ODE Working Curriculum


(This is an ongoing document. Feedback is welcome!)

“As the oppressor consciousness, in order to dominate, tries to deter the drive to search, the restlessness, and the creative power which characterize life, it kills life.”

– Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed


“Desks feel like caskets.”

                                                – Naudia Williams, “Nothing Matters”


Note for Educators:

Toward A Revolutionary Pedagogy

We in the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of Chicago believe that pedagogy – the philosophy of teaching – has an important relationship to the revolutionary process, especially in these times. “ODE” constitutes our first campaign with a primarily educational focus. It is important that we clearly outline a few basic principles for the educators we work with.

We understand our role as revolutionary educators not as indoctrinators of knowledge or ideologies, but rather as facilitators of critical dialogue in order to pose real problems, clarify objective factors, and develop the social consciousness of the students. Therefore it is essential that we not impose our own ideas or analyses on the students we work with in these workshops, but rather, do our best to pose the problem of defending and improving education to the best of our ability, in a way that engages every mind and voice, regardless of their opinion or political position.

Taking after Paulo Freire, we also recognize the value of hope in our work as revolutionary educators. Therefore, our intention is neither to ignore the harsh realities of the education crisis, nor to obsess over the problems. Rather, we encourage new visions and solutions to emerge through the educational process, and to inspire students to take action to transform their world.


A Note About This Curriculum:

This curriculum is intended to help ODE teaching-artists and partner educators to design effective workshops and other programs to carry out the overall mission and goals of the campaign outlined on the previous page. The curriculum contains:

  • A note about the ODE blog, how to use it, and other ways to get involved with ODE: Operation Defend Education.
  • A sample lesson plan for a youth creative writing workshop on the subject of education, and a note on the blog (including Common Core/Illinois Anchor Standards the curriculum aligns with).
  • Additional poems, raps, and articles that could be used as educational content and models for writing workshops on the subject of education with a variety of age groups.

We want to develop our curricula and materials with the help of our collaborating teaching-artists and other educational partners. We invite your suggestions and feedback! Email us at revolutionarypoetsbrigadechi@gmail.com


A Note About The ODE Blog:

One of the primary goals of ODE is to collect student testimonies about education in the form of writings, videos, and audio recordings, to publish on this blog, which we use to raise awareness of and give artistic expression to the struggle of students and teachers for a more equitable, just education system.


One of the most important ways our collaborating educators can help with this effort is to emphasize for the students how important it is that they make their individual voices and collective voice heard in this struggle, and to take a few basic steps to gather student testimonies.

Collaborating teaching artists and classroom teachers can:

  • Encourage the students to submit work to the blog by emailing revolutionarypoetsbrigadechi@gmail.com (or submitting to a teacher who acts as a liason).
  • If hosting an ODE teaching artist for a workshop, communicate ahead of time about how to gather student materials and follow up with students who want to work on a piece for the blog.
  • Share this blog on social media with friends, colleagues, allies, etc.
  • Promote the ODE project and blog to students from all positions within the education system, from middle school to college.



ODE: Operation Defend Education

Writing Workshop Lesson Plan

Guiding Question: What stories and perspectives about schools and the education system do you have to tell? What do you have to say about education?

Purpose/Objective: Students will write true stories, thoughts, feelings, and visions (in the form of poetry, prose, journalism, etc.) reflecting on their real experiences with education.

 Illinois Anchor Learning Standards:

  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience
  • Determine central ideas or themes of a text; summarize key supporting ideas
  • Analyze the structure of texts
  • Integrate content presented in diverse media and formats

Materials: Example pieces could include:


 1) Contextualize/Frame (Optional): Local, regional, and national struggles concerning school policies and the education system have been receiving a lot of attention recently. It is important for students to be a part of this conversation, as the outcomes of these struggles impact them directly.

2) Brainstorm: (Note for facilitators: We suggest that you model the brainstorm exercise for the students, probably by doing it yourself on the board. However, you should explain to them that this is a private exercise and they will not be asked to share anything from their lists that they don’t want to.)

