November 24, 2006


Caption: If El Cabrero could write like Agee, he'd even praise famous mushrooms.

Goat Rope hopes you enjoyed the Thanksgiving recipe edition. Please let El Cabrero know if you tried the recipe.

Meanwhile, today is the conclusion of a series of samples from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and photographer Walker Evans. If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the earlier entries (and be sure to save the possum recipe for next year).

It is interesting that a concern for the importance of education has been a major feature of the Appalachian tradition of working for social change going back to the work of the Highlander Center in the 1930s.

This call for education for liberation was also a feature of the methods of popular education as developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. For Freire, education was not neutral: it either served the purposes of domination or emancipation

This is also a key concern of Agee in this book. Here are some samples:

‘Education’ as it stands is tied in with every bondage I can conceive of, and is the chief cause of these bondages, including acceptance and respect, which are the worst bondages of all. ‘Education,’ if it is anything short of a crime, is a recognition of these bondages and a discovery of more and a deadly enemy of all of them; it is the whole realm of human consciousness, action, and possibility; it has above all to try to recognize and continuously to suspect and to extend its understanding of its own nature. It is all science and all conduct; it is also all religion.


…let what I have tried to suggest amount to this alone: that not only within present reach of human intelligence, but even within reach of mine as it stands today, it would be possible that young human beings should rise onto their feet a great deal less dreadfully crippled than they are, a great deal more nearly capable of living well, a great deal more nearly aware, each of them, of their own dignity in existence, a great deal better qualified, each within his limits, to live and to take part toward the creation of a world in which good living will be possible without guilt toward every neighbor: and that teaching at present, such as it is, is almost entirely either irrelevant to these possibilities or destructive of them, and is, indeed, all but entirely unsuccessful even within its own ‘scales’ of ‘value.’

Just think what he’d have to say about No Child Left Behind…

And finally, here's a rousing conclusion to this series:

I am not at all trying to lay out a thesis, far less to substantiate or to solve. I do not consider myself qualified. I know only that murder is being done, against nearly every individual in the planet, and that there are dimensions and correlations of cure which not only are not being used but appear to be scarcely considered or suspected. I know there is cure, even now available, in science and in the fear and joy of God.

At any rate, those are a few of the many nuggets in the vast resource and elegant pile that is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. If you have the time and are looking for a challenging book, you could do a lot worse.


1 comment:

mwildfire said...

First off, I did not serve possum for Thanksgiving--I just stuffed a butternut--but I did enjoy the recipe.
On all this education and Agee stuff, okay okay I'll read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men--but only if you complete the envisioning exercise.