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UBC Theses and Dissertations

ESL for political action : a critical evaluation of the farmworkers ESL crusade and its Freire-inspired philosophy Jackson, David Lee


This thesis evaluates the first three years of the Canadian Farmworkers Union ESL Crusade and the Freire-based philosophy which inspired it. Based on the author's three years of participant-observation, it pursues the following question: In the context of the union, is it possible to operate an ESL program which will both teach basic ESL and further the union's goal of organizing Punjabi farmworkers? The thesis begins by summarizing Freire's educational/ political philosophy, and continues by examining the program's context: conditions of farmwork in British Columbia, the role of CFU in improving them, and the dynamics of the Punjabi community which affect this process. This is followed by a detailed description and evaluation of the Crusade: its objectives, recruiting and training of volunteer tutors, teaching methods and materials, curriculum topics, organizing strategies, results in terms of both teaching ESL and organizing, and finally analysis of the program's limitations. The following section re-evaluates Freire's philosophy in view of three years experience in a North American setting. Key issues include the relationship between students' concerns and the union's agenda, dialogue versus banking, the complex nature of oppression for North American immigrants, the distinction between a realistic and idealistic frame of reference in operating and evaluating a program, and the importance of organizers reflecting on their own vested interests. All these issues proved salient to the daily operation of the program and have ramifications for other programs. In the course of three years, the Crusade was able to develop methods and materials which had good potential both for ESL instruction and organizing, and which approached the Freirian ideal. However, a number of limitations prevented the program from fulfilling this potential. Some of these could be overcome with changes in the Crusade's format, such as using full-time Punjabi tutors rather than Anglo volunteers. The study concludes by outlining these changes plus directions for further research.

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