  • Step 1: Make a list of personal experiences and memories that stand out when you think about education and schools.
    • Think about your best and worst experiences. Include specific details.
    • Include experiences you have had related to schools and education that you might want to tell the world about. You might also include things that have happened in school that you think maybe no one would believe.
    • Think about things you remember about specific teachers, schools, years, etc.
    • You can also include your personal thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions about school and education.
  • Step 2: Make a list of larger structural or systemic problems in education.
    • If necessary, break down the words “structural” and “systemic.” (Point out the words “structure” and “system” within them).
    • This list might include things you have repeatedly experienced in school (good or bad), and/or issues in the education system you are aware of.
    • (For example, you might include large patterns related to testing, discipline/punishment, or equality/inequality between schools in different neighborhoods.)
    • When there are connections between the personal and structural things on your list, take note.
  • Step 3: Taking some of the personal experiences or larger structural patterns from your first two lists, make a list of “re-visions” of what education might look like in a better world.
    • Try to envision specific situations with details.
    • Instead of just erasing the problem, provide a vision of positive elements that are there instead of the negative ones.
    • Feel free to be as straightforward or as imaginative as you like.
  • NOTE: For a different way of visually organizing the ideas, this exercise could also be done as a chart with three columns labeled “Personal Experiences,” “Structural Patterns/Problems,” and “(Re)Visions”, and “EDUCATION” written at the top.

3) Watch/Read & Discuss:
Choose 1-4 examples to share and discuss. Any of the poems on this blog’s home page will serve. Also check out the videos on the “ODE – LIVE” pages. Here are some pieces we recommend – including, student work, work by professional artists, and writings from independent media – along with discussion questions.

  • “Nothing Matters”
    • What lines stand out to you?
    • Could you relate to this poem? How so?
      • Did you disagree with anything in the poem? If so, what?
    • Why do you think the poet repeats the phrase “Nothing Matters?”
  • “CPS done CPD’d My Education”
    • What lines stood out to you in this poem?
    • Could you relate? If so, how?
    • What do you notice about the form or craft of the poem?
  • “A Student Deferred”
    • What do you like or appreciate about this poem?
    • What effect do the questions have on you as a reader? How would you describe the tone?
    • Why do you think the poet chose to model her poem off of “Harlem” by Langston Hughes? What effect did this have on you as a reader?
  • “Chicago Teacher”
    • What do you like or find interesting about this piece? What stands out?
    • What are the arguments and connections that the piece makes?
      • Did you agree or disagree with the piece overall? Why?
    • Why do you think Rebel Diaz thought it was important for them as rap artists to publically take a stand with Chicago teachers?
  • “Chicago Students Union: Voices that Must Be Heard”
    • What issues regarding Chicago schools and education do the students and the article’s writer raise?
      • Do you know of similar issues going on in other parts of the nation?
    • The People’s Tribune is a political paper. What is a political paper?
    • What is a Union? What is a Students Union?
    • Is it important for Chicago to have a Students Union? Why or why not?
    • What does the writer call for at the end? What is the vision the article points to? Do you think it is achievable? What do you think would need to happen for this vision to be realized?
  • “Labor Beat: Chicago Student Union – CPS Board Resign!”
    • What statements, moments, or ideas stood out to you from this video?
    • What do you think is the purpose of this video?
    • Did the video inspire or excite you? If so, why?
    • What actions can you take to improve education at your school, in Chicago, and in the USA? (Large or small)
  • “Hide Your Schools, Hide Your Homes, Hide Your Children, Cause He’s Wrecking it All”
    • What stood out to you from this poem?
    • What issues does this poem raise? How are they connected?
    • Why do you think these young people chose to deliver this message in the form of a group poem? (What are the advantages of telling a story this way?)
  • “out south”
    • What lines stand out to you in this poem?
    • How does this poem draw connections between different forms of violence? (In the education system, in the police system, etc.)
    • The poem takes the form of a sonnet. What do you think is the author’s intention in using this form?
  • “Bored of Education”
    • What lines or ideas stood out to you in this poem?
    • What did you relate to?
    • How did the artist construct his argument, and was it convincing?
  • “Manifesto Written After A Cipher…”
    • What stands out to you in this piece?
    • What could you relate to in this piece? What parts were different from your experience?
    • How does this piece compare/contrast with the others?

