I have been having an interesting time working through ideas inspired by Jacotot/Ranciere in a two-semester course at Meiji University that I call the "learning seminar."
Last semester, I placed a cardboard box on the table and gave students this instruction: "Please return the box and its contents next week." Beyond that I didn't give them any instructions. The box contained a geiger counter and some explanatory material from the Education Ministry. Students quickly got to work discussing the geiger counter (called Hakaru-kun or Measure-boy) and the next week came back with the box and a powerpoint presentation on their research, measuring radiation on the campus, near their homes, even in Osaka. The only weakness of their work was that they did not study the device carefully enough, so they misunderstood the timing counter, making their measurements less reliable.
This semester we have been working with the great cartoon by Miguel Marfan on the cover of Tecnicas Participativas Para la Educacion Popular. Over the course of four sessions, students have carefully observed the cartoon, noting the details and discussing its meaning(s). Last week I asked them to reproduce the cartoon from memory, drawing it with markers on big paper. Their drawings were similar to the original in many ways, but differed in two frames [more on that]. In any case, we went over those two frames today as well as the meaning of the whole cartoon. So, unlike with Hakaru-kun, they know the object very well.
And, like Hakaru-kun, I gave them a challenging assignment with little instruction. I asked them to take the cartoon and use it as a tool. I gave them two weeks to use the cartoon and then report back. How to use it, where to use it, what to use it for, I left up to them, as well as how to organize themselves and how to report back. The idea, from Jacotot, is to take this object they know well and relate something to it.
I hope they run with this. But that's not in my control. As Jacotot/Ranciere says, "whoever emancipates doesn't have to worry about what the emancipated person learns. He will learn what he wants. Nothing, maybe."
I can say, from this time working with Jacotot/Ranciere in mind, that there is something to this process of emancipation -- I can see it in all my courses, even where students are resolutely continuing in the "circle of powerlessness" and ignoring my invitations to step out. (Last night I urged them to "give up the funk"!)
Last note. Today, looking at the Alforja Cartoon, one student described the turning point in the cartoon as the frame where the people plan action. "The key," he said, "is not any technique, but the conversation. It's not like Jail Break, where it's all about the technique for escaping, it's about conversation and cooperation." And equality and more.... but what a great way to see the cartoon.