Blogging: Enlightening, Transformative, Engaging

Laura Reyna. Enlightening, Transformative, and Engaging … that is how I would describe the experience that I had while taking part in the 100K Strong initiative for Texas State’s College of Education.  Although our intent was to study public pedagogy, I had no idea how apparent this would be in Chilean culture. Daily forms of learning in relation to social change were evident in pubic spaces including museums, cultural centers, and informal gatherings in daily life. Having come from the civic-minded, or so I thought, American culture, it was amazing to see how Chileans strive for social justice on a daily basis, and put their ideals into action through purposeful dialogue and interactions. We encountered people and organizations not only dreaming of social transformation and equality, but also taking action to achieve this on a daily basis. This was amazing to see! Having had the privilege to witness this type of learning in action forever changed me as an educator. I no longer see limits to learning and do not feel constrained by the walls of the classroom; learning can take place anywhere!

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Community Inquiry in Action: Pedagogies of Social Transformation

The 100K Strong-Gabriela Mistral Scholars partnered with Chilean community based organizations that have a commitment to advancing equity and a vibrant social imagination. Collaborating with our Chilean partners, the scholars worked in 4 teams to understand the processes and impact of various pedagogies of social transformation. All sites were in the city of Santiago de Chile, and the project took our teams into many of the city’s comunas and a wide range of events, activities, and personal engagement. The teams worked with Centro Gabriela Mistral (a national visual and performing arts center), Fundacion Iguales (a national LGBT human rights organization), secondary school and university leaders of the student social movements, and a network of K-12 schools.

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Blogging: Lessons from the Streets of Chile

– Susan M. Croteau. When I traveled to Chile as one of the 100K Strong-Gabriela Mistral Scholars in the fall of 2015, I expected to learn a great deal about Chilean culture. What I did not expect to find, however, was that so much of it could be found plastered on their walls. Street art, both of the professional and amateur varieties, was ripe for the viewing in several of the locales we visited. Most notable among these was the kaleidoscopically-colorful city of Valparaiso. The artworks we saw there ranged from the size of a cereal box to that of a boxcar; from simple, stylized letters, to intricately complex geometric patterns, to fanciful and provocative representations of living things; from free-hand to stenciled spray-paint pieces, to tile mosaics and image collages. These works of art were entertaining, to be sure, but they represent something more: the act of Chilean society enlightening itself through the practice of public pedagogy.

Public pedagogy refers to the “learning and education happening outside of formal schooling systems” ( Sandlin, et al, 2010, p. 2), and involves the study of what occurs in popular culture, the Internet, museums, parks and other civic spaces, commercial spaces and social movements (Sandlin, et al, 2010). Hickey (2010) argues that streets are sites of “knowledges and discourses, in constant interplay and renewal, presented to us as we pass through” (p. 168). Assuming this is true, what, then are the knowledges and discourses presented to us by the street art of Chile?

First we see pieces that directly accost the status quo. Image 1, for instance, reveals in simple, straightforward terms, the artist’s feelings about Chile’s former dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Image 2, while visually more complex, portrays similar opinions about agribusiness giant Monsanto. In confronting societal and governmental injustice, these pieces meet Dentith & Brady’s assertion that public pedagogy involves sources of information that challenge hegemony and encourage activism (Sandlin, et al, 2011).

Image 1  Image 2
Image 1                                    Image 2

Next, we see pieces that present a distinctly post-structural viewpoint; pieces that present old concepts in new ways, and in so doing, invite us to rethink definitions and redraw, or even remove, borders and boundaries (see image 3 and 4)

Image 3 visually converts a staircase into a keyboard; in image 4, a woman’s hair is reimagined as octopus tentacles. In the world of street art, common items take on new guises; here, we are taught that everything is up for interpretation.

Image 3 Image 4
    Image 3                                                Image 4

Especially intriguing to me were pieces in which new images were painted over old ones, the remnants of which still peek through (see image 5). Students of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger might be tempted to apply his concept of “sous rature” (“under erasure”) to these pieces; after all, we wonder, why would the artist allow elements of the original artwork to remain? Is it an homage to the original artist, an apology, almost, for covering the work? Or is it a tacit admission that the new work is not enough to tell the whole story?

