On popular economics and popular education

The view from the Highlander Center.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity of attending a training on popular economics and popular education put on by United for a Fair Economy , an independent advocacy and educational nonprofit and REC ally that works towards equity and fairness within the American economic system. We all had the great privilege of participating in the training - or, as they more adequately referred to it, the "Training of Trainers Institute" - at the famous Highlander Research and Education Center in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. Highlander, for those who don't know, has played a major role as a meeting space, educational institute, and workshop center during the struggles of the labor movement, the Civil Rights movement, and the movements of the people of Appalachia throughout the 20th century. It was incredibly fortunate that we all had the ability to meet and learn from each other in such a place.

The intersection of popular economics and popular education was the focal point of the four-day long institute, and the intertwining concepts informed a unique participatory and educational process. Both the content and the process we used were central to what was being taught. The subject that we discussed was popular economics: the exploration and history of "Bankers, Brokers, Bubbles, and Bailouts" from the perspective of the middle- and working-class American people who are most affected by the mismanagement, greed, and growing inequalities of our current economic system. Process was also key to what we were learning about - the methods of popular education, a participatory system of sharing and building on each others' knowledge to digest and understand material in an engaging and empowering way.

Popular education is an umbrella term for a number of inclusive and participatory methods that we believe can help responsible investment groups on campus function effectively. For example, try asking your campus group "Where does the money in our endowment come from?" and see whether the group can find the answers instead of simply listing or handing out pre-packaged content. Or perhaps try letting the group build a meeting's agenda from the ground up, instead of the more hierarchical and traditional way of having one person draft an agenda and then just asking, "Any questions?" Doing so can help group cohesion, tease out contrasting opinions and perspectives, and help everyone involved on your campus take a more active ownership in your process.

REC stands by the great work that United for a Fair Economy does to highlight and address the injustices of our economic system. Beyond that, however, we also believe deeply in the process of popular education as a way of respecting and learning from each others' experience, and bringing out the educator within all of us.

I look forward to sharing the methods of popular economics and popular education to build a more effective responsible investment movement nationwide.

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