4) Write: Write a poem, story, rap, song, essay, article, etc. about your own experiences in schools, and your own thoughts, feelings, and visions about education. What stories do you have to tell about schools and education?

  • Some ways to start writing you might consider using are:
    • Pick one thing from one of your brainstorm lists and use it as a jumping-off point.
    • Start with a quote from one of the poems or another piece. (For example, you might start with “Welcome to where we from…,” referencing Nate Marshall’s poem, or “They grade you to degrade you…,” referencing Naudia Williams’ poem.
    • Choose one line to use as a repeated word or phrase (anaphora), perhaps a line that sums up your feelings about the education system (as in Williams’ “Nothing Matters”).
    • Write your poem in the style/form of another famous piece (as Sandra Swift did by modeling her poem off of “Harlem” by Langston Hughes).
    • “In the schools of the future…” (paint a vivid picture of your vision for education)
    • “Dear Rahm…” or “Dear Board of Education…”
    • Ode to Education” (or another kind of ode – or anti-ode)
    • Share one personal story about school that stands out in your memory, and go from there.
  • Feel free to use the examples as models in other ways:
    • You might get together with friends and write a group poem about what’s happening to schools in Chicago and/or the U.S., as in Team Englewood’s poem.
    • You might interview some students and write an article about education in Chicago/the U.S., as in Lew Rosenbaum’s article for the People’s Tribune.
    • For a longer-term project, you might make a video documentary or news report about education.
    • Feel free to make up your own form for this assignment!
  • Note: Emphasize for students that the purpose is for them to tell true stories and express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about schools and education.

5) Share: Take some time for volunteers to share their work. (They may share part or all of what they wrote).

  • Please respect the confidentiality of each person by not sharing what they write or say outside of the classroom space.
  • We have the right to disagree with each other, and also the right to be listened to respectfully in the classroom. Please treat everyone with respect.


Nothing Matters
By Naudia J. Williams

Today I just feel as if nothing matters.  We’re just standardized students slathered in a classroom with no light nor hope. Or at least that’s what I’ve gathered. Teacher, teacher I got question for you? Is it true that you all assume my hand is only raised for the bathroom. Desk feel like caskets and 308 feels like a tomb.

Do you care less about where I had to sleep last night and more about spirals? I want to know why are uniforms required and drug test are seen fit but cps doesn’t even know if their students can read or write. I guess that why Jerome is 19 in the 10th grade. I guess that’s where all cps funding went for new lockers and textbooks?

I’m sorry if I feel if this is more important than another speech by John f Kennedy I had to recite. Ask not what your country can do  for you but what you can do for your country? Well last night my country muffled another black teen for protesting that all black lives matter. I’m sorry if my buttons ain’t button down and my school pants are tattered .

I’m sorry if my tummy is grumbling in 5th period trig but mystery meat Monday makes it feel like the night before Sunday Loud and a blur. But what do I know I’m just the young folk. All we know is I like my women bbw and what northwest and blue Ivy are up too.

Creativity is encouraged and individuality is encouraged until you’re seen to be a threat.  Can’t let those teenagers be ahead of us.  Don’t bite the hand that starves you because I am desperately famished for real knowledge.  Not the ones in textbooks that look older than my teacher and my mama combined.

Tired of being strained and drained Monday thru Friday in classes that don’t teach me that my rights are not only to remain silent. Tired of being a number in a food line that isn’t nutritious to my soul.  Grounded my dreams and hopes into slices and gave them to me in portions and then ask me why I can’t see the bigger picture.

Why wasn’t I that chosen few? That didnt have to broken, beaten and raped. Why couldn’t I have a 4.0? Why couldn’t I be the queen my mother told me I was ?I feel you Fannie, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired too.

In history we learned that the same government that gave mlk a holiday were the same who had him killed . And all I could do was think on three cops busting in on my moms and pops and baby brother.  Claiming it is a drug raid but the only drugs my brother takes is for ad-hd. And my mom for her lupus.

