You Can't Padlock an Idea
Rhetorical Education at the Highlander Folk School, 1932–1961
Drawing on the Highlander archives housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Avery Research Center in South Carolina, and the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee, Stephen A. Schneider reconstructs the pedagogical theories and rhetorical practices developed and employed at Highlander. He shows how the school focused on developing forms of collective rhetorical action, helped students frame social problems as spurs to direct action, and situated education as an agency for organizing and mobilizing communities.
Schneider studies how Highlander's educational programs contributed to this broader goal of encouraging social action. Specifically he focuses on four of the school's more established programs: labor drama, labor journalism, citizenship education, and music. These programs not only taught social movement participants how to create plays, newspapers, citizenship schools, and songs, they also helped the participants frame the problems they faced as having solutions based in collective democratic action. Highlander's programs thereby functioned rhetorically, insofar as they provided students with the means to define and transform oppressive social and economic conditions. By providing students with the means to comprehend social problems and with the cultural agencies (theater, journalism, literacy, and music) to address these problems directly, Highlander provided an important model for understanding the relationships connecting education, rhetoric, and social change.
"Far too often, advocates of community literacy and civically engaged education have neglected Highlander Folk School. Yet the seemingly modest programs at Highlander proved instrumental in triggering the largest mass movement for human rights in American history. The magic of Highlander transmuted an old song into the great civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome." Highlander also spurred bugwood cutters to strike in Tennessee, Rosa Parks to court arrest on a bus in Alabama, and a huge number of African American literacy classes to blossom in defiance of segregation. Years of painstaking archival work inform Stephen Schneider's rich and thoughtful analysis of the 'Highlander Idea' of using theater, journalism, music, and literacy to, in his words, 'make education an agency for social change.' This book will inform and inspire anyone interested in the relation between education and social transformation."—Keith D. Miller, Arizona State University
Other Titles by Stephen A. Schneider
Other Titles from Studies in Rhetoric/Communication
Other Titles in FICTION / Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology