You Can t Padlock an Idea
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You Can't Padlock an Idea examines the educational programs undertaken at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee and looks specifically at how these programs functioned rhetorically to promote democratic social change. Founded in 1932 by educator Myles Horton, the Highlander Folk School sought to address the economic and political problems facing communities in Appalachian Tennessee and other southern states. To this end Horton and the school's staff involved themselves in the labor and civil rights disputes that emerged across the south over the next three decades.

Drawing on the Highlander archives housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Avery Research Center in South Carolina, and the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee, Stephen A. Schneider reconstructs the pedagogical theories and rhetorical practices developed and employed at Highlander. He shows how the school focused on developing forms of collective rhetorical action, helped students frame social problems as spurs to direct action, and situated education as an agency for organizing and mobilizing communities.

Schneider studies how Highlander's educational programs contributed to this broader goal of encouraging social action. Specifically he focuses on four of the school's more established programs: labor drama, labor journalism, citizenship education, and music. These programs not only taught social movement participants how to create plays, newspapers, citizenship schools, and songs, they also helped the participants frame the problems they faced as having solutions based in collective democratic action. Highlander's programs thereby functioned rhetorically, insofar as they provided students with the means to define and transform oppressive social and economic conditions. By providing students with the means to comprehend social problems and with the cultural agencies (theater, journalism, literacy, and music) to address these problems directly, Highlander provided an important model for understanding the relationships connecting education, rhetoric, and social change.



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Date de parution 03 octobre 2014
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EAN13 9781611173826
Langue English
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You Can t Padlock an Idea
Studies in Rhetoric/Communication Thomas W. Benson, Series Editor
You Can t Padlock an Idea
Rhetorical Education at the Highlander Folk School 1932-1961
Stephen A. Schneider
2014 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press Columbia, South Carolina 29208
23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Schneider, Stephen A., 1979-
You can t padlock an idea : rhetorical education at the Highlander Folk School, 1932-1961 / Stephen A. Schneider.
pages cm. - (Studies in Rhetoric/Communication)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-61117-381-9 (hardback) - ISBN 978-1-61117-382-6 (ebook)
1. Highlander Folk School (Monteagle, Tenn.)- History. 2. Social change-Southern States-History-20th century. 3. Rhetoric-Social aspects-Southern States-History-20th century. 4. Adult education-Tennessee-History-20th century. 5. Working class-Education-Tennessee-History-20th century. I. Title.
LC5301.M65S36 2014
370.11 5-dc23
Introduction: The Highlander Folk School, Movement Halfway Houses, and Rhetorical Education
CHAPTER 1: The Kairos of Educational Opportunity: The Development of the Highlander Idea
CHAPTER 2: Labor Drama: From Collective Action to Collective-Action Frames
CHAPTER 3: Labor Journalism: Shop Papers, Yearbooks, and Collective Identity
CHAPTER 4: Literacy Education: Citizenship Schools and Community Organization
CHAPTER 5: Music Education: Framing Processes as Direct Action
Conclusion: Rhetorical Education as an Agency for Social Change
Myles Horton at Highlander
The Highlander Folk School s main building
Zilphia Horton singing on a picket line
Participants in Highlander s drama program
Charles Ferguson at 1941 Writers Workshop
Myles Horton and Rosa Parks at Highlander
Bernice Robinson teaches at a citizenship school
Guy Carawan and Septima Clark at Highlander
Guy Carawan sings at a 1960 workshop
Local sheriff padlocks the Highlander Folk School
In You Can t Padlock an Idea: Rhetorical Education at the Highlander Folk School, 1932-1961 , Stephen A. Schneider describes with admiration and analytical zest the activities of the Highlander Folk School, which opened as a residential educational experiment in 1932 and operated as a progressive force in labor and the organization of civil rights until it was closed on trumped-up charges by Tennessee authorities in 1961. Myles Horton, the visionary who founded and guided Highlander, gathered a succession of gifted teachers while forming alliances with progressive organizations and local communities in the South and beyond.
Schneider identifies the school s educational programs as rooted in and modeled on democratic principles, driven by and directed to immediate social and political ends. The educational programs thus had immediate practical application in the communities to which students returned as organizers, and at the same time the programs rehearsed the pragmatic, democratic, and, in Professor Schneider s interpretation, essentially rhetorical uses of drama, journalism, music, and literacy.
Schneider argues that the education experienced by Highlander students developed not only skills and identities, but also movement frames-both as the interpretive schemata that support movement activities and the rhetorical strategies developed from these schemata. An especially important quality of Schneider s work is his own framing of Highlander s work as rhetorical education-to make explicit, accessible, and usable the approaches embedded in the practices of Highlander. This Schneider accomplishes both in his own analytical work and, equally important, in his archival reconstructions of the school s practices and the practices of labor and civil rights organizing that they stimulated.
Thomas W. Benson
It goes without saying that any project of this length owes its existence to many stakeholders. The book s strengths reflect the constant inspiration of colleagues, friends, and family; any mistakes and shortcomings remain my own.
I have enjoyed the support and counsel of numerous scholars and colleagues-to the point that this as much their work as mine. You Can t Padlock an Idea owes its inception to Keith Gilyard. I am not sure I will ever be able to acknowledge all the contributions Keith has made to my intellectual and professional development, or articulate fully the influence his work continues to have on my own. Other teachers at Penn State likewise made timely contributions to the shape and general argument: Jeffrey Nealon, Rosa Eberly, Elaine Richardson, Jack Selzer, and Ronald Jackson II provided both support and critique when needed. Stuart Selber, Clement Hawes, Michael Berube, Aldon Nielsen, and Carla Mulford likewise provided early counsel on a number of levels.
The archival research was made possible by a number of groups. The Wilma Ebbitt Fellowship in Rhetoric at Penn State made preliminary research possible. A grant from the University of Alabama s Research Grants Committee allowed me to push the project forward and complete the initial manuscript. At the University of Louisville, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English-particularly Dean Blaine Hudson, Susan Griffin, and the University Committee for Academic Publications-likewise provided crucial support needed to complete archival work and final revisions. I remain indebted to the entire archive staff at the Wisconsin Historical Society, who greeted many a request for more boxes with both patience and good humor. And, finally, Jim Denton and the staff at the University of South Carolina Press provided constant support for development and publication.
Colleagues at the University of Alabama and the University of Louisville likewise provided support as I worked to refine the central thesis and find it a home. Fred Whiting and the Americanist Workshop at the University of Alabama read and engaged early drafts. Luke Niiler, Tricia McElroy, James McNaughton, Nikhil Bilwakesh, and Sharon O Dair provided the energy and collegiality needed to get any project off the ground. Bill Ulmer deserves special thanks for the time he invested as a mentor and friend.
Bronwyn Williams, Mary Brydon-Miller, Amy Clukey, Mark Longaker, and Matthew Dowell all read various versions and provided feedback that gave the manuscript its final shape. Tony Ceraso and Jay Jordan have long been two of my most trusted sources of critical insight and inspiration. Special thanks is likewise reserved for Keith Miller, whose example and continued interest in my work has kept me honest and motivated. And to those friends who all in their own way kept me writing-Travis Reinke, B. J. Diltz, Brian Oliu, Luke Southworth, B. J. Hollars, Rob Dixon, Ryan Browne, and Harley Ferris-I offer a heartfelt thanks.
This project would not have been possible without with dedicated work of Highlander and its staff. My deepest gratitude goes to Susan Williams, Guy and Candie Carawan, and the staff at the Highlander Research and Education Center who made time to meet with me and talk over my ideas. I hope that this manuscript does justice to the important work that is still being done in Appalachian Tennessee.
Finally, my family has remained a constant, if sometimes too geographically distant, source of comfort and inspiration. To my father, Rudi, and my mother, Ann, I owe an incalculable debt. My grandparents-Earl, Joan, Ludwig, and Wally-have long provided inspiration and continue to give me a lot to live up to. My brother and sister-Jay and Suzie-along with Roberta, Laila, Jaclyn, and Audrey continue to provide warmth, humor, and a reminder about what really matters in life. Julie, Ellen, Jessye, Peter, and Elvie have only further enriched my life since coming into it. And finally, Martha, Rob, Irena, Kathryn, and the whole Mozer clan have also provided constant support, and made me feel like one of their own.