In gym my teacher says I’m overweight but all I could think about is how I no longer have thick curly locks because a girl was curious to see if her lighter and my hair could have a chain reaction .  And it did. It torched my freshly dyed rich wine locks ,turned them into ashes of black charcoal and it vandalized this lion. But it’s ok though because my mane will come roaring in again.

Nothing matters.  Not my hair, not my soul, not my heart. At least that’s what I gathered no one cares for the average, the queer,the black, the Jew, the Christian, the atheist ,the random black girl,the raped,and me . Nothing matters Or at least that’s what I’ve gathered or at least that’s what education has given me. That no one cares for those who are desperate to be free.


CPS done CPD’d my education.

Seized every lesson plan planned to educate me about my people and killed my dreams. Remember, African American lit is an elective. Anything not slavery or Jim Crow is neglected. Teach them to fail themselves. Never take a brown horse to water if it’s thirsty. Teach them to be oppressed. Never teach them of any success. A black man held a light bulb above my head while Thomas plotted on how to flip the switch. Said a white man did it. A white man has always done it. He always schooling my people giving them projects, the hood. We don’t know how to spell neighbor because we’re redlined into not being one. We steady talkin Ls. We don’t have neighbors because they are our family. Blood brothers, cell mates. Schools can’t keep track of funds for books or to pay teachers but got projectors in the hallway to lure new prey into prisons. Punish the poor because of your privilege. Fed like criminals just not in loaves. Loath meeting adulthood because I can’t pay taxes, or mortgage, or buy a car but I know Columbus stole America, I know the great gatsby from cover to cover, and I know how to graph a slope. Was never taught how to climb one though. I was taught to expect obstacles. Remember if it isn’t a challenge it isn’t enough. You are taught to never be enough. Surrender to the the most high… ACT Score. ACT, act like you know what you’re doing. Act like you don’t know ACT stands for Anchoring Colored Teens. Act like a score doesn’t make you feel poor about yourself. Act like a score doesn’t set you up to be poor in the future. They grade you to degrade you. Put a pencil in your hand and a Scantron on your desk and demand you pass with no knowledge in your mind and no lead. Lead you to the valleys of the shadows of college and jobs. Barefoot and hungry. Crawling, reaching, and praying for the test to be over.

– by Tiese “Poetic Taee” Austin
12th grade, Truman Middle College


A Student Deferred
After “Harlem” by Langston Hughes

What happens to a student deferred?

does she give up
like there’s nothing left?
or does she keep going –
cuz its fun?
does she try her hardest to pass?
or does she slide along –
never attending class?
maybe she just cracks
like a sunflower seed

or does she succeed?


– Sandra Swift
12th grade
Harlan Academy Community High School


Hide Your Schools, Hide Your Homes, Hide Your Children, Cause He’s Wrecking it All
by Team Englewood 2013

Hammer in one hand paint brush in the other
Rahm Emanuel is single handedly destroying our city
Mr. wreck it Rahm
look what Chicago is becoming
bending the rules to fit in the lie of building a new chicago
building new streets
when his own plan got some pot holes

Tearing down our dreams
its getting really windy in these streets
Red X’s mark the spots where his wrecking balls are next to drop

We are not included in the Blue Print of the New Chicago: we’re being pushed out
our buildings transformed into condos – and we know those AINT FOR US
Thermal shock is setting in from the whipping wind of the heartless sins
of the mayor

Norfolk Railroads is pushing us southern folk out
Homes replaced with tracks
that will be laid
where our heads used to
If dry wall could talk
it would speak many prayers to keep our homes
now vacant lots that hold lots of remnants
of 60 years of backyard barbeques
baby showers
and when electric sliding was the super power of the summer
55th and Normal
we are losing all of this

Torturing, tormenting us as we choke on the ashes of our memories
*Cough Cough*
Let’s hope we don’t get sick
Because he’s closing all our clinics
He needs to get treated
And then maybe we can sew back on the other half of the middle finger
that he has been giving us

Its almost as if he’s E Manuel of E-Limination

Step one: Take away our schools
Step Two: Put them out their home
Lastly: Destroy it all and
Deny Deny Deny
But remember, to always keep a straight face when you lie!

