I grew up on a small farm in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. Horses, goats, and chickens taught me early lessons about reliability, strength, and the earth. Initially the child of white, college-educated, middle class techies, my life changed dramatically when my parents’ contentious divorce left my mom seeking support from our church and employment as a tax-preparer and maid. I often helped my mom in these odd jobs and developed a dose of working-class pride even if my working-class roots were dubious.
A strong student, school was stabilizing for me and I became interested in teaching. While attending Reed College in Portland, I found opportunities to begin teaching in a local middle school, in outdoor ed programs, in an adult education program, and as a peer tutor at Reed. I even managed to spin my Classics degree into a meditation on children by writing my thesis on conceptions of child development in Roman North Africa.
After graduating from Reed, I joined Teach for America and moved to Baltimore, where I taught high school history. Teaching in Baltimore exposed me to the inequities that define our educational system and impressed on me the importance of striving for racial and economic justice inside and outside of that system. Free to write my own curriculum, I sought to bring social justice themes into my classroom. Students educated me about what really mattered to them, and I tried to synthesize these issues with the history and Common Core standards. At the same time, I was beginning to dip my toes into some organizing work at Independence – first fighting to keep the school open, later opposing decisions made by the charter network. For the past year I worked in a Baltimore City Council office, and local organizing has become a much-loved part of my life. My belief that communities and individuals should be empowered to make the decisions that impact them is the impetus behind my interest in Anarchism and this very project.
I became fascinated with the questions of Anarchist education after reading Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed in 2018. In the fictional anarcho syndicalist society of Anarres, the educational system seeks to instill principles of solidarity and mutual aid in its students, but often at the expense of students’ individuality critical thinking. As a teacher reading this story, the most salient questions for me hinged on pedagogy. How do we promote children’s freedom and their development into responsible community members at the same time? As a teacher in Baltimore, questions of racial and economic justice were also paramount. How do we teach children to be free among the unequal distribution of status, wealth, and power? In undertaking this project, I hope to begin untangling these questions and others.
I also hope to untangle some of my own story. Fear, surveillance, financial hardship, and a sense of familial duty were some of the factors that characterized my childhood, and my adult self has placed boundaries on my thoughts, my speech, and especially on my feelings. The title of this blog not only reflects my interests in pedagogy, but also my commitment to personal growth. Knowing that my liberation is tied up with all the other children in this nation, I want to know what could make them free, and in so doing, free myself.