But it goes without saying that this project would not have been possible without the love, patience, and affection of my wife, Robin, and daughter, Lily. For making my life better and brighter each and every day, I thank you.
Parts of chapter 5 were previously published in my article The Sea Island Citizenship Schools: Literacy, Community Organization, and the Civil Rights Movement, College English 70.2 (2007): 144-67, copyright 2007 by the National Council of Teachers of English. It is reprinted with permission.
The Highlander Folk School, Movement Halfway Houses, and Rhetorical Education
On July 31, 1959, Tennessee District Attorney Albert Sloan led county and state law officers on a raid of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. The group was ostensibly looking for liquor, which they eventually found during an illegal search of Highlander founder Myles Horton s home. Four staff members, including civil rights activist Septima Clark and folk musician Guy Carawan, were arrested on trumped-up charges of possession of alcohol, public drunkenness, interfering with officers, and resisting arrest (Glen 1996, 232) * . On February 16, 1960, Circuit Court Judge Chester Chattin ordered that Highlander s charter be revoked on the grounds that the school had been operated for Horton s benefit, had sold liquor without a license, and had openly practiced racial integration (243). On October 9, 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Highlander s appeal, ostensibly closing the school and bringing to an end a thirty-year experiment in education for social change.
The Highlander Folk School had first opened as a residential adult education center in November 1932, with the goal of alleviating poverty conditions among Tennessee s mountain poor. To this end, Highlander staff began a number of programs in the surrounding community of Summerfield, and further offered residential workshop sessions designed to build civic and political leaders. These workshops targeted the emergent southern labor movement, with the goal of building strong industrial unions and union leadership, and quickly led to extension programs devoted to crisis education. While the folk school s union programs would continue into the 1940s and 1950s, staff members also began working with civil rights activists across the South in the wake of the Supreme Court s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Highlander s civil rights programs-covering citizenship education, music, and community organization-brought the school renewed attention (and notoriety), and were in many ways some of the school s most successful programs.
The folk school s work with southern labor, farmers, African Americans, and civil rights activists earned the school such a radical reputation that, even today, as John M. Glen points out, the name Highlander rarely evokes a neutral response (1996, 1). The commitment of Highlander staff to community organization and social change attracted both loyal support and vicious condemnation. Among the individuals involved in establishing and supporting the school were John Dewey, Norman Thomas, Reinhold Niebuhr, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr. Chief among its opponents were J. Edgar Hoover, the Georgia Commission on Education, the Tennessee state legislature, and the Ku Klux Klan. Whether described as a heroic contributor to the southern labor and civil rights movements, or as a communist training school, Highlander s unique contribution to the history of the American South is indisputable.
Highlander s reputation attests not only to the school s commitment to social change, but also the rhetorical nature of Highlander s work. The folk school s educational programs not only helped oppressed communities recognize the transformative value of their own experiences and traditions but also to develop the various rhetorical strategies needed to agitate for social change. Highlander s programs thus proved central to the construction of collective movement identities, and to the development and deployment of movement rhetorics. But on a more fundamental level, the rhetorical work undertaken at the school helped individuals to frame and mobilize their experiences as resources for social change.
The pedagogical practices adopted at Highlander helped movement participants develop the rhetorical means to challenge oppressive social conditions. Specifically Highlander s programs allowed individuals and communities to develop movement frames-both as the interpretive schemata that support movement activities and the rhetorical strategies developed from these schemata. The school s pedagogy not only drew on the broader discourse of southern progressivism-defined by such topics as social justice, democracy, and equality-but also on the local cultural and political experiences of students. By sharing and critically examining these experiences, students learned to recognize the resources they already had available to solve their problems. By helping movement participants to frame their experiences in terms of justice and collective action, Highlander staff further helped them convert cultural resources into rhetorical strategies for seeking social change. The Highlander Folk School provides important evidence not only for the ways that rhetorical education contributed to the development of social movements in the United States, but also for the way that social movements-particularly movement halfway houses-contributed to the development of a nonformal tradition of rhetorical education.
Myles Horton and the Highlander Idea
It is difficult to understand both the origins and the contributions of the Highlander Folk School without understanding the social and economic milieus from which it emerged. Established in Southern Appalachia on the eve of the New Deal, Highlander represented an attempt to directly address the problems facing the region via progressive, nonformal adult education. Despite continued talk of a New South, much of the region still suffered the effects of both industrial exploitation and the Great Depression. But despite-and no doubt on account of-these problems, the South was also home to a number of progressive thinkers committed to democratic social change. It was to this social change that Highlander s staff would dedicate themselves, and would in many ways define the school s wider reputation.
By the 1920s, southern states played host to several booming industries: textiles, cotton, tobacco, oil, lumber, paper, chemicals, steel, and aluminum. Mill and mine towns ostensibly promised jobs and better living conditions, and encouraged many southerners to move to industry centers. Nonetheless, the prosperity of the New South was far from evenly distributed. The South s reliance on labor-intensive industry demanded that industrialists preserve their principal competitive advantage: low wages. The development of company villages in the textile and mining industries led not to prosperity but rather to exploitation, most notably through payment in company scrip that was good only at company stores. These stores in turn inflated prices so severely that scrip became known as robissary money (Tindall 1967, 329). Business owners worked to keep workers docile and wages cheap, principally through the sponsorship of open-shop associations and the exploitation of racial strife among workers. Despite positive events such as the establishment of the Southern Summer School for Women Workers in 1927, labor organizing in the South was uneven and typically ineffective.
To say that labor organizing was ineffective is not to say that it was nonexistent. The 1920s saw the eruption of some of the bloodiest labor disputes in the region s history: textile workers in Gastonia and Marion, North Carolina, struck during the spring and summer of 1929; rayon plants in Elizabethton, Tennessee, were shut down by walkouts during the same period; miners in Harlan and Bell counties, Kentucky, struck during 1931 and continued to protest working conditions through much of the following decade. These protests often resulted in the eviction of families from company-owned quarters, the looting of commissaries, and the use of company-hired deputies and National Guard contingents to break up pickets and maintain order. In the cases of Gastonia and Harlan, strike leaders, miners, and deputies were killed in gun battles or ambushes.
Appalachian Tennessee, like many other areas in the South, faced problems of poverty, sharecropping, and absentee ownership of property and businesses. The lumber and coal (and with it, steel) industries exploited both the natural and human resources of the region, relying as much on cheap labor as they did on timber and coal. The representation of an isolated and backward Appalachia often served as a warrant for industrialization, as industry promised to bring progress to the southern mountains (Batteau 1990, 63). But such justifications hardly stemmed labor unrest in the region, which centered primarily on the coal industry in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. While Harlan County was perhaps the most famous site for this unrest, similar disputes erupted in 1912 at Paint Creek and Cabin Creek, West Virginia, and in 1920-21 at Matewan, West Virginia. By the 1930s, Southern Appalachia had thus become a region caught between history and progress, represented both as a central part of the United States and as a challenge to a nation s sense of itself.
Roosevelt s triumph in the 1932 presidential election brought with it new hope among southern progressives and those groups committed to challenging racism and Jim Crow. It should be noted that the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, the Southern Commission for the Study of Lynching, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were all active in the South prior to the New Deal, challenging institutions such as the poll tax while pressing for the passage of federal antilynching laws. Spurred on by the New Deal and later by the emergence of popular-front politics, these groups would lay the foundation for such organizations as the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen and the Southern Conference of Human Welfare (SCHW), organizations within which Highlander staff would play a significant role. When the SCHW secured the endorsement of the president and the First Lady in 1938, interracial cooperation in the South appeared to be a real possibility.
It was into this South-the possibility of a New South-that the Highlander Folk School was born, and to which it hoped to contribute. From 1932 to 1961 Highlander staff would work with and contribute to the southern labor movement, farm-labor organizing efforts, and the civil rights movement. And while the success of Highlander s programs was at best uneven (often for reasons beyond the control of school officials themselves), the educational theories and practices developed at the school have continued to animate discussions of education and social change even into the present. Central to most of these conversations is the Highlander Idea, the educational theory that animated much of Highlander s work. Insofar as the Highlander Idea focuses not only on education as a vehicle for social change, but also on the need to focus such education on the immediate experiences of students themselves, it has come to stand both for a progressive pedagogical and a progressive political vision.
