Interrogating the Other in Other Education


  • Rosetta Cohen Smith College
  • Helen E. Lees


Rosetta: This year, more than ever before, it’s been hard not to think deeply about that word “other” in the journal title. It’s been a year when other has taken on so many resonances, and when the lethal potential of being an other has become so visible to people around the world. The George Floyd murder underscored what happens when you build a society around the othering of Black people. And the immigration crisis at the U.S. border—like the refugee crisis in Europe and around the world—is fundamentally about the problem of “the other”—what we owe those whose “otherness” puts them in immediate peril. The principles that undergird Other Education have always been, obliquely, about these issues. As the journal has always demonstrated, traditional schooling too often normalizes our sense that certain people should be classified as other—those who learn differently, look differently, speak differently. And alternative education has often sought to redress that, by mobilizing different spaces, pedagogies, hierarchies. But as we think today about ways to address the marginalizing of others, I keep coming back to the value of public education; the principles—idealistic as they are—of bringing children together in one publicly funded system where they can experience—as Dewey would say—the broadest forms of association. So I am asking you, Helen: How can we reconcile other forms of education, celebrated in OE, with that larger and more urgent goal?

 Helen: Rosetta these questions and concerns about public versus private education are for me a dead end alley. Neither yet seem to me to work alone, although I find alternative education has better pedagogy for the democratic and inter-personal democracy and public education has better broad social democracy...