Peter Maurin—Pedagogy from the Margins

Peter Maurin, a French, itinerant immigrant, known, if at all, as co-founder with Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement plies his pedagogy from the margins of society, identifying with the poor of the Depression. He believes his vocation is to awaken the poor and professionals alike to reconstruct a personalist democracy and restore its spiritual foundation, Remarkably resonate with John Dewey’s experiential learning, Jane Addams’ Hull House initiative, and the Brazilian educator and theologian Paulo Freire’s theory of humankind’s vocation to humanize the world, Maurin critiques education as “knowing more and more about less and less” and not relating knowledge to the real world. Today Dewey and Freire influence progressive experiential pedagogy, but most progressive educators are unacquainted with Maurin’s radical vision. Yet, Maurin speaks as trenchantly to our own time of socio-economic, ideological, and moral crisis as he did to the crises of the 1930s. This paper seeks to recover Maurin’s pedagogy for critical theory’s work of educating today’s students—and the world, in general—to a deep consciousness of the workings of society, for restructuring the social order, and for solidarity with those who suffer from structural injustice. For Maurin, solidarity with the impoverished and marginalized is the site of both deep knowing and transformative power. This solidarity is the bedrock of Maurin’s teaching—propagated among the cast-offs at Columbus Circle to academics on Boston Commons, to the storefront and tenement schools he established, to his outdoor university, to forums, symposia, and nightly round-table discussions. With poetic phrasing, he casts his thought as “points” in what becomes known as “easy essays.” While those from the academic mainstream publish in respected journals, Maurin, from the margins, tacks up his essays in public places and even mails them to reluctant listeners. Working out the practical implications of his vision, he offers a particular angle on the world, and a prophetic pedagogy for the gravitas of our time
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Catholic Tradition  Social and Political Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 1093-6831  
DOI 10.5840/peacejustice20122216
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