISR Skills | Leave a comment

Beginning Guidelines for Research at WISR with Picture Guide

Including Core Areas of Study and Skills

I developed this guide with pictures from a document by John Bilorusky and he made some edits this document as well.  I developed it as a pdf file with pictures linked to here.


Books, internet research, poetry, newspapers, archives at libraries or museums, magazines…

Taking Notes:

Note taking and observations from work done in a practicum, internship or on the job; observations, personal reflections

Listening to Speakers and Participating in Group Discussion:

Seminars at WISR (faculty and/or student led) workshops, conferences, lectures….

WISR and Wider Community-Based or Self-Directed Research:

Faculty discussions, conversations with others including faculty, fellow students, WISR alumni, interviews and consultations within or outside WISR including with community residents, agency staff, professionals/ experts, other academicians, friends, networking

Listening to Podcasts, radio shows….

Attending Community events, lectures, rallies, festivals….

Multimedia: youtube, movies, foreign films, Facebook…. Film making, creating Powerpoint slide shows.

Writing: Write down stories, give examples, share stories and research from all of the above. Ellaborate on theories and strategies of social change, including themes such as multiculturalism, cross cultural community development, social and political movements, war and/or peace.

Action Research: Using a variety of methods to learn is all part of action-research also known as social research.  Participatory research is when the people studied participate in the process and results of the research and are less of an object.  Qualitative research is less focused on quantities than and more on understanding.

Posted in Action Research, Communicating, Interviewing, Uncategorized, WISR Skills, Writer's Block | Leave a comment

Interviewing 101

In addition to dialogue with faculty and other students as well as getting comfortable with writing, interviewing people to be another integral part to doing research.  Though I didn’t jump into interviewing until near the end of my WISR program, I highly recommend it for students to try out early on and for each paper they write.

There are many benefits that can result from interviews.  One is that you get a sense of what is important to other people and how they see things from their perspective.  Others may recommend readings or films to watch or share insights you hadn’t thought of before.  They may guide you on your path if you share the questions you are struggling with.  Since WISR does not have a lot of classes that are prescribed, students have to create their program.  Interviewing can be an essential part of creating structure and depth to an individualized program.  If you find you are not sure what to write, try this as an exercise to see if it helps give you a new perspective.

As an exercise, or Interviewing 101, I recommend taking a topic and asking 3 to 5 people what they think about it.  Then report back to a faculty person, friend or mentor and/or do this in a group or class.  Talk about what other questions you could have asked and consider a followup conversation or consider who else you could talk to.

I’ve found that the most important thing is to jump in and experience talking and listening to people.  To listen, try to keep quiet and hear what the interviewee has to say.  Take notes or a recording if the interviewee doesn’t mind.

You may need to ask them to sign a permission form if you want to quote them or replicate their information in any way.  You might talk to an advisor about getting a sample or to help you develop a form.

Posted in Action Research, Interviewing, WISR Skills, Writer's Block | Leave a comment

Writer’s Block: Scraping the Pumpkin

Since the requirements can seem very flexible and open at WISR, a new student can become lost and want some structure.  Since writing is essential for completing a degree, writer’s block can be frustrating.  One way to get through it is to just plunk down whatever comes to mind, then fill in details later as you gather them.  Interviewing may give you some information to write down.  Find a topic and compare and contrast different what different people say and enter your thoughts into the discussion. By interviewing people or other research, you can build a better picture of your subject.  This is how knowledge can be built or grown.

Once you have something written, read it over and make formatting and clarification edits as well as add material or subtract what is redundant.  You might have a faculty member, another student, or a friend or family member read it and see what they think.

If you can’t think of what to write, write about what you want to write.  Or write a story about something you’ve experienced or observed.  Think of the nuances of that story and what other ideas or stories the things that come up in that story lead you to.