While the Highlander Folk School was home to many different staff members during its first thirty years, the school is most closely associated with founder Myles Horton; and in most tellings of the school s history, it is Horton who first defined the pedagogy that became known as the Highlander Idea. Horton was born in 1905 in Savannah, Tennessee, to parents whose political views in many ways reflected the commitment to association and social progress that came to define the Progressive Era (McGerr 2005, 66). Despite long periods of poverty, Horton s parents ensured that he and his siblings received high-quality elementary and secondary education, which allowed Myles to attend Cumberland University from 1924 to 1928.
Horton went to Cumberland intending to complete a major in English and some form of religious education; his extracurricular activities, however, would prove to have a greater impact on his thinking and his further plans. He openly supported John T. Scopes in the famous Tennessee evolution trial, and opposed the anti-union rhetoric of Cumberland trustee John E. Egerton (Glen 1996, 10-11). But it was his work as director of a Presbyterian Bible school in Ozone, Tennessee, in the summer of 1927, that first saw Horton working directly with the people and the problems of Southern Appalachia. Many workers in the area had been laid off, or had become physically unable to work, while farmers lived at bare subsistence levels. In the hopes of helping the community to address these problems, Horton called a meeting of the parents of the Bible school students and other interested adults (Horton 1990, 22). By encouraging those gathered to focus on their own life experiences, Horton helped the community to frame these experiences as problems to be solved, thereby forging a link between education and community action. When asked to stay on in the area as a teacher, Horton promised to return when he had more answers.
Horton s search for answers led him to travel far and wide over the subsequent years, first to Union Theological Seminary in New York, then to the University of Chicago. It was during these years that Horton would encounter many of the figures foundational to his thought: Harry Ward, George Counts, John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Robert Park. At Union, Horton also met several of the people who would contribute to Highlander in its early years, including future staff members James Dombrowski, John Thompson, and Elizabeth Hawes. These classmates brought a similar commitment to social and economic justice to the school, and helped connect Highlander to progressive political forces in the South.
Horton s time in New York and Chicago also introduced him to the social gospel and the fields of sociology and adult education, all of which in turn helped Horton shape his radial commitment to democratic social change. It was arguably from the works of theologians Harry Ward and Reinhold Niebuhr that Horton first developed his conceptions of democracy and brotherhood, which he understood both as getting people organized so they have a voice and values having to do with human relations (Horton 1966, 11-12). Robert Park at the University of Chicago further provided Horton with a model of social development that suggested conflict was itself central to social progress, while adult educators such as Joseph K. Hart and Eduard Lindeman convinced him that education might further help to develop these progressive energies. For Horton, conflict presented an opportunity to dramatically frame social problems in terms of class, race, and exploitation. This also provided students with the means to establish collective identities and to seek direct solutions to the material conditions they faced. Horton thus combined the prophetic impetus he had drawn from the social gospel with a sociological program that emphasized education as a vehicle for social change. And although it would take several years for this pedagogical program to fully develop into what we now know as the Highlander Idea, its impact on both southern labor and civil rights activists is hard to overstate.
As Horton s pedagogical theories developed, he also began to look for an educational model upon which he might base an educational institution of his own. One of the first people he consulted was Hull House founder Jane Addams, who suggested that his educational project sounded like a rural settlement school (Glen 1996, 16). But it was his encounter in Chicago with Danish church ministers Aage Moller and Enok Mortensen that provided Horton with a clear model: the Danish folk school movement. Horton read all he could on Danish folk schools, and finally arranged to visit Denmark in hopes of investigating the schools for himself. Arriving in September 1931, Horton visited a number of folk schools and discussed with their leaders the underlying philosophies behind the movement. While he would come to question whether Denmark s folk schools continued to live up to their original creed, Horton nonetheless saw in their structure a model for his own educational project.
The Danish folk schools grew from the educational vision of Bishop Nikolai Grundtvig, widely considered one of the greatest Danish poets of the nineteenth century. Grundtvig proposed a School of Life, which would place adult education at the service of the Danish peasantry, and thereby help the latter to take up their role as preservers of the national culture. While Grundtvig had attempted to open a school of his own in 1844, the first successful folk school opened under the direction of educator Kristen Kold in 1851. The gains made by this first school encouraged other educators to found similar institutions, all devoted to linking education to the needs of local communities. These efforts proved essential to Denmark s recovery from military defeat at the hands of Austria and Prussia in 1864, a defeat that deprived them of much of their best farming land. The folk schools were uniquely positioned to address the ensuing poverty and desperation, and thus focused their attention on agriculture and the development of cooperative business. By 1926 the folk schools had served over 300,000 students (Hart 1927).

Myles Horton at Highlander. WHi-52643, Wisconsin Historical Society.
The Danish folk schools provided Horton with an educational model that focused on the amelioration of community problems. For Horton, the success of this model grew directly from the folk-school concept of the Living Word, or the spoken word dealing with a vital subject (Horton 1944, 25). In most cases, this Living Word was a combination of an individual school s purpose with primarily oral instruction methods. However, the young Horton felt that many of the schools no longer dealt effectively with the conditions faced by students. Many continued to rehearse the lessons offered to earlier generations, leading Horton to conclude that fighting the ghosts of one s grandparents enemies does not call forth the Living Word (25). For Horton-influenced by the pragmatism of Dewey and Lindeman-the concept of the Living Word had to be dialogic, involving teachers and students in vital discussion on those issues most urgent to them. More than lectures or academic analysis, the Living Word needed to be a response that came from students and their lives rather than from the teachers.
Horton s prophetic sensibilities, as well as his pragmatic commitment to reconstructing contemporary society along democratic lines, led him beyond older models of the Living Word to consider instead how this pedagogy might meet the pressing problems posed by industrialization. But if this pedagogy was to form the foundation for a successful school, then it would need to emerge from the immediate material conditions facing students and staff. This realization-one that Horton first had several years earlier in Ozone-would form the basis of the Highlander Idea, which focused first and foremost on using students own experiences as resources for social change. While Highlander staff would continue to develop and refine the idea throughout the school s operation, it nonetheless lay at the heart of the school s programs throughout its history. It is the Highlander Idea s commitment to turning student experiences into political resources that most clearly suggests the rhetorical dimensions of the school s work.
Rhetorical Education and Movement Halfway Houses
The Highlander Folk School provides scholars in rhetoric with important evidence for the contribution both of nonformal adult education and social movements to the development of rhetorical education in the United States. From the outset, Highlander staff attempted to encourage and mobilize the progressive energies found in the South before and during the New Deal era. More specifically Highlander functioned as a movement halfway house-a center for the development of movement resources and rhetorics-for both the southern labor and civil rights movements. While the school maintained an independent status that allowed it to preserve a semi-autonomous existence in relation to these movements, it nonetheless proved to be an important laboratory for fostering democratic social change in the South.
By understanding Highlander as a site of rhetorical education, we gain a deeper appreciation of Highlander s contributions to democratic social change, specifically the school s work with labor and civil rights activists. Jessica Enoch has suggested that rhetorical education can be understood as any educational program that develops in students a communal and civic identity and articulates for them rhetorical strategies, language practices, and bodily and social behaviors that make possible their participation in communal and civic affairs (2008, 7-8). In this regard, we might think of the Highlander Idea as a contribution to what Cornel West has called a deep democratic paideia, or the critical cultivation of an active citizenry (2005, 39). While Highlander staff never referred to their work in rhetorical terms, the programs they developed addressed the very civic concerns that Enoch suggests lie at the heart of rhetorical education. The staff worked to extend the rhetorical and political capacities of the students they worked with, and they undertook the civic work-albeit it in a more direct manner-often attributed to more traditional and formal approaches to rhetorical education.