Try to pour the cheap paint over our eyes while stealing dollars from under our mattresses
There’s not enough? Close their schools
But he’s building a new DePaul stadium
Using our TIF funds to Transform the South Loop into the Promised Land of redevelopment
and some river walk
of course downtown
The paint is starting to streak.
Building a new Chicago or extending a new lie!
How can a city so in debt blueprint something so expensive?

Banneker Elementary – Closed
Woods Elementary – Closed
Yale Elementary – Closed

The paint is cracking:
From every west side basketball brotherhood
To south side sisterhood bonds through pom-poms
And every poetry team that had dreamed of being on this very stage
has been ripped apart,

Bad foundation for our future generations
struggling with 40 students in one class
so they learn from the streets
There’s not money for our schools, but, there’s enough to build a New Chicago
But that New Chicago is NOT for us.
The paint is wearing thin and so was our patience
Irreparable damage has already been done

Time to stop the destruction of OUR city
Prevent the further corruption of our already twisted politics of Chicago

25% of Chicago school children won’t amount to anything
100% sure that we will be something
See Rahm we are mathematicians
your lies are adding up
and this new Chicago is just another one of them


Chicago Teacher
Rebel Diaz

Homey I was taught by a Chicago teacher!
Chicago teacher, Chicago teacher!
I learned to read and write from a Chicago teacher,
So I’m inspired by the fight from our Chicago teachers!

The teachers are tired, the students dumbfounded,
the budgets get cut so classes are overcrowded.
Streets full of violence, the blue code of silence
so imma keep rhyming til salaries start rising!
The unions uprising! takin to the streets!
The workers are United so the Mayor’s got beef!
Rahm’s a fake pretender with a corporate agenda
Neo Liberal Offender, of course you offend us!
This aint about money! That’s far from the truth,
they want better work conditions to teach the youth.
Politicians, I don’t trust em, its all in the name
the president, the mayor all want political gain.
Theyd rather put the kids in jail, shackle em wit chains,
then provide an education that challenges the brain.
Top down education..Chicago- the birthplace
And now its spreading nationwide all over the place
They don’t teach us how to think they teach us how to test!
they teach us how to work to put money in they check!s
The CEOS need to get up out the classroom
before these streets get hotter than the sand in cancun!
so join the picket line like mr pickett in his prime,
put on ya red shirt like the bulls in 95.
hit the streets with a sign that says im fightin for mine
And yes im proud to say I was a public school student


Went to lil Lincoln School in a lil school bus
DEsegragation. Paid 20 cents for lunch
Reduced price ticket
For the lower income children
Art and music classes
In between Math and English
Now its different
They just teachin to the test
Forced by the feds
Or they losin that check
Too many children left behind
by this corporate assembly line
how they privatize?
education is a humam right!
and they kids gon be fine
they send em to private schools
while ours get sent to prison
or given a job servin fast food
cash rules
so it gets treated like a business
bought and sold
by businessmen turned politicians
so if Rahm was the chief of staff
and Arne Duncan got his start
in Chicago sellin off
the education system
then Obama gotta respond
the teachers or the corporations?
Which side is he on?
The streets is getting hot
They blame the heat on Chief Keef
But it’s a million others like him being created every week
If we don’t teach we don’t learn
And the streets is gon burn
Before it gets worse
I put on my red shirt



released September 12, 2012
Produced by DJ ILLANOIZ. Written and performed by G1 and RodStarz



Bored of Education

Dear Bored of Education
So are we, huh, so are we
At no point in the lives that we actually live do we sit in rows and listen to pontifications
At no point did momma pass written exams out on how to wash the dishes, no
She pulled the stool up next to her, at the sink, handed us a dishrag, like
“Watch how mommy does it, now you try.”
Learning by doing, such a crazy idea, it might work
Them stools felt like a magical ladders into an alternate universe
Into the grown-up world
Informational portholes, wormholes, into other places
Where kids were equals, being made privy to information only those with
Driver’s licenses and facial hair had
Who knew we were learning, no clue Pops was teaching us time management
And budgeting, miniature project co-ordinators
He said, “Imma show you how to do these chores. And if they’re done when I get home
Then that allowance is yours. Maybe some ice cream’s involved too.”
Remember when we were in kindergarten, and you had to learn about worms, yeah, you went outside
And you played with worms, what a novel idea!
Dear Bored of Education!, huh, so are we

