chapter  1
16 Pages

A Personal Journey Into Participatory Education

WithVirginia L. Sauvé

I think I know when I began to consciously name an approach to education for which I had long intuited the need, namely, participatory education. It would have been in 1986 when I was invited to do some minor editorial work for the local community college. They had been gathering information and resources for low-income women around budgeting and consumerism and were looking for someone to rewrite their materials at a Grade 3/4 level. Someone had given them my name; would I do it? As I asked the caller who the intended audience was, my heart weakened. (I need to interject for a moment to explain that I had just finished a year of graduate studies with a teaching assistantship and scholarship. With four children and a mortgage, I was desperate for some spring session employment.) I knew from the caller’s description that the intended audience for the materials-women living in lowincome housing, many of whom had never completed junior high-would not read the materials regardless of what level they were written at. The majority of such women did not respond to print; it went from the mailbox directly into the waste basket unless it looked like a check or a coupon. I told the person from the college as much, with visions of winged dollar bills gliding by, grinning wickedly at me.