Historically, rhetorical education has been a means of achieving social change and furthering a broader democratic agenda. Nonformal adult education has made a contribution to this tradition. Both pragmatic and political in nature, nonformal adult education encompasses a variety of institutions and pedagogical programs, but insofar as these programs have typically dedicated themselves to community organization and betterment, they remain at least in part rhetorical in their missions. By 1932 a wide range of institutions represented the adult education movement: Jane Addams s Hull House continued to be the flagship for the settlement-house movement; Brookwood Labor College, Commonwealth College, and the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers likewise served as leaders for an emerging network of labor colleges. While these various institutions had a variety of missions and goals, they all contributed to what they saw as the development of a democratic society. It was this emerging tradition that Myles Horton drew upon when founding his southern mountain school, and further contributed to as he developed the rhetorical dimensions of Highlander s pedagogy.
On one level, then, the rhetorical education undertaken at Highlander is easy to describe: Highlander staff helped oppressed communities and emerging social movements to recognize and develop available means of persuasion, specifically those devoted to effecting democratic social change. The model of rhetorical education developed at Highlander emerged primarily from the school s residential and extension programs. These programs encouraged students to share their experiences as a means of discovering not only collective experiences of oppression, but also collective means of responding to that oppression. Myles Horton variously called this model a yeasty idea and a percolator theory of education-phrasings that suggest that Highlander staff hoped to encourage students to build upon their experiences in organic, self-directed ways (Eby 1953; Horton 1990). But both terms also make clear the folk school s commitment to what Highlander staff member John Thompson calls the kairos of educational opportunity (1958). Within this framework, staff members worked to develop rhetorical strategies immanently from the experiences and resources that students themselves brought to residential workshops.
While Highlander staff believed in the importance of starting where students already were, they were not necessarily neutral facilitators within workshops. Highlander classes were often organized thematically around topics such as contract negotiation, grievance process, and labor journalism, and staff took an active role in helping students utilize their experience within these different areas. Staff also used a variety of cultural traditions-specifically labor drama, journalism, literacy education, and folk music-as a means of helping students shape their experiences into effective rhetorical strategies for achieving social change. Drama became a means of fostering collective action and communicating workers experiences with strikes, pickets, exploitative bosses, and labor spies. Labor journalism allowed students to effectively organize union locals and to craft a corpus of movement documents from which workers could build collective identities. Within the civil rights movement, literacy education would prove to be an agency for community organization and rhetorical education in its own right. And finally, in both the southern labor and civil rights movements, music would provide activists with an important agency for fostering morale and for directly resisting the violent responses their activities provoked. Following sociologist Aldon Morris, we might conclude that the combination of student experience with rhetorical agencies such as drama, journalism, and music helped workshop participants transform indigenous resources into power resources (1984, xii).
In The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement , Morris coins the term movement halfway house to describe the function of institutions such as Highlander within broader campaigns for social change. For Morris, halfway houses are organizations that are only partially integrated into the larger society because [their] participants are actively involved in efforts to bring about a desired change in society (1984, 139). Despite their inability to affect wide-scale change on their own, movement halfway houses nonetheless develop a battery of social change resources such as skilled activists, tactical knowledge, media contacts, workshops, knowledge of past movements, and a vision of a future society (140). Emerging social movements provide these halfway houses with a wide audience, who in turn profit from the resources that the halfway houses make available.
Francesca Polletta argues that halfway houses are important to social movements not only for their resources, but also for the experience that they provide movement participants in collective decision-making and democratic living (2002, 64-65). These organizations thereby serve as active examples of the sorts of communities that social movements hope to build. Polletta also emphasizes the links between labor colleges and union education programs in the 1930s, and the organizational strategies of the civil rights movement (28). Not only were the pedagogies used by early union education programs and civil rights organizations similar in many ways; in many cases organizers trained in union programs were active leaders within the civil rights movement.
But movement halfway houses, beyond supplying resources and models for democratic community-building, also play an important role in the rhetorical development of social movements. For Shirley Wilson Logan, such sites represent spaces where people and language and a need to communicate come together to create what Lloyd Bitzer calls a rhetorical situation (2008, 3). Movement halfway houses proved to be instrumental in helping emerging social movements to recognize and develop the symbolic resources necessary for sustaining political action. This role consists not only in managing more familiar rhetorical enterprises, such as publicity and media response, but also in developing the rhetorical agencies through which movements make their claims. Morris has argued that these strategies are essential if movements are to appropriately deploy indigenous resources-cultural, economic, and political stocks already available within local communities-and thereby attract wider support (1984, 282-83). It is within this context that learning about rhetoric occurs (Logan 2008, 3). As Highlander provided a space for labor and civil rights activists to pursue democratic social change, so too it operated as a site for rhetorical education.
The pedagogical dimensions of Highlander s work-arguably rhetorical, but not necessarily persuasive in the conventional sense of that term-can be understood by using the framing approach advocated by some movement scholars in sociology. Drawing on Goffman s Frame Analysis (1986), sociologists Snow, Benford, and Zald argue that frames represent interpretive schemata that allow individuals to organize, respond to, and transform experience; these schemata therefore play a crucial role in structuring beliefs, values, and appropriate responses to wider social institutions (Snow et al. 1986). In this model, the bulk of a social movement s work is focused on micromobilization, devoted to aligning broader movement frames with the experience and values of potential participants and sympathizers. This approach allows us to understand how Highlander s programs rhetorically articulated students experiences with the goals and activities of the southern labor and civil rights movements.
Highlander staff worked then not only to help students develop effective forms of collective rhetorical action, but also to help students frame their experiences as the foundation for that action. William Gamson has suggested that most movement framing practices focus on the development of collective-action frames (Gamson 1995). Devoted principally to the organization of a movement s values and goals, collective-action frames typically focus on three areas: injustice, identity, and agency. * More specifically, movements frame negative social experiences in terms of injustice precisely to establish a common ground for movement identity and action. What is important within this framing practice, then, is not simply the identification of injustice but rather the identification of the common experience of injustice.
Robert Benford has offered an important insider s critique of frame analysis within movement studies, in which he argues that movement scholarship is often devoted to the elaboration of a host of frames at the expense of a description of framing practices themselves. The framing practices identified by Benford not only illuminate the role of frames within the rhetorical activities of social movements but constitute rhetorical action in their own right. By establishing the experience of movement participants as an experience of injustice, collective-action frames establish both grievances and the motivation for addressing them. In this notion of shared experience and shared goals, movement participants are further encouraged to find a common identity and a common set of core beliefs. From this identity, a movement might then develop those agencies that best represent its needs and secures its goals. Collective-action frames operate diagnostically to identify injustice and establish common identity, and prognostically to suggest appropriate courses of action, performing rhetorical work in establishing and sustaining movement activity.
Rhetorically, frames closely resemble Kenneth Burke s terministic screens, insofar as they both enable and disable particular forms of rhetorical action (Burke 1966). But, understood as both interpretive schemata and ensembles of cognitive cues, frames appear to be less determinant than terministic screens. Where screens seem to suggest limits on rhetorical activity, frames instead suggest foundational structures; frames, then, do not represent overdetermined ideological structures so much as coordinating points that might align individuals with diverse ideologies and experiences. Nonetheless, frames remain communicative resources: they structure recognizable movement discourses and require dissemination by movement participants. It is the structuring function of frames, and the relationship between this structuring function and the encouragement of collective action, that we most clearly see at work in Highlander s pedagogical programs.
Rhetorical education at Highlander, then, focused on both the establishment of local collective-action frames that might inform labor and civil rights activism and on the development from within these frames of rhetorical strategies for that activism. Within this context, Highlander s programs sought to establish the importance of collective action and to suggest possible agencies for that action; as such, they focused on developing both the collective identities and rhetorical strategies that Enoch locates as the foundation for rhetorical education. By recasting workers theater, labor journalism, literacy education, and music in rhetorical terms, Highlander staff were able to convert cultural media into tools for developing and disseminating collective-action frames.
Highlander s pedagogical programs provide movement scholars not with static examples of movement frames, but rather with direct descriptions of framing processes. The programs suggest that students classroom interactions were a crucial means of developing local collective-action frames from their personal experience and aligning those frames with broader movement frames. As Frances Polletta has argued, this is not simply because students encountered particular frames at Highlander; rather, they lived and learned in the very kind of democratic community they hoped to build elsewhere (2002). This emphasis on collective, collaborative action provided the foundation for students to further develop the identities and agencies needed to pursue political and economic change. Highlander s staff thus framed education itself as an experiment in democratic living, an experiment whose pedagogical goals extended well beyond the content of any one workshop or program.