Dear Bored of Education, all I’ve learned from your system is the fact that it’s just the system
That you set up. And if I just repeat what you just said, in Jane Schafer method
Then I passed, right? You’re just testing my ability to regurgitate
And if your best instructors are miserable, I’m pretty sure it’s not the kids’ fault
This pain I know first hand, the grand learning moments, the innovative lesson plans
That causes eyes to sparkle as if them students have just caught rides on shooting stars
These lessons have wings, only to get clipped, to fit, into the Low-Res JPEG. you call
“The State Standards.” Why do you insist this is still theindustrial age?
My child is not a widget. And a school should not be an assembly line. Making my daughter’s
Diploma equivalent to an inspected by 2235 stamp
Dear Bored of Education, so are we

Dear Bored of Education, there’s not a Scantron on the planet that can measure inspiration
This is what our teachers pass on that matters
But you’d rather them do a jig to the tune of an AYP score
As to avoid losing WASC right?
NCLB got us shockin’ and jivin’, but you can’t measure a kid inviting their
Teacher to a Quincenera or a soccer game, or waiting rooms at free clinics
I can name ten kids off hand who would still be in handcuffs if it wasn’t for Mr. Singer
Nick Luvanno runs his own design firm. And he failed the exit exams twice. FAILED
Dear Board of Education, I mean, can we not Google when the Magna Carta was signed?
If your brightest stars are always dim, something must be wrong with your glasses
If every place on your body that you touch hurts, then your fingers must be broken
You are PhD.’s, you have five suffixes at the end of your names, you’re the people that know
A lot, how come you’re not smart enough to know that you don’t know what you don’t know?
Did anyone ever suggest, that maybe, we should test the test?
Dear Bored of Education, my dear Bored of Education, so are we
So are we


Chicago Students Union: Voices that Must Be Heard
By Lew Rosenbaum
November 2013

Students protesting outside Chicago Public School’s headquarters after getting thrown out by security guards, July, 2013. PHOTO/DONATED

CHICAGO — Israel Munoz was a senior at Kelly High School in Chicago when the teachers strike broke out last September.  “Their courageous stand would change my life forever,” he said in an essay on the on-line blog, Student Voice.  “For me, this strike was as much about the students as it was about the teachers. It was about students being forced to wear clear backpacks and being told by security guards to walk through metal detectors every morning, having to sit in 90 degree, overcrowded classrooms, using ripped books, the 50% drop-out rate, taking standardized tests, the lack of necessary resources, and, of course, the ‘gourmet’ chicken patties, along with all other forms of systematic inequality.  But most importantly, the strike was different for me because I felt that my voice had finally been heard.” (http://stuvoice.org/blog/2013/08/29/stuvoicestories-expanding-the-chicago-student-union/#sthash.91KbQ3Zw.dpuf)

Munoz and others around the city formed Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS).  They organized, confronted the School Board, marched and petitioned to stop the threatened school closings.  In the end, Chicago closed an historic number of schools and then slashed school budgets (affecting Kelly and other Chicago schools to the tune of $90 million).  Then Chicago fired over 2,000 teachers and 1,000 other school personnel.   During the summer students formed the Chicago Students Union to get students as equal partners in the education fight.

From Munoz’ statement, the students organized against school closings not simply to preserve the status quo and to keep the schools open.  School should not make students feel like criminals. A month after the school year has begun, many classes still have no textbooks!  CPS promised last spring to bring more resources to schools slated to “welcome” students displaced from closed schools; but many still do not have libraries. CTU organized an “operation book drop” to deliver books to schools like South Shore Fine Arts Elementary School, a south side “welcoming school,” which has a library but where budget cuts eliminated the librarian!

Ross Floyd, co-founder of the Chicago Student Union, is from Jones, one of the top schools in the city, not in danger. He got involved anyway, as he said on MSNBC’s Education Nation (Oct. 6, 2013):  “When you see 49 schools being closed, at the same time charter schools are coming in, and at the same time teachers are being fired and $90 million being cut from our budgets, you know in your heart that that’s not right, . . ..”

