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Accepted Paper:

Knowledge through farming, making, and singing: 100 years of the John C. Campbell Folk School  
Kelley Totten (Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will draw from contemporary ethnographic materials as well as archival materials to trace some of the patterns and currents that have shaped Campbell’s approaches to knowledge and pedagogy, as it intersects with and diverges from other enactments of the folk schools in North America.

Paper long abstract:

Published in 1925 in the first newsletter of the John C. Campbell Folk School, Olive Campbell wrote of the newly established school that it is an “experiment, which has, we believe, far more than local significance.” The early decades of the school sought to apply the philosophies of the Danish folkhøjskole to the rural “mountain problems” in the US. Located in Brasstown, North Carolina, it was to serve as a model, promoting new approaches to education that would bring practical, philosophical, and creative discussions to young adults. “The ultimate form which the [school] is to take must grow out of community need and the consciousness of that need. Such a growth will, of necessity, be slow, its direction uncharted and conceivably unexpected,” Campbell wrote. Her prescient words perhaps could not convey the various adaptations and uncertain directions the school and its communities have faced over the years, however it underscores the efficacy of the folk school model that relies on dynamic place-based and people-centered knowledge over prescribed curriculums and subjects.

This paper will reflect on Campbell’s continued pedagogical engagements that require immersive experiences and attention to learning beyond skills and facts. The school, emerging out of Covid and reckoning with the interrelated issues of racial, environmental, and economic disconnects in its history, is facing new challenges today as it re-engages with its mission and educational approaches to untangle uncertainties around community, social responsibility, and the extents to which creative living and learning can save the world (or their worlds).

Panel Hist05
Untangling the uncertainties of 'the living word': considering folk schools and informal education communities
  Session 1 Saturday 10 June, 2023, -