More broadly, then, movement halfway houses represent important laboratories for the development of framing processes, as they provide participants with a space in which to articulate their values and demands. In the absence of widespread awareness of, or support for, a given movement, local participants need to develop their own resources and leadership. Polletta s model rightly identifies these resources as the basis for democratic decision-making, and we might further conclude that indigenous rhetorical resources are also central to communication and organization within emergent social movements. By attending to framing processes, then, we might acknowledge the rhetorical work of social movements that lies beyond the production and delivery of speeches and communiqu s, most specifically the pedagogical practices that take place on an organizational level.
Most immediately, movement halfway houses help movements develop those agencies, or vehicles for direct action, that Gamson argues are central to local movement frames (1995). While Gamson understands these agencies as technologies of representation and recognition (that is, as a means of effectively representing the concerns of a movement to a wider audience), we might also understand them as rhetorical extensions of collective identity; if a collective-action frame is not able to provide a group with an effective means of expressing their collective identity, there is no doubt a chance that that identity itself loses its resonance. Understood as a means of expression and a means of action, agency may be a movement frame s most obviously rhetorical dimension. By providing a venue for developing and experimenting with these forms of rhetorical agency, movement halfway houses play an important role in extending the rhetorical reach of the movements they work with.
Insofar as the school s work with labor and civil rights activists was aimed at increasing their participation in broader political and economic structures, it can and should be considered rhetorical. But this form of rhetorical education was not just concerned with developing successful programs for direct action; it also sought to help students develop collective-action frames that might serve as the foundation more broadly for the continued pursuit of democratic social change. If social movements are understood to be at least in part rhetorical, then they also represent an important contribution to rhetorical education as a broader civic enterprise, particularly as it is undertaken in non-formal and extra-institutional spaces. Understood in this way, Highlander s programs played an important role in the development and dissemination of movement rhetorics. But Highlander s work with these movements also helps us to understand the broader reach of rhetorical education in the United States. While social-movement activities often lie beyond the deliberative practices of the ancient agora or the modern public sphere, they nonetheless represent citizenship practices that have played and continue to play a significant role in the political and social life of the United States.
Rhetorical Education at the Highlander Folk School
Highlander s work with social movements, and more broadly with oppressed communities across the South, contributed to a tradition of nonformal rhetorical education in the United States. The school s programs used cultural traditions such as drama, journalism, literacy education, and music to align the experience of these communities with broader movement frames. Highlander s work with these different organizations demonstrates the school s rhetorical commitments and the staff s desire to build a democratic society by expanding students rhetorical capabilities. The school s work with social movements also demonstrates the role that movements play in the development and circulation of nonformal rhetorical education.
Highlander s programs helped students to see themselves as rhetorical agents and encouraged them to undertake collective rhetorical action in the service of democratic social change. The school s archival records-in this case, those held at the Wisconsin Historical Society-reveal the pedagogical theories and practices used at Highlander. * Many of the student documents are fragmented and transitory in nature, and we have no evidence that these documents necessarily circulated outside of the school. Nor do these documents require much scholarly scrutiny-their purposes are often quite apparent, and the forms used to convey these purposes are likewise straightforward. Where possible, I attempt to reconcile these descriptions against the evidence we have for a program s political or social impact. But more directly, the pedagogical assumptions of staff, alongside their reflections on the school s programs, show the rhetorical value of the school s work.
Rhetorical education at Highlander centered on three key areas. First and foremost, Highlander s programs focused on the development of forms of collective rhetorical action that might anchor collective-action frames. This approach was intended from the outset to demonstrate to students the generative potential of collective action in achieving social change and, more generally, of the real possibilities for democratic deliberation and action. By insisting on collective action as the sine qua non of its educational programs, Highlander established collective-action frames not just symbolically (via the promulgation of shared values) but also materially (via identification and shared action).
Second, Highlander helped students to rhetorically frame social problems-whether political, vocational, or economic-as spurs to direct action. Folk school staff further used a variety of existing cultural traditions-chiefly drama, journalism, literacy education, and music-to help students actively transform their experiences into collective-action frames that might serve as the foundation for direct action and social change. Finally, the school situated education itself as an agency for organizing and mobilizing communities for democratic social change. Staff members were thus able to rhetorically articulate nonformal adult education within broader efforts at democratic social change, with the latter providing the exigence for the former. Within this model, education itself became an agency within the collective-action frames of the southern labor and civil rights movements.
This model of rhetorical education was developed by Highlander staff through key programs. Built upon what John Thompson called the kairos of educational opportunity, the Highlander Idea emphasized the role of education as an agency for social change, the importance of social problems as sites of rhetorical education, and the need to focus on student experience as a resource for solving those problems; by focusing on the need to understand social problems as educational and rhetorical opportunities, Myles Horton and other staff members also acknowledged the importance of framing processes to the development of strategies for social change. Nonetheless, while Horton often describes the Highlander Idea as the foundation for the school s programs, the school s educational philosophy in fact emerged from these programs-particularly Highlander s first residential and extension efforts. Developed around more traditional educational theories, early residential programs failed to adequately align the school s goals with student experience. By contrast, the school s early extension programs in Wilder and Summerfield were immediately geared toward students needs. By adopting a pedagogy that began in the first instance with the problems and needs of students-and the local knowledge used to frame these concerns-the staff developed the foundational principle of the Highlander Idea. But the school s programs at Wilder and Summerfield also taught staff the importance of framing processes and helped them to develop the idea s rhetorical dimensions.
Highlander s drama programs were initially developed for the emerging southern labor movement. Influenced by New York s New Theatre League and the agit-prop work of the Prolet-Buehne, Highlander s drama program emphasized the need for workers to develop a theatrical tradition capable of representing their own lives and needs; theater was understood as a means of organizing workers and publicizing the broader work of the labor movement. But Highlander s drama classes also became a forum in which workers could critically examine the events and themes they sought to dramatize. As they set about staging picket lines, contract negotiations, and labor espionage for broader audiences, students reflected on how best to frame and respond to these issues as a movement. As students engaged in collective action and came to identify problems as injustices, they also established collective-action frames that they could carry back to their own locals and organizations. These classes demonstrate that collective action often precedes and anchors, rather than emerges from, collective-action frames. Highlander s drama classes thus operated not only as spaces for building an emerging movement, but also as vehicles for developing workers rhetorical capacities.
While Highlander s staff did not draw on an explicit tradition as they had in the school s dramatics courses, their journalism classes helped students compose, edit, and print a range of publications, including shop papers and yearbooks. Shop papers provided a means of promoting and growing union locals, while larger pamphlets and guides supplied unions with an official voice. Larger in size and more varied in contents, yearbooks offered a means of collecting individual workers stories in one volume; these publications emphasized both the importance of individual voices to the larger union movement, and the commonalities that existed between these voices and the stories they told. Within this context, labor journalism helped to establish the collective sense of identity that necessarily undergirds collective-action frames. The collaborative production of shop papers and yearbooks at Highlander further suggests that framing processes involved not only the alignment of individuals with movement frames, but also the production of movement frames themselves from a wider range of experiences. The collective-action frames that emerged from this process might be understood as consubstantial structures that preserved and valorized individual experience by articulating it to similar collective experiences.
The folk school s literacy programs were initiated by civil rights activists Septima Clark, Esau Jenkins, and Bernice Robinson; Highlander staff proved central to supporting and expanding such programs across the South. Similar in style and orientation to freedom schools, Highlander s citizenship education program focused on literacy education as a vehicle for voter registration. Framed by this political goal, citizenship schools went well beyond skills- based instruction in reading and writing, as staff linked literacy to broader discussions of citizenship, voting, and community organization. The citizenship education program quickly spread across the southern states, allowing local communities to frame adult education in politically and socially meaningful terms. As a result, citizenship schools themselves became sites for community organization, as local activists became responsible for administering classes and recruiting participants. By helping to organize communities, citizenship schools also fostered robust collective-action frames focused on education and voter registration. Within these collective-action frames, education itself became an agency for pursuing democratic social change: citizenship schools functioned both as a means of furthering the civil rights movement and as democratic communities in their own right.