In other cities throughout the U.S. students are forming student unions to make sure their demands are heard.  This is how Munoz articulates it: “The recent actions in Chicago epitomize this necessity and make it clear that the fight is far from over. . . We need change. And when I say ‘we need change’ I mean ‘we need a revolution’.” Not a revolution of guns and violence, but rather a revolution of new ideas, youth empowerment, and student leaders.” (from Student Voice)

Politicians in Washington are nationalizing education in the interests of the corporations as they institute Common Core standards and turn over taxpayer funds to private charter schools. We need a movement to guarantee that education is nationalized in the interests of the people, with equal funding for all, so that every student reaches his or her full potential; so that the student demands, so well articulated by the CSU, are guaranteed.

We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source.
Copyright © 2015 People’s Tribune. Visit us at http://peoplestribune.org


click here for an image of “out south” by Nate Marshall



“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed 

“Hip Hop was Freirean before we read Freire”

― Kevin Coval


Pedagogy of The Poets

This is our classroom:
this Cipher, this Circle,
this Open Mic to amplify our voices,
This Talking Stick, this ritual,
This space where we are all teachers and students
and our Conversation is the lesson:
our voices in dialogue, in concert,
Testimonies meeting, alchemizing in the air –

This is our Eternal Truth, our only Theory,
our Sacred Text, ever-changing,
We are Movement, Evolution,
Truly human, being praxis,
We practice the Art of Speaking and Listening.
The Word and the Silence are the legs on which we walk:
The Word to name ourselves and the world,
The Silence to hear what others are saying,
The Word to know, to defend, to dream,
Silence, the soil to receive these seeds.

This is the Garden, the Ecosystem.
This is Art and age-old Wisdom,
This is the theater, this is the stage.
This is the altar on which we pray.
This is our church and our town hall,
Our congress and congregational.
This is our government: We are the legislators.
This is our Classroom: We are the Educators.

Capitalist pedagogy works top-down:
“Study for the test / Listen up / Shut your mouth!”
Standardized curricula written by the State,
Memorizing disconnected facts for a grade.
Keep it compartmentalized – don’t connect the dots.
Teach em to be satisfied with the poverty they got.
Never use the word “oppression,” that’s unpatriotic.
Don’t teach Ethnic Studies or you’ll go to jail, got it?
Water down the history, literature, social studies,
Out with creativity, we don’t need critical thinkers, do we,
In a system where the vast majority of jobs
are to slave away for minimum wage, workin for the boss?

But something new is happening: now even that is gone.
Computers/robots automate, creating a new problem:
They don’t even need us, so they’re closing all the schools,
beefin up the police state and changing all the rules,
takin back the pensions, cutting welfare, closing clinics,
putting dictatorial rule in the state of Michigan –
if this shit ain’t fucking fascist, son, then I don’t know what is.
Tyranny of corparations: “Slavery, Inc.”

Rahm & his buddies up in City Hall huddle
like a pack of vicious vultures, to callously shutter up
another public school, till there’s not even one left.
Sellin education for a charter paycheck.
Packin fifty students in a class with old books,
cuttin back, Special Ed, art & music go first,
Then it’s nurses, counselors, janitors, lunch is gross meat,
Soon enough they’re sittin in a room with no heat.

But “It’s all about the kids,” right? Rahm is on our side,
It’s not his fault we’ve got an educational apartheid.
It’s gotta be the teachers, yeah, them motherfuckers lazy,
Better bust the unions up, cut their payment, raise fees.

Call me crazy, but I think I see a pattern:
They‘re takin away our basic needs while they keep getting fatter,
Their politics are like their classes: just monologue,
Turnin schools into jails: soft holocaust.

All of us now have to make a decision:
Keep trying to fix a broken capitalist system,
or redesign society, unite for a new Vision
where everyone participates and everybody listens?

This is why we make a space for everyone to talk.
This is what Democracy looks like: Hip Hop.
This is our Pedagogy – This is why we rock
the Mic, and we pass it so the Cipher don’t stop.
– Adam Gottlieb