During the first part of my WISR PhD program I was frustrated as I wasn’t producing a lot of written material which is key for getting through one’s WISR program!  I thought of myself during this period of time as a pumpkin filling up with knowledge (and take notes, mental and written).  Then when it came to write, I thought of that as time for scraping the insides of the pumpkin.  Once you start writing, you have to reread and rewrite.  WISR alumnus William Duma, who came to the US as an exiled journalist from South Africa, once gave a writing class and told us to reread everything 4 times.  For someone who rereads at least 2 times, it’s a good reminder that more is better!

I recently found a good guide to Writing and Research called Rules for Thumb for Research by Jay Silverman, Elaine Hughes and Diana Roberts Wienbroer.  It is available at WISR and also online.

To be continued….

Posted in Communicating, WISR Skills, Writer's Block | Leave a comment

I’m Sorry….

This is a silly essay I wrote and presented to a group in Albany, California in 1993.  It’s rather tongue in cheek but represents how there are skills for getting along with people that work in most situations.  In this case, acknowledging that other people have feelings, is a key skill used in mediation and effective listening.

This is going to part of series of essays on skills learned including in mediation and assertiveness training about ways to think about getting along with people which is simultaneously important for one’s mental health.


I’ve never been one for big words and when my 4-year old playmate, Bobby Green, stood on the other side of our kitchen screen door one summer day and told my mom and older brother that his mother had sent him over to ask me to “apologize” to him, I at 5-years old, was learning a new word.  I traced my finger in the water on the rough black painted wooden drop-leaf table.  After awhile I remember meekly walking to the screen door and telling Bobby, “I’m sorry,” never finding out what it was that really bugged him.  I must have not known because that’s all I remember of that incident, nothing before, nothing after, an awkward moment for me, a quiet girl.  I don’t know if I was any better for it.  He apparently was satisfied and went home.

Serious words, “I’m sorry.”  Murray in 1,000 Clowns, the movie and play, has a scene where he goes down town to practice saying “I’m sorry” because he knows he will have to say it to someone important to him.  He merely stands on a bustling sidewalk in New York City and repeats, “I’m sorry,” to the passers-by.  They respond, “That’s quite alright.  Just don’t do it again.”  “It’s OK, buddy,” “I forgive you.”  Murray has to apologize to his new girlfriend who just moved in, because he has blown several attempts to get a job and is in danger of losing his nephew who he has raised as a son, to the child welfare people.  Murray’s brother, a more conventional fellow who brings a basket of fruit to his apartment everyday says, “You know what your problem is Murray, “Other people.”

Other people.

Most times each side has a valid side to the story, but we humans live too close and too far apart, seldom listening and hearing what each other has to say.  I don’t know how much difference “I’m sorry” makes, but it’s a start.  I wasn’t raised Catholic, so I believe in bypassing the middle guy.  What’s important is to try to listen and if you did hear, let the other person know it.  It’s never quite that simple though.  I’ve been trained to assist in mediation but when you are a mediatee you could say it’s a different ball game.  Or really the same ball game and you suddenly find yourself up to bat when you’re used to standing out in right or left field, catching the balls, and when no one is catching the balls, you have to run and catch them yourself.  Do you get the picture?

I’ve been on both sides of the equation several times, often both sides at once, as it turns out.  I’ve done my share of pouting and storming.  I’ve also had to learn the meaning of the phrase, “Don’t take it personally.”  I know that you need to have a very secure and well-established self-image to be able to do that though.

My dad taught me one way to answer to criticism.  He said this to an employer and I wondered how many jobs/relationships I could have salvaged with these 7 words, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Since then when the need arises, I occasionally use this phrase.  It seems to be a way of letting the other person in the equation feel like they’ve been heard, however, the tricky part, which is why it seems kind of phony, is that it doesn’t mean you have to understand why they feel that way.  I’ve come to understand its effect as my husband, who learned it from me, likes to feed it back to my various complaints.  My ire is miraculously diffused and I hardly notice how trivial my problems then seem.  I imagine being back at that wooden table tracing my finger in the water, walking robotically to the door, saying “I’m sorry you feel that way, Bobby.”