Highlander s music programs used traditional folk music and labor songs as vehicles for communicating goals and values in their work with both the southern labor movement and the civil rights movement. While working with the labor movement, Highlander staff used folk music and labor songs as a means of fostering solidarity and fortifying protests and picket lines. During the civil rights era, these songs-along with traditional spirituals-were transformed into freedom songs that reflected the values and goals of the civil rights movement. Within Highlander s music program, mass singing became a means of communicating movement frames and a form of direct action in its own right. Group singing galvanized movement participants into larger collective bodies capable of dramatizing their demands and resisting police and mob violence. Understood in this way, mass singing also demonstrates that collective-action frames operate as material structures through which individuals might come to act, and be recognized, as a larger movement.
These four programs-labor drama, labor journalism, citizenship education, and music-can therefore be understood as important rhetorical practices that directly established collective-action frames among students. They also provide an account of how cultural traditions such as drama and music contributed to the development of the Highlander Idea s rhetorical dimensions. But just as significantly, they demonstrate the importance of aligning educational programs with local grievance and collective-action frames in order for those programs to promote social change. Music, drama, journalism, literacy education, and music should therefore be understood not just as important rhetorical practices in their own right, but also as strategies and resources for organizing social action. By examining Highlander s programs through this lens, we can understand the importance of framing processes within nonformal rhetorical education, and the importance of nonformal rhetorical education to our broader understanding of the relationship between rhetorical education and social change in the United States.
* Clark was widely known to be a teetotaler.
* While Gamson establishes injustice as an element of collective-action frames, other descriptions of frames establish injustice frames and grievance frames as distinct structures in their own right. I follow Gamson s lead because it seems to me that the organizational and rhetorical activities of most social movements are all at least in part devoted to encouraging and extending collective action.
Burke actually uses the term frame to describe what we might understand as a precursor to terministic screens in Attitudes Toward History . There, frames are linked to acceptance or rejection and represent the more or less or less organized system of meanings by which a thinking man gauges the historical situation and adopts a role with relation to it (1984, 5). Terministic screens, constituted by the language we use, similarly represent ways of directing the attention and shaping the range of observations implicit in the given terminology (Burke 1966, 51). But in distinction to the theory of frames offered by Snow and Benford, Burke s terministic screens represent developed rhetorical-and, I d suggest, ideological-systems.
* The Wisconsin Historical Society holds the records for the Highlander Folk School, along with the personal papers of Myles Horton and James Dombrowski. Other Highlander collections can be found in a number of libraries. The Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee, has a large archive of the school s history and programs. Zilphia Horton s papers are held at the Tennessee State Archives in Nashville. The personal papers of Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson, and Esau Jenkins can be found at the Avery Research Center in Charleston, South Carolina. The University of Chicago s Special Collections Research Center holds the papers for the Emil Schwarzhaupt Foundation, one of the primary sponsors of Highlander s Citizenship School Program. While I consulted all of these collections during the writing of this book, I drew primarily from the WHS collection due to its mass of workshop and program reports and writings by students.
The Kairos of Educational Opportunity
The Development of the Highlander Idea
Myles Horton s first fundraising letter for the Highlander Folk School describes his initial project as the organization of a Southern Mountain School for the training of labor leaders in the Southern industrial areas (1990, 61). To that end, Horton proposed to train radical labor leaders who will understand the need of both political and union strategy, and without whom a labor movement in the South is impossible. While he focuses immediately on the concerns of labor and the working class, Horton further extends his educational mission beyond union organization to the total problem of modern civilization (61). This vision provided a foundation for the school s pedagogy, which would focus on individual integration, relation of the individual to a new situation, and education for a socialistic society. Articulated to these political and economic concerns, education was one of the instruments for bringing about a new social order (62).
As we might expect, Horton s fundraising letter reflects his intellectual commitments to progressive politics and demonstrates the impact on his thinking of the social gospel, pragmatism, and the adult education movement; it makes little mention, however, of the educational method that would become known as the Highlander Idea. This is most likely because the combined focus on social change, crisis education, and student experience developed out of the folk school s early programs. Horton s initial description of the school s pedagogy was, for the most part, pragmatic. Personal relations, he declared, will play an important part (61). Group discussion would center on students experiences, which would then be leveraged as resources for addressing broader social problems. This would allow those who otherwise have no educational advantages whatsoever to learn enough about themselves and society, to have something on which to base their decisions and actions whether in their own community or in an industrial situation into which they may be thrown (62). Horton thus believed that education could serve as an agency for social and economic reconstruction along democratic lines, and that his Southern Mountain School must also be directly articulated to such a goal. But he also saw the need for individuals to play a political role in securing democratic reforms, and for educational institutions that would focus explicitly on developing this kind of citizenship.
Despite this initial, broad-strokes discussion of the role residential adult education might play in the achievement of democratic social change, and despite the common perception that Horton developed the Highlander Idea prior to founding the folk school, it seems fairer to suggest that the Highlander Idea emerged as Horton s pedagogical commitments were leavened by the school s early programs. Early residential classes failed to adequately respond to student needs, with staff relying on traditional educational methods at the expense of the school s broader goals. In fact, it was the folk school s work with striking miners in Wilder, Tennessee, and bugwood cutters in Summerfield, Tennessee, that seem to have provided Horton and Highlander staff with more successful programs upon which to build. Insofar as these extension programs allowed staff to work directly with the problems facing students, they also allowed staff to more fully develop the rhetorical dimensions of Highlander s educational philosophy. These later albeit modest successes at Wilder and Summerfield, which proved crucial to the development of the Highlander Idea, would increasingly inform the manner in which staff enacted the school s pedagogical principles.
It was through these programs that Highlander staff also recognized and developed the rhetorical dimensions of the Highlander Idea. While Highlander staff members understood themselves to be working in nonformal adult education, they also helped students in Highlander s programs cultivate the rhetorical strategies needed to achieve social change. In this regard, they helped students develop citizenship practices in hopes of increasing their civic participation and fostering a democratic society. Within this model, social problems became what Shirley Wilson Logan has called sites of rhetorical education, places that provided the conditions and exigence for students to critically examine their experiences and further develop their own rhetorical capabilities (2008). This emphasis on crisis situations and students own experiences with those situations led staff member John Thompson to ground the Highlander Idea in the kairos of educational opportunity (1958, 1).
By emphasizing student experience as a resource for social change, Highlander staff further encouraged students to develop collective-action frames from their own understandings of the problems they faced. Students worked collectively to frame problems in terms of injustice and used this foundation as a means of developing rhetorical strategies aimed at challenging inequality and exploitation. Framing thus proved central to Highlander s model of rhetorical education; the development of local frames proved foundational to further rhetorical action, and the alignment of local frames with Highlander s pedagogical commitments allowed the school to direct its educational energies toward democratic social change.
The Highlander Idea as Kairic Pedagogy
In a prospectus for an ultimately unfinished study of Highlander s programs, one-time Highlander staff member John B. Thompson sought to define the school s theory of education for democratic citizenship (1958, 1). Describing Highlander as a center to help southern people find the solutions to their most urgent problems, Thompson notes that Highlander s pedagogical principles may be relevant to the task of education for citizenship in other parts of the country and of the world (1, 3). Thompson s study was aimed to provide not only a history of Highlander s programs, but also those general principles and conclusions that guided the school over the course of its first twenty-five years.
In describing Highlander s programs, Thompson provides the one instance where a rhetorical concept- kairos -has been used explicitly to help define Highlander s pedagogical methods. After describing Highlander s pedagogical theory as one that sought to move from Education and Society to Education in Society, Thompson notes the importance of the place and the time (1). Within the Highlander Idea, the social crisis or frustration serves as the kairos of educational opportunity (1). While Thompson most likely encountered kairos as a theological concept at Union Theological Seminary, his use of the term is consistent with contemporary discussions that emphasize kairos as a concept both of opportunity and the critical time (White 1987, 13).
