People, Policy, and Praxis


adult education
high school equivalency
program design
policy implementation


Freirean pedagogy in adult education programs that embrace an open dialectic can be responsive to situations where ambiguity in policy implementation results in discrimination and disenfranchisement. The case presented below comes from my experiences as an educator in a Freirean, Spanish-language, high school equivalency (HSE) program in New Jersey during significant national changes to HSE credentialing in 2014. It describes policy implementation in the local context within the relationships between governing institutions, service organizations, and the people policies are meant to govern. The case constructs a narrative for the relevant policy environments and actions at the time through the assemblage of primary sources, such as policy documents and internal organizational reports, as well as an analysis of 25 news reports and commentaries taken from 2013-2014. I argue that all policies, even those initiated at the national level, are ultimately enacted locally through the dialectic relationships between policy makers, administrators, program staff, and students at a variety of public and private organizations. I show how Freirean approaches to program design and operation respond to political, policy, and programmatic complexities to address discrimination and disenfranchisement. In conclusion, I discuss implications for educators seeking to adopt a Freirean framework into their own program design and implementation. These include the development of local praxis within an analysis of larger oppressive structures, thoughtful design and critical flexibility to work closely with students in program operation, and engagement in dialectic relationships with existing or potential collaborators.