An International Education Summit: 
"Freedom to Teach, Freedom to Learn; Critical Literacy for Caring Democratic Classrooms" 
July 26 - 29, 2001 Chicago

This is a quick summary of the Education Summit in Chicago, sponsored by the Whole Language Umbrella, the Whole Schooling Consortium, and the Rouge Forum.   While a final count is not in, it appears that between five hundred and six hundred people attended the summit, the overwhelming majority of them school workers, though some students, parents, and community people did join the meeting.  This was the second meeting of people from worlds which have been too far apart for too long: Whole Language, Inclusion Activists, and Critical Educators.   A pre-conference meeting of education activists, initiated by a call from Carole Edelsky, brought together about 45 activists from around the US and Canada. While a report on the discussion is probably as significant as the upshot of the meeting, brevity requires a move to the latter. The body called for a season of resistance to high-stakes standardized exams in May 2002 to be prefaced by intense educational action, ranging from teach-ins to petitions, coffee clatches and one-to-one discussions through the fall, winter, and early spring.  The Rouge Forum has called for Teach-ins on campuses across the country and has offered an instructional packet to those who make the request. The RF also has an on-line petition at: http://www.rohan.sdsu.edu/~rgibson/petition   Large Teach-Ins are planned for the Fall 2001 at Wayne State, and in February 2002 at San Diego State, led by the Rouge Forum. Smaller teach-ins are being scheduled across the US and in Canada.   The conference workshops did begin to reflect a cross-discipline unity that clearly needs to be deepened.  There were problems with the conference which leaders from each of the sponsoring groups are moving to address. It was too costly. The Palmer House in Chicago is a beautiful, but expensive, venue. It was not truly inclusive. Genuine inclusion, solidarity across race, sex/gender, ability/disability, remains more a lighthouse beacon than a reality, and an understanding of the dividing line of social class is hardly embraced by all.   Leaders of the sponsoring groups are discussing moving future meetings to campuses, like Wayne State and San Diego State, where facilities and housing are available at much lower costs. That alone, however, will not set aside the problems of authentic solidarity, which needs to be consciously organized day by day, in the lives of each person who seeks either social justice or the freedom to struggle for what is true in schools and communities.   Even so, the Education Summit II has to be seen as a remarkable step forward, not only in building a movement to resist, but in forging a community of activists where caring, creativity and joy can be coupled with the real need to fight back. 
 
 

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