Eric Charles White offers perhaps the most detailed definition of kairos, which he identifies as a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved (13). Carolyn Miller further suggests that this passing instant presents the rhetor with a challenge: namely, to invent, within a set of unfolding and unprecedented circumstances, an action (rhetorical or otherwise) that will be understood as uniquely meaningful within those circumstances (2002, xiii). For Thompson, this passing moment was to be found in social crises-those events that lay bare structures of inequality and exploitation. By asking students to reflect upon the impact of these crises on their own lives, Highlander staff hoped to promote education to help citizens to exercise to the fullest the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy (1958, 1).
For Thompson, Highlander s programs were built around four discrete elements: needs, crises in the social order, the growing edge of people and institutions, and pilot projects to explore methods and means (1). These elements combined to form what Thompson calls purposive education-a method that sought to find the purpose for learning (and therefore the foundation for lifelong learning) within those social problems we face on an everyday basis. It is within this context that moments of social crisis provide the opportune place and time for the development of meaningful educational programs. We might therefore see Highlander s pedagogical philosophy as an attempt to invent an educational program capable of responding to (and ultimately transforming) the exploitation and poverty that attended southern industrialization. We might also understand this program in terms of Highlander s emphasis on student experience, collective action, and democratic deliberation. These foundations allowed Highlander to articulate its programs to progressive political groups across the South, and to thereby develop a kairic pedagogy capable of supporting efforts at democratic social change. But just as significantly, we see in this invocation of kairos the importance of framing practices within the Highlander Idea.
Even in its earliest articulations, the Highlander Idea represented an attempt to link nonformal adult education and democratic social change. * Horton s conception of democracy entailed two basic premises: first, following Jane Addams, Horton understood democracy as a commitment to collective, deliberative decision-making; second, and more immediately, Horton understood democracy to be a principled opposition to economic exploitation and discriminatory social practices. Highlander s programs were therefore designed to help the disadvantaged of all races to help themselves to challenge the status quo in the name of democracy and brotherhood (Horton 2003, 4). Nonetheless, Horton recognized that change in the social structure to divert more social productivity to those who have the least can only come about as a result of changes in the political and economic institutions of this country (8). Education, then, represented only a first step; the Highlander Idea was oriented toward social education to be followed immediately by action.
As Thompson notes, Horton s approach to rhetorical education was primarily grounded in a theory of crisis education. Drawing on his experience with sociologist Robert Park, Horton came to understand moments of social crisis as educational opportunities. Describing the school s early programs, Horton notes that when people are highly motivated to learn because of problems confronting them everyday, a great deal of education can take place fast (2003, 8). The amelioration of social problems provided Highlander s students with both a reason to learn and a telos or purpose toward which to direct their educational experiences. Crisis education, then, allowed Highlander staff to see people as they see themselves and to help generate within them the desires to and determination to improve their conditions (10). Furthermore, this theory of crisis education identified social problems as sites of rhetorical education (Logan 2008, 3). Social problems provided Highlander s students with both the motivation to learn and a purpose toward which to direct that learning; they also demanded that students develop and deploy a range of rhetorical strategies for achieving social change.
Just as important as Highlander s commitment to crisis education-to the kairos of educational opportunity -was the school s commitment to solving those problems immanently, primarily by drawing directly upon students experiences. Horton thus saw Highlander not as a traditional school, but rather as educational in the traditional meaning of the word educate, which is to draw out instead of pour in (2003, 34). In a 1983 discussion of Highlander s influences, Horton describes the school s approach to experiential learning: The Highlander process of learning from analyzing experience is in itself a form of self- and peer education. It affirms our faith in working people s capacity to become their own experts and take control of their lives. We not only provide practice in analyzing experiences, but give students a glimpse of a more humane society and urge them to push back the boundaries that inhibit them (2003, 27).
Highlander staff dedicated themselves to discovering within students experiences the available strategies for achieving meaningful social change. For Horton, this was at the heart of what he described as a percolator theory of education, one in which knowledge boils up from student experience rather than being provided in packaged form by educators (Eby 1953). In this way, Highlander staff encouraged people to recognize their own potential as agents of social change and pushed them to discover within their own experience the available means for addressing and alleviating exploitation and inequality: as students came to see themselves as political agents, they also learned to act as rhetorical agents. In so far as Highlander has been able to listen to the people instead of imposing our preconceptions, Horton concludes, we have been able to stimulate democratic initiatives. (2003, 10)
The rhetorical dimensions of the Highlander Idea might be best understood as framing processes, or as communicative processes devoted to turning student experience into rhetorical structures capable of provoking and supporting democratic social action. As described by Erving Goffman, frames represent schemata of interpretation, or ways of organizing and responding to experience (1986, 21). Frames thus allow individuals to articulate and align a vast array of events and experiences so that they hang together in a relatively unified and meaningful fashion (Snow and Benford 1992, 137-38). But just as significantly, frames enable or disable certain forms of rhetorical action, suggesting those paths that are more or less appropriate to a particular set of circumstances (Burke 1966). Understood as a set of framing processes, the Highlander Idea was not only a theory of identifying opportunities and resources for social change, but also an agency for recognizing and developing appropriate strategies for democratic social action.
In order to promote this kairic model of education, Myles Horton placed a heavy emphasis on collective learning. Students were thus encouraged to share their experiences with one another, and to analyze them collectively as a means of discovering possible avenues for political action. This approach helped students to recognize those problems they had in common, and to sit down and learn from one another (Horton 2003, 13). This not only fosters what Horton calls a yeasty self-multiplying process ; it also allows students to engage directly in collective deliberative decision-making (27). Within this context, students participate in an actual democratic experience-a ripe experience where people are free to talk and make decisions, where there is no discrimination, and where their experience is valued (49). For Horton, this is not simply education, but rather direct practice in collective action: If students have been convinced of the necessity of collective action, gained self respect and respect for their peers, they will have a message that they can use and will want to spread.
Within this process, Highlander staff acted more as facilitators than as teachers. This does not, however, mean that they remained neutral in their opinions or actions. Rather, if the educator hopes to foster a democratic learning environment, she or he is faced with a host of pressing tasks and must define from the multiplicity of problems those which have the greatest need for immediate action; he must evaluate many proposed solutions and decide whether this program or that project can be adapted to fit his needs and whether it can be transferred from one place to another or from one country to another (Horton 2003, 219). The educational assistance provided by Highlander staff thus involved actively structuring the learning environment in such a way as to promote democratic deliberation and collective action (10). Where necessary, staff would also provide their opinions, but principally as fellow workshop participants rather than as experts.
This recourse to collective action proved to be the foundation of Highlander s framing practices. By having students share both the social problems they faced and the resources they might use to address those problems, Highlander staff encouraged them to develop collective-action frames that could support further rhetorical action. Insofar as they emphasized the collective exploration of social problems and the development of rhetorical strategies for solving them, Highlander workshops became rich sites of rhetorical education. Workshops thus focused not on learning in a formal sense, but rather on inventing strategies for achieving democratic political goals. Students were encouraged to frame their own experiences kairically, as moments for the examination and development of rhetorical action. Social crises thus stopped being insurmountable structures of exploitation and poverty and were instead framed as rhetorical situations that demanded sustained collective rhetorical action. Within this theory, the kairos of educational opportunity indicates both the ways in which education was articulated to social change, and the ways in which student experience became the basis for that social change.
It is possible, then, to see the Highlander Idea as an antecedent for the critical pedagogy of Paulo Freire, and more specifically his problem-solving model for education (Freire 1970). Much as the Highlander Idea placed student experience at the foundation for the school s educational programs, Freire s problem-solving model sought to make those problems students themselves faced the basis for a politically engaged, dialogic pedagogy. From the outset, Highlander staff also encouraged students to collectively examine and recast the problems they faced. But the school s longstanding commitment to student experience notwithstanding, the Highlander Idea certainly did not develop overnight-or as smoothly as we might assume when reading Horton and Thompson. In fact, it might be more accurate to suggest that the Highlander Idea-and the kairic understanding of education that it championed-developed as much from limited successes of the school s early programs as it did from the theoretical and philosophical commitments of its founders.
