Public Education | Participatory Democracy: After Neoliberalism

Filmmaker & Author

Fran Huckaby is a teacher, scholar and filmmaker. Her current research, Public Education: Participatory Democracy explores the struggle for public education through filmmaking. She developed an interest in community struggle for education as a Peace Corps volunteer in Papua New Guinea, where she and her spouse assisted 6 South Foré villages in establishing schools for their children. 

Fran's scholarly work primarily concerns creating openings and spaces for anti-oppressive discourses and practices. She studies experiences and pedagogical sites where divergent worldviews coexist often in tension and struggles. These sites of power relations, she argues, are educational and political. She makes use of theory and film to understand and amplify the material conditions and struggles of peoples' daily lives. 

As an educator, Fran wants to understand and share what she learns. She works to create experiences that engage students with the world and introduce them to the depth and breadth of pedagogy. In her classes, she invites students to explore established formal knowledge, as well as tacit ways of knowing informed by experiences--varied, multiple, and divergent experiences. When studied together, these forms of knowledge complicate each other. 

This is difficult, often uncomfortable; beautiful, often invigorating work.
She facilitate student understanding by encouraging critical analysis entwined with generosity and sensitivities to the histories and constraints of people’s circumstances. Curriculum Studies critically explores education, within and outside school settings, with an ethic that honors diversity, respects all people(s), and encourages democratic community building and engagement.

The work of the teacher-scholar is not nuetral, apolitical work for Fran or other teachers and scholars. Knowledge and exploration is always already political for the study of any area draws attention to that area and away from other sites of understanding. Additionally, the ideas produced and shared frame specific and particular ways of knowing that can be beneficial or detrimental. All scholarship/knowledge is political in that it fuels some actions, but not others. Actions viewed as apolitical are in reality covertly political. For example, few people question the political nature of medical research to cure disease. After all, who would not want a cure for something like cancer. But to study one form of cancer and not another, to divert funds to cure cancer, but not other diseases creates the potential for prolonged life for some, but not for others. As human beings, existing in worlds we co-create, avoiding the political is practically impossible. 

Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ~ Paulo Freire

This work on public education is not apolitical. Attending to and amplifying the experiences of students, educators, and communities displaced due to the corporatization of education and policy is a choice that Fran made to offer counternarratives to mainstream stories that laud school choice, competition, and oppressive evaluation and testing practices; to show what happens to people in the wake of such policies and how they struggle for better futures.  

For this project, Fran embodied the extremes of the urban reporter and ethnographer. As an urban reporter, she hopped from event to event and between cities much like a reporter following a story since 2012; at times finding ways to collect data in quick efficient ways because the moments were fleeting. But this interactive web-documentary is not a news report. Fran also worked as an ethnographer situating herself within communities and organizations that do the work of protecting endangered public schools. While this project is not a traditional ethnography, it draws heavily upon ethnography and ethnographic filmmaking to explore an international phenomena in by focusing on the struggle in key locations. 

Her work appears in the International Review of Qualitative Research, Qualitative Inquiry, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Educational Philosophy and Theory, The Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, Handbook of Public Pedagogy, Women and Pedagogy: Education through Autobiographical Narrative, and Duoethnography: Dialogic Methods for Social, Health, and Educational ResearchShe received the Outstanding Dissertation of the Year (AERA, Qualitative Research SIG) for Challenging the Hegemony in Education: Specific Parrhesiastic Scholars, Care of the Self, and Relations of Power. Additional awards include TCU Deans’ Teaching Award, TCU Mortar Board Preferred Professor, Straight for Equality from PFLAG.

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