The expectation for ending this little essay is that I will conclude with the golden key to one of life’s major riddles, how to make peace with your neighbor in a totally pure-hearted way.  However, this is literature, a form of art and I’m human and not God and if you were expecting that, well, I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Now if you’d like, just repeat after me,

“That’s OK, Marilyn, just don’t do it again.”

First Presented by Marilyn Jackson at Gathering Tribes
in Albany, CA
July 30, 1993
ed. version 2006

Posted in Communicating, Mediation, Mental Health, Peacemaking | Leave a comment

Scholars Forums and Planning Future Events

I am probably more of an organizer than an educator or activist/demonstrator.  When I was a kid we always had cheese sandwiches with fruit sauce and popcorn on Sunday nights while watching Walt Disney so one day I tried to institutionalize this fine tradition by announcing to my family, Hey, lets do this every Sunday night! As if we weren’t already doing it.

As Assistant to WISR’s President, Student and Facutly member for many years, I’ve learned that planning well attended seminars at WISR has always been a challenge since they are not required.  Sometimes we have hit the mark and have been able to bring together students in individualized learning programs to have a chance to discuss and learn from each other.  It can be helpful to pool a community of learners for dialogue to cut one’s teeth on social change issues of the day as well as to learn the skills for Action Research vital to get through WISR’s programs.

Some years ago we had a Black Scholars Forum in February, honoring Black History month.  It might have been my idea as I tend to come up with a lot of ideas.  With advice from Drs. John Bilorusky and Cynthia Lawrence, we invited three African American WISR alumni: Shyaam Shabaka, Vera Labat and William Cavil, to speak on a panel.  The main table in WISR’s seminar room was full and people sat to the side as well.  The topic seemed to fill a need and the participants wanted more. WISR Factulty Member Vera Labat ended up taking over the leadership and it met for several more months until mid summer as I recall.  It tapered out but the question resurfaces on occasion, should we have a Black Scholars Forum annually?  Should we have it at other times of the year, not just Black History month?

I got the sense that some people wondered why I was there though since I wasn’t Black.  Growing up in a white middle class neighborhood, I was concerned about racism.  Going to Africa with my parents was a way for me to deal with racism as a teenager.  I had the chance to visit Johannesburg for a couple days and East Africa for a month when my uncle was a missionary in Tanzania.  Because I cultivate knowledge of my own Scandinavian culture I realized that this first hand experience is something needed by African Americans as well.  Years later at WISR I learned that WISR Student Shyaam Shabaka has done just that, and taken numerous groups to visit countries in Africa.   One of our WISR Faculty/Students, Larry Loebig, worked for the The Black Scholar Journal.  I hope we can form a committee perhaps to plan these at least an annual basis.  But there are many other themes we could plan around as well.

I’ve organized with people on many social change projects and am often a little in the background but sometimes in front.  I like to see it as a power sharing venture though there are times we need to give weight and listen to those with the most knowledge of the situation instead of taking the stage, meaning well, when those we would purport to help need to be heard.  In 1988, I co-instigated what developed into the Year of Black Hawk in Rock Island, Illinois, the home of the Sauk and Fox Native American, working with a descendant of Black Hawk who was active in the Indian movements in the Bay Area.  Then we went out to Danville and worked with the Automobile and UC Berkeley museum there to find out how they came to use that name, and to commemorate this.

As the Black Scholars Forum petered out, some faculty were saying, why don’t we have an International Scholars forum, or an Asian Scholars forum and a Native American scholars forum, etc.  With the new WISR space, we are eager to have events and invite people.  We are all set up to show films.  I want to suggest that we put together committees around different cultures and themes, to plan at least one event per year that could be tied to a specific time of year (this of course is optional but an effective way to rally people).  My ideas include: Black History month; Native American History month; Earth Day; and 9/11 – the anniversary of the Coup in Chile and Latin American history.  In addition to planning an event, each topic could have a blog or put together a printed group of papers.  All it would take is a minimum of commitment and the WISR staff and other volunteers would do their best to help promote it.  Having things planned out way in advance, would make it much easier to get the word out and bring people in.

