What You Don't Know, Learn!: Movements for Autonomous Education in the US, Past, Present and Future

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Bell, Elisabeth


Surin, Kenneth

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This dissertation is an investigation of trends in the current US system of education, as informed by historical movements for autonomous education in the period of Reconstruction and in the 1960s and 70s. The driving questions of the dissertation are 1. How to understand the system of education in the US as having a historical and current role in the preservation of an existing structure of power, 2. How did historical movements that focused on the creation of autonomous forms of education challenge the given order of society?, and 3. What would a renewal of movement for autonomous education look like in the current moment?

I examine historical, theoretical and literary texts in my analysis of the role of education in US society. My theoretical framework for the dissertation comes from the collective work of El Kilombo Intergaláctico, an organization in Durham, North Carolina, and the work of Alvaro Reyes on the crisis of capitalist society and Blackness as a political alternative. In my historical and literary research, I focus particularly on educational policy documents that demonstrate the ways in which movements for autonomous education shaped state education, and literary texts that share a vision of collective autonomous education in the US in a way that both recalls past movements and gestures toward new possibilities for movement.

Ultimately, I argue that the tradition of the creation of autonomous forms of education in the US, and existing forms of autonomous education in social movements in Latin America, have the potential to once again provide insight toward the creation of alternative forms of education in the US now that would be different from earlier and current forms of US education for domination and control.






Bell, Elisabeth (2013). What You Don't Know, Learn!: Movements for Autonomous Education in the US, Past, Present and Future. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/8225.


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