Image 5
            Image 5

Finally, these works of street art teach us a lesson about the communitarian value attached to public spaces in Chile. In many urban areas in the United States and Western Europe, cities are increasingly segregated by economic class; in Valparaiso ,however, the streets seem to belong to all. Anyone, for example, can create street art, even those with limited materials and professional skills; as long as you can afford a can of paint and a cardboard stencil, you can contribute your vision. In addition, anyone can see the art; not secreted away in galleries and museums with entrance fees, these pieces are free for the viewing. And, perhaps most importantly, everyone does see the art; unlike many upscale neighborhoods in New York City or London, where graffiti is seen as a nuisance, and is duly and rapidly removed, street art in Valparaiso is everywhere and impossible to ignore. Thus everyone, regardless of economic status, is exposed to the ideas of the street artist.

It is obvious that Chile’s street art performs a public pedagogy function, transforming its avenues and alleyways into de facto classrooms for residents and visitors, alike. This is not to say that city streets in the United States serve no instructional purpose; the money forked over for billboards, bus stop ads and marquees negates this notion. The question is who is doing the teaching. On your typical American city street, the teachers are Madison Avenue advertising execu

Un Dia Como Hoy: Seminars

Throughout our time in Chile, participants attended seminars led by Chilean faculty and educational researchers in order to further explore the social context of education in Chile. Seminars led to lively discussion and exchanges that also animated our field work experiences and collaboration with our partners. Topics and presenters included:

  • The New School Law of Social Inclusion (La Ley de Inclusion Escolar); Dr. Maria Teresa Rojas, Universidad Alberto Hurtado
  • The Performing School: Changes to Educational Market & Accountability Policies in Chile; Dr. Alejandra Falabella, Universidad Alberto Hurtado
  • Normalcy and Difference in Education: A Report on a Multi-year CONICYT Funded Ethnographic Study; Dr. Claudia Matus, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
  • The Life and Literary Work of Gabriela Mistral; Pedro Pablo Zegers, Biblioteca Nacional

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Blogging: Research in Chile- Passion, Experience, Work, Learning, and Legacy

– Skyller Walkes I was one of eighteen doctoral students selected to participate in international educational research in Chile, in cooperation with Universidad Alberto Hurtado and several Chilean community organizations. As a result, we had the opportunity to apply theory to practice in a place unfamiliar in both culture and geography, which was incredibly stimulating. Additionally, there was the exciting prospect of making connections that could resonate with the human experience through this unique and collective learning process!  In my experience, there tends to be three modes in which to engage academic learning- the cognitive, the didactic, and the pragmatic. For me, none of these proves to be as long-lasting as the sentient and experiential, and conducting educational research in Chile was a welcomed opportunity to further that possibility. Though valuable, sometimes what we learn in our coursework fails to be implemented in real world settings before leaving the classroom. Being a 100K Strong-Gabriela Mistral Scholar under the tutelage of Dr. Michael O’Malley was an honor that allowed us to activate our knowledge in a unique space and place of simultaneous learning.  Experiencing this among peers with whom I’d had the pleasure of cultivating our shared interest through research design in the months prior to departure, made for formidable efforts in preparation. Nevertheless, it was, undoubtedly, a worthwhile culmination.  Naturally, engaging individuals in a setting as both an active and passive observer insisted that I attempt to confront each interaction with a degree of sensitivity and openness and by doing so, I learned just as much about myself as I did the kind people who allowed me to experience their Chile.  The community members with whom we partnered to develop collaborative relationships that we seek to continue in the future, were integral to the cultural immersion learning experience.  Even more, this experience broadened the skills essential to my desire to be a conscientious change agent in this world.  Thus, Project LEARN-Chile will always be a transformative  part of my learning here at Texas State University!