I want to suggest that we put together committees around different cultures and themes, to plan at least one event per year that could be tied to a specific time of year (this of course is optional but an effective way to rally people).  My ideas include: Black History month; Native American History month; Earth Day; and 9/11 – the anniversary of the Coup in Chile and Latin American history.  In addition to planning an event, each topic could have a blog or put together a printed group of papers.  All it would take is a minimum of commitment and the WISR staff and other volunteers would do their best to help promote it.  Having things planned out way in advance, would make it much easier to get the word out and bring people in.

I ask that each WISR Student, Faculty, Board Alumni and Community Learner/Supporter consider picking one topic that is close to your heart, though if you pick two, no one is likely to complain.  John Bilorusky and I can help coordinate and find more participants from WISR’s network.  You don’t have to go to a lot of meetings, just agree to join a committee, help put something together and make every effort to attend.    Last but not least, students can of course get credit for all of this through the normal channels of writing papers and for doing action research and learning about social change, depending on what your subject area is.

Here is a list for starters to consider.

Music and Social Change

Environmental/Earth Day

Black/African diaspora

Latin American

Native American/indigenous




Yoga scholars

Asian scholars…

Conflict Resolution


Other WISR Core areas to organize around could include Social Action Research, Writing, Social Change Theories.

Posted in Race and Class, Social Change, WISR Seminars | 6 Comments

Iphone Need vs Home Made Flip Flops

Another Facebook post this week is from a Hunger Awareness Organization, Save 1 Today, of a crying girl with a handheld device on one side and the feet of a native African or perhaps Australian wearing home made flip flops, probably partly out of plastic bottles on the right.


The story line is that the girl didn’t get as good a hand held device as she wanted and the contrast with someone with home made flip flops.  I visited East Africa in 1976 and many native people didn’t wear shoes at all.  Their callouses were so thick they didn’t seem to need them.  Such a contrast of lifestyles.  The Africans I met seemed content overall and needing only a few things for their lives.  Of course they got to be outdoors quite a bit in the sunshine and to eat fresh fruit.  Not having lived there I can’t give a much more complex analysis but I was in high school at the time and when I came back to school in theU.S.I was less concerned with the conformity standards at school, knowing that the Africans could find happiness while having less.  It is a good reminder that cuts across cultures and countries.

Posted in Consumerism, Facebook Comments, Happiness Factor, Race and Class | Leave a comment

…Find Money to Help People, Interview with Tony Benn

If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people is a recent Facebook post quote from by Tony Benn, a retired UK Parliament and labour party member, from an interview by Michael Moore in the film Sicko:

The blog of comments that follow is interesting, ranging from supportive to critical.  The critique is the same old attitude that everyone should basically get a job and not live off of handouts that others worked hard for.  It seems to me that there are abuses of social democratic systems which is why a strong educated democracy is needed. There are shadow sides such as when indigenous people are controlled by a federal system that is not there own and which takes away their livelihood. A common language is needed to bring people together which complicates things when you have different cultures.

Here is the interview of Tony Benn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuNJUc3lfQM Here is a transcript: “Before we had the vote, all power was in the hands of rich people…and what democracy did was give the poor the vote and it moved power from the market place to the polling station, from the wallet to the ballot, “If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.” I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world, far more revolutionary than socialist ideas… because if you have power you use it to meet the needs of your community and this idea of choice which Capital talks about…depends on the freedom to choose and if you’re shackled with debt you don’t have freedom to choose… People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don’t vote.  They always say that that everyone should vote but I think that if the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people that represented their interests there would be a real democratic revolution. So they don’t want it to happen…. See I think there are two ways in which people are controlled, first of all frighten people and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. …and I think there is an element in the thinking of some people We don’t want people to be educated healthy and confident because they would get out of control.  The top 1% of the worlds population and 80% of the worlds wealth, it’s incredible but people put up with it but they’re poor, they’re demoralized, their frightened and they think perhaps the safest thing to do is to take orders and hope for the best.”

Posted in Facebook Comments, Labor, Race and Class, Social Democracy | Leave a comment