Emma's Summer Contemplations - August 4th

The topic of Crip Camp this time was popular education. That together, based on your own lived experiences, be able to educate as well as be educated. To, instead of attending lectures and seminars led by professors, be able to participate on equal grounds in study circles and study groups. It sounds ideal: education in its most equal form. At the same time, I feel a bit provoked…

I will forever be in favor of specific groups and peer support. I am convinced that shared experiences are something positive and should be acknowledged. To get help from people in a similar situation as yours is completely necessary, especially when it comes to the disability community where the surrounding professions often lack the lived experience and actual knowledge. But at the same time, popular education does not imply the same thing as education. Where popular education is based on community and shared experiences, and education on hierarchies and degrees. One thing does not necessarily take out the next, but I do believe it is dangerous to say that something is superior to the other, especially without acknowledging the differences. Popular education in the shape of specific forums and peer support is one thing, popular education in the shape of being expected to be a facilitator is something completely different.

Too often crips are expected to be facilitators, but not educators. We are allowed on panels at ABF [a Swedish popular education facilitator], but rarely as educators at the university. Why are we invited into some rooms, but not others? Due to power, of course. Power is also often connected to ideas of gratitude. We are expected to be grateful that we were invited to speak, not on our own terms, but based on the non-disabled pretense to describe issues and problems. But I am tired of gratitude. Gratitude does not pay the rent. Gratitude does not pay for dinner or toys for your cat either. We cannot only be facilitators, we have to be educators as well.

Of course, not all popular education is pro bono, but the fact is that as soon as we are having crip conversations there is often a lack of influence. The doctors took all of it, while the true experts are rolling around as patients or objects of inspiration. I want the crip conversations to truly get in there! Into the drawing rooms, up on the barricades, out in mainstream media. More specifically: I want crip conversations to stop being a niche for those who put their head to one side and say, "Oooh, how cute!". It is all about inclusion, about democracy, and equality. This is something the popular education seems to have understood, but not the education. We still end up on the side, in separate rooms. In “accessible” schools, in those other classes – and as a result, often lacking basic qualifications for higher studies. And then we may be offered a gig where we are asked to talk about our experiences. Maybe we are interviewed by some newspaper as that inspiring disabled person. That eye-opener that gives people food for thought, and maybe they feel slightly grateful. And the rent… well, since we, no matter our degree, do not get any jobs, I guess that is still yet one thing for the Swedish Social Insurance Agency to deal with.

Emma Åstrand

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