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Blogging: Adult Learning & Education Among Older Persons

– S. Renee Jones. Traveling and conducting research in Santiago, Chile as a 100k Strong-Gabriela Mistral Scholar was an amazing experience.  In a world where the focus seems to be on how people are different, it was refreshing to interact and connect with the people of Santiago based on our shared experiences and hopes.  It has been my philosophy that as people we are much more alike than we are different, and it would be great if we would focus more on our similarities instead of using our differences to divide, ostracize and marginalize people. I found that the Chilean partners with whom our research team interacted wanted to establish a connection with us based on similarities.  Once our team was introduced to the various groups, we would be approached with stories to build common ground, and we all reached out to connect across languages. Additionally, the groups with which my team worked were very engaging and welcoming.  Some of the research participants were involved in more than one group and seemed to be pleased when our team attended more than one group activity, welcoming us as old friends. As I observed two separate workshops for older adults, Taller De La Memoria and Taller De Radio Teatro, I was struck by how effectively the facilitators used adult education principles when leading the workshops.  These workshops were conducted in a similar way to my adult education doctoral classes.  I was excited to see these techniques applied in a nonformal setting and in a different part of the world from mine. Attending these workshops was especially exhilarating for me since my area of research is older adults in higher education.  I learned that older adults in Chile are viewed and face similar challenges as older adults in the United States.  This revelation stimulated and expanded ideas for my doctoral research. It was such a blessing and honor to be a part of this wonderful experience.

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Un Dia Como Hoy: Valparaiso

On a Sunday in November, Mistral scholars had the opportunity to take a day trip to the coastal city of Valparaiso and a brief stop in Vina del Mar. With the Andes and the expansive city of Santiago behind us, we travelled through vineyards of the Central Valley and crossed the Coastal Mountain Range (Cordillera de la Costa) to arrive in the port city of Valparaiso. We had the opportunity to wander leisurely in several parts of the city, visit the museum at the poet Neruda’s house, meet people, and come to know Chile a bit more. We were amazed by the mural art in Valpo!

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Blogging: Inspired by Student Social Movements

– Yolanda Reyes Guevara. As I reflect on our research fieldwork in Chile, I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with amazing and inspiring individuals who are working to change the educational landscape in their country.  My work in Chile focused on student social movements and understanding how young individuals were inspired to work toward a social justice for their society.  Speaking with these individuals, I was in awe of their dedication to a cause that would hopefully affect future generations.  It was inspiring to hear the stories of young people who were committed to ensuring that the educational system provided quality education for all Chileans, regardless of economic class.  The individuals we spoke to were regular everyday high school and university students who were faced with a challenging situation that they met head on through organization and social movement.  Overall, my research experience in Chile was eye opening and provided me with a personal perspective from various individuals who have lived these ground breaking historical moments that are altering the educational policy and practice landscape in Chile.

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Un Dia Como Hoy: Populusaurio

En tu cabeza hay un pais! On our first day arriving in Santiago de Chile, the 100K Strong Mistral Scholars participated in POPULUSAURIO’s third annual citizen’s feria at Parque Balmaceda (Metro Salvador). Populusaurio is a network of community organizations with a shared goal of strengthening civil society in Chile. A space of encounter, the group of over 20 organizations promotes participation and dialogue between citizens and the state. Out of their own experience, groups seek to generate active citizenship that contributes to the formation of democracy and engagement amongst different social actors. The citizen’s fair occurred on a beautiful day, outside in a city park with an extensive range of groups hosting booths and activities, with over 5,000 persons participating. We were able to meet representatives of many different social and community organizations, learning much about their work and activities, and to also meet many Chileans interested in social action and transformation. We were excited to learn from so many community organizations taking up challenges and creating possibilities involving educational equity, human rights, environmental sustainability, community engagement, transnational citizens’ movements, LGBT equality, women’s rights and well-being, youth, political action, inclusion across (dis)abilities, promotion of Chilean Sign Language and similar forms of engagement and communication, and much more.

Populusaurio 7 Nov 2015 Santiago

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POPULUSAURIO es una Red de Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil que desde el 2013 se mantiene unida y organizada con el fin de fortalecer a la sociedad civil en Chile.
Nuestro objetivo principal es ser un espacio de encuentro y articulación, para promover y profundizar la participación y el diálogo entre la ciudadanía y el Estado.
Actualmente, somos 20 organizaciones que queremos contribuir, desde nuestra experiencia, a generar una ciudadanía activa – más allá del voto – cohesionada y responsable, que contribuya a la creación de una democracia basada en la participación ciudadana, favoreciendo la comunicación y articulación entre los diferentes actores sociales.