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Participatory Education


mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>The bare essentials of teaching and learning appeared clearly in the midst of uncertified teachers, and students unencumbered by bureaucratic and social pressures to attend school. It was easy to see that if teaching was routine, learning memoristic, and attendance erratic, one shouldn’t attribute it to the teachers’ previous training, the inadequacy of the programs or the poverty of the families – though these factors couldn’t be discounted. The inadequacy could be attributed simply to the fact that there was no genuine interest on the part of either teachers or students to learn. For one thing, there was no clear accessible, useful, concrete knowledge that teachers could offer their students that could provoke their interest. Lacking this foundation, common to any learning endeavor, all other factors became practically irrelevant.  

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Academic change is associated with a personal transformation experienced by the one being tutored: somebody takes individual care, offers worthy learning challenges, attends the person’s preferences and respects particular ways of approaching learning. At the same time, the newly discovered power to teach others, and by so doing deepen previous understanding, transforms academic accomplishments into social gains. In a learning community where teaching and learning is a shared competency, the need to share becomes part of learning itself. The classroom transcends the school and the school reaches out to the community and other communities in the area.  

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Professor Richard Elmore of Harvard, heard of tutorial networks from one of his students, our colleague Santiago Rincón Gallardo Shimada, and became deeply interested. He decided to come to Mexico to see the effects of the new educational modality for himself. In a small rural school in the state of Zatececas, a 14 year old girl tutored him on a geometry problem with the aid of an interpreter. Elmore felt he was in the hands of an experiencied teacher, as he later wrote:

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>“When I think of María, I think: 'someone had the audacity to believe that this thirteen-year-old girl could take control of her own learning, and someone tried to figure out how to make that happen, not just for María but for hundreds of other young people like her, and, more audaciously, for the adults whom Maria looks to for guidance in her learning'." (Richard Elmore, “What Happens When Learning Breaks Out in Rural Mexico”, Education Week http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/futures_of_reform/2011/05/what_happens_when_learning_breaks_out)

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redesdetutoria.org. On the same page, there is a brief documentary, “Maravillas”, with subtitles in English, which offers a glimpse into the personal changes that tutorial relationships effect in teachers, students and their families.  

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>The coincidence of what we do in education with what Parecon proposes should take place in the larger society is clearly visible in the centrality given to personal exchanges among free, responsible individuals and groups. The mainspring of participation, educational, economic or otherwise, is the respect due to any member, the recognition of each person’s unfathomable value and the egalitarian approach with which common work is being done. Sharing knowledge in tutorial dialogues equalizes power, shoulders social tasks and generates community. The process rests on the energy that is best distributed in the world: the personal energy of every person, which is basic, free and powerful, and goes beyond the specific acts of tutoring, because it necessarily transforms institutional structures, forcing them to make room for new autonomous, convivial relationships. 

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