Rouge Forum Education For Action Detroit Conference Urges Organization
By Rich Gibson
The only schools-based group to connect imperialist wars, profiteering, and high-stakes standardized tests, ended its tenth “almost annual,” conference on Sunday, March 4, 2007. The Rouge Forum “Their Wars Left Behind: Education for Activism,” Detroit conference involved more than 70 activists from around the US, Canada, and the U.K. and concluded with an organizing-action session.
The conference, described by Rouge co-founder Wayne Ross (University of British Columbia) as, “one of our best yet, combining education activists with cultural workers like Ed Sanders and M.L. Liebler, bringing together k-12 school workers who have led the resistance like Elizabeth Jaeger, George Schmidt, and Susan Harmon with researchers like Steve Strauss, Patrick Shannon, Susan Ohanian, and Dave Hill and high-school students, parents, social workers, community people, in purposeful discussions and presentations.”
Conference participants overcame not only the fear that pervades education work in the US today, but a white-out blizzard in Detroit, scene of social wreckage comparable to Katrina, a disaster that connected racism to an act of nature, where only racism and capital demolished Detroit. Lovely old Tiger Stadium is abandoned today, for example, used only for sniper training for police SWAT teams, while Comerica Park (the new baseball facility that is more amusement park than ballpark) is somewhat sullied in that its namesake, Comerica Bank, announced it would leave Detroit on the day following the close of the Rouge Forum conference. In a keynote speech, Ohanian recognized the demolition of Detroit, and its necessary impact on the schools.
Conference organizer Greg Queen, a high school teacher, described thee key things that he saw coming from the Detroit gathering:
“1. People made lasting friendships, built close personal ties within a community that demonstrated its solidarity in unusual conference fashion---nearly everyone ate together, enjoyed some great films, like “Sir No Sir!,” and made it beyond a Detroit blizzard. We had fun in the course of doing serious work. Real friendship is radical activity in the USA today and a cornerstone of what the Rouge Forum has achieved–it makes it possible for us to do real self-criticism and correct when we see we are not on course.
2. The presentation and keynoters like Patrick Shannon and Susan Ohanian were outstanding, offering new ways to understand and transform the world in schools and out, as you can see from the videos and papers now online. The presentations demonstrated that people of truly divergent views can offer honest examinations of our current social or educational conditions and join together to make real plans for action ranging from test boycotts to driving military recruiters off campus to freedom schooling. .
3. We recognized that our goal of a mass base of class conscious people educating for equality and justice has to be matched with organization. Without organization; nothing. We decided to focus our online work with the Rougeforum.com, and to try to double the subscriptions to Substance New’s hard-copy editions.
We initiated a transformation of our organization so that new people will be able to come into the Rouge Forum, quickly see where they might best exhibit their talents, and help press forward the project toward equality, democracy, and justice. The minutes from the Sunday organizational meeting will be up and available for comment on the Rouge Forum discussion list linked at Rougeform.org.
In brief, we underlined that justice does indeed demand organization. No other education based group in the US has done what the Rouge Forum has done, or could do by broadening our base.”