We Make the Road by Walking: chapters 5 and 6

Welcome to our book club’s ongoing reading of We Make the Road by Walking.  In this post we can discuss chapters 5 (“Education and Social Change”) and 6 (“Reflections”).  Here I’ll offer a summary of the reading, followed by links to readers’ activity online, some reflections, and discussion questions.

We Make the Road By WalkingI. Summary

Horton and Freire discuss the political dimensions of their educational work, including the relationship between schools and politics.  Each reflects on their experience of being outsiders as educators, then on their different personal stories and historical situations leading up to their becoming teachers.

II. Book club activity


There has been so much book club activity that it merited a post by itself.  It’s too long too reproduce here, and I don’t want to do an injustice by summarizing or excerpting it.

Horton/Freire quote generated by Adam Croom

III. Reflections

Here the book starts to curve back on itself, returning to previous themes and topics, adumbrating and reflecting.

Many good quotes, some quite resonant for our time: “Hopeless people make good fascists.” (228)  Freire on co-opting:

The choice is between doing nothing in order not to be co-opted, or doing something in order to be an object of co-optation. I prefer to be an object of co-optation.

The chapters head back to the incompletion theme, and perhaps not-yetness:

You experience the very nature of being a human being-that is, unfinished, constantly in search.

MYLES : When you’re finished you’re dead. (234)

In a passage I found inspiring, Horton speaks of smuggling or bootlegging Highlander ideas into higher education (“Bard, Sarah Lawrence, later Black Mountain, a little later on God­dard”). (205)

reform within the sys­tem reinforced the system, or was co-opted by the system. Reformers didn’t change the system, they made it more palatable and justifed it, made it more humane, more intelligent. We didn’t want to make that contribution to the schooling system. (200)


Horton on what we now consider open education or open access:

I feel that all knowledge should be in the free-trade zone. Your knowledge, my knowl­edge, everybody’s knowledge should be made use of. I think people who refuse to use other people’s knowl­edge are making a big mistake. Those who refuse to share their knowledge with other people are making a great mistake, because we need it all. I don’t have any problem about ideas I got from other people. If I nd them useful, I’ll just ease them right in and make them my own. (235)

Once again the theme of educational work taking a long time returns (217).

Both men agree that outside the system work can broader the universe of what’s possible (207).  They also discuss the benefits of study circles outside of normal institutions (211), then disagree on the beneficial effects of revolution on education (220ff).

Interesting linguistic point from Freire:

I don’t like the word training in English. Maybe it’s a prejudice of mine, but I prefer formation , formation in French and formação in Portuguese.

Reminds me of his point about codification.

IV. Questions

Freire argues that when society changes, education also changes (219).  How is education changing in your country, at this time, according to his model?

Did the Institute of Cajamar become a people’s university (214)?  Can – or should – such DIY, anti-schooling groups pursue that kind of path?

Does social media make what Freire calls “the right to express suffering” easier?  (215)

How does what we now know of Freire’s and Horton’s projects speak to the Antigonish movement?

V. Over to you!

These two short chapters are big on ideas.  What did you think?  And what are you hearing from each other?

PS: if you’re not at this point in the book as of December 12, 2016, please don’t worry.  These posts will be here waiting for you.

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3 Responses to We Make the Road by Walking: chapters 5 and 6

  1. Pingback: A look back along the _Road_: people’s work and Bryan’s antiauthoritarianism | Bryan Alexander

  2. Pingback: Reading Horton and Freire into 2017 | Bryan Alexander

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