Winter 1932: Early Residential Education
Upon returning to the South, Horton had set about finding potential teachers and coworkers for the school. In the summer of 1932, Horton befriended Georgia poet and activist Don West, whose similar plans to open a school for the Appalachian poor made him an ideal co-founder for the Southern Mountains School. It was West (or possibly his wife) who also suggested changing the school s name to the Highlander Folk School, in keeping with the then-popular term for the Appalachian people. * At the suggestion of Abram Nightingale, Horton also enlisted the help of community educator and former college president Lillian Johnson. After hearing West and Horton describe their plans for Highlander, Johnson agreed to give them a house in Monteagle, Tennessee, as a location for their school. Upon taking over the property later that year, Horton and West set about developing an educational program to serve the needs of the Appalachian poor.

The Highlander Folk School s main building. WHi-52777, Wisconsin Historical Society.
Horton s time in Denmark had convinced him of the value of residential education, and the need for adult students to live and learn together. The opportunities afforded by a controlled residential environment allowed Highlander staff to provide not only a physical arrangement and setting, but a clear and simple purpose as well (A. Horton 1966b, 245). Horton argued that residential adult education appears to be especially appropriate for dealing with human relations problems (244). Residential schools provide students not only with a relaxed setting where learning takes place by means of a variety of educational experiences but also a place where they can be together outside discussion, lecture and study periods (244). Highlander s pedagogy would thus concern itself with the cooperative rather than competitive use of learning, and with general above personal improvement and advancement (Cobb 1961, 278). In this way, the school itself could function as the kind of community that staff members were trying to build elsewhere, with democratic living and decision-making permeating all areas of the curriculum.
Horton initially decided upon a five-month residential session as the central feature of Highlander s programs. These sessions would allow students to learn in an environment removed from the socioeconomic problems they hoped to address. Students would also learn to live cooperatively by participating in the day-to-day work associated with the running of the school. Meanwhile, classes would provide students both with a space to share and explore their experience and with the resources they needed to transform and improve the social conditions that surrounded them. Horton hoped that the combination of a cooperative work environment and collaborative workshop sessions would provide students with direct experience in democratic living.
Understood as a framing process, Highlander s residential education programs were intended to encourage students to frame their problems in terms of injustice, and to develop collective-action frames directly out of the group workshop experience. Horton suggests that the best way to introduce students to democratic decision-making was to immerse them in it as a collective educational experience. Group decision-making-with its emphasis on valuing other students experiences, developing solutions from these experiences, and considering the impact of these solutions on others-would thus form the basis for developing frames centered on specific social problems. The group environment of the residential workshop thus provided a unique means of fostering collective-action frames directly from collective action itself.
Residential sessions at Highlander were deliberately kept small, as the folk school s teachers were well aware of the financial and educational limitations of the institution. In a 1949 article for the New World Commentator , Myles Horton acknowledges that Highlander s impact on the South was strategic, but necessarily small in scale: It was early obvious that such a school, surviving on the voluntary contributions of those who learned of the experiment, could not hope to do a job of mass education of rank and file citizens. And because it was clear that mass education was infeasible, Highlander people sought to enlarge its potency and effect by training leaders. From this comes part of John Dewey s analysis. The idea of training leaders, of training men and women to go home and train their fellow workers and neighbors in the precepts and practices of living democracy hit hard at the heart of Southern feudalism (1949, 12). In order to focus on leadership training, Highlander s residential sessions were limited to individuals aged eighteen to thirty-five who also had union or community-organization endorsement. Sessions were initially planned at five months, but eventually ran for ten weeks. Costs to the students were modest, as Highlander was also a working farm, and payments could be made in comparable goods as well as cash. Scholarships were made available to those students who were experiencing extreme financial hardships.
The first residential session opened on November 1, 1932, with one out-of-state student in attendance. Myles Horton offers a positive assessment of these early residential classes in an article for The Social Frontier in 1936: There was no curriculum. One evening while visiting a neighbor, we started to discuss psychology. The farmer, his wife, and the resident student wanted to continue the discussion so we met at the school the following evening and held our first class. Soon we had a class of twenty-five, including farmers, miners, unemployed, college graduates, and one minister. Their ages ranged from 18 to 80. No classes were started that were not asked for or that did not grow out of some life situation (1936, 117).
Horton continues in his article to describe the various classes and the manner in which they arose: a cultural geography class grew out of interests in photos taken by Horton in Europe; reports on the Wilder miners strike encouraged a discussion of economics; the recent presidential campaign also provided material for classes. By allowing courses to grow in response to student experiences and interests, Horton and other staff members hoped to emphasize students experiences and needs as the foundation for Highlander s programs. This would allow students to leverage educational experience as a means of transforming life experience; this education for life was the driving force behind the Highlander Idea. But just as significantly, these attempts to structure classes around student needs demonstrates an awareness on the part of Highlander staff of the need to align their pedagogical goals with those experiences students brought with them.
Historian John Glen has commented that, despite the lofty ideals to which Horton aspired, this first session was a loosely organized curriculum of relatively traditional courses for a painfully small number of students (1996, 28). This assessment is borne out by materials from early workshop classes, which often emphasize traditional educational models; the psychology class described by Horton above, for example, was based on reading texts like John Dewey s How We Think . Glen s appraisal would seem to suggest that Highlander s early residential classes were often less than successful in implementing Horton s educational theories. Aimee Horton notes that all classes but one-John Thompson s class on Religion and Social Change -were cancelled well before the end of the session (29). Some of the failure of these courses, however, lay in circumstances beyond the school s control. Work opportunities had prevented many of those initially signed up from attending, and late-harvest work left local residents too tired to participate regularly in evening classes. Bad weather conditions and an influenza epidemic only made matters worse.
The account of Highlander s first classes offered by Walker Martin, the one out-of-state student to attend for the entirety of the 1932 winter session, indicates that other problems with the classes resulted from the attitudes and practices of staff. Martin notes that an intensive program of clubs and classes were decided upon in the outlying communities (1933a, 1). This program, however, did not meet the needs of the community, whose ideas were turned over as if by a storm. Martin further comments that very little of this work was participated in directly by Myles (1). Similar problems emerged in the classes held at Highlander. Further misunderstandings and dissension occurred when classes became personal discussions and the wide range covered by most of the classes was narrowed down to fit the individual cases (2).
In private notes on the first residential session, Myles Horton offered a similar assessment. Despite the efforts of staff to keep the discussions from becoming artificial by taking the experience for the group as a starting point, classes failed to inspire the response that staff were looking for (1933a, 2). Reflecting on the classes, Horton commented that there was a gap between our classes and the natural learning process that is life itself (2). He further notes that staff had no lack of theoretical knowledge, and certainly provoked students to think, but ultimately concludes that this was not enough: Thinking is only part of the educational process and must lead to action (2).
Horton offers a more detailed reflection on the failure of the first residential session in The Long Haul: Although we accomplished some things by the end of that first year, we knew we really weren t reaching people the way we wanted to. The biggest stumbling block was that all of us at Highlander had academic backgrounds. . . . We still thought our job was to give students information about what we thought would be good for them (1990, 68). As a result, Highlander staff ended up doing what most people do when they come to a place like Appalachia. In identifying what they believed to be problems, and offering the solutions that they believed most appropriate, Horton and other staff members failed to engage the problems and the answers that the people had themselves. The educational methods thus worked against the aims of the school, reestablishing a drip model of instruction.
The academic background of the staff further affected their communication with students. Aimee Horton notes that the youthful teachers often moved considerably beyond the perceived problems and interests of their mountain neighbors, and discussions were too abstract to be meaningful to . . . unsophisticated adult students (1989, 41). Myles Horton himself noted the communicative difficulties faced by staff: We d joke about the fact that between us we had several foreign languages: I knew Danish, somebody else knew French and we had somebody who happened to know Greek, but the one language we lacked was a nonverbal one the people spoke. Since we didn t have the right language, we had to learn to observe people: to watch the way they related to each other, how they took care of their kids, and to be sensitive to their reactions to their experience (1990, 69). In short, the staff needed to reconstruct their own educational methods in the face of the experiences students brought to the school.

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