Myles Horton's Autobiography the Long Haul Is Capstone Project

Excerpt from Capstone Project :

Myles Horton's autobiography The Long Haul is a source of inspiration for teachers and students alike as it provides a thought provoking perspective on the role of education as one where individual minds are molded into working towards social change. Horton's passionate belief in such a philosophy of education led him to establish the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee's Grundy County in 1932 with the aim of helping the rural and industrial adult community achieve social and economic justice. The strength of conviction, which Horton had in his philosophy of education, is evidenced by the fact that the Highlander school went on to play an important role in facilitating the labor rights movement and the civil rights movement, which took place around the mid-twentieth century. However, Horton's autobiography is of interest from more than just the historical relevance perspective as its real value lies in understanding Horton's sociocultural approach to learning and teaching.

In fact, Horton's overarching philosophy of education can itself be traced to his own sociocultural background. Born to parents, who placed a high value on education and encouraged their children to read, Horton places the credit for his beliefs with his parents: "From my mother and father I learned the idea of service and the value of're supposed to do something worthwhile with your life, and education is meant to help you do something for others." (Horton, 2) Sociocultural theorists in educational psychology have long established the importance of the role played by culture and family in the development of individual mental and cognitive processes and it is interesting to note this marked influence in Horton's own development, reflected in his later use of a sociocultural approach to teaching and learning.

Horton's belief in taking into consideration sociocultural factors into educational practices was also formed via his experiences when directing a Presbyterian vacation Bible school program, which he found was not meeting the needs of the country people in Ozone. While the program focused on memory verses and Bible stories, the people of Ozone really needed to understand and know more about economic development and health care practices. It was here that Horton experienced firsthand the value of socially relevant and interactive education through organizing community meetings where members were encouraged to voice their issues and offer solutions. More important, it was here that Horton learned to teach by listening and that knowledge could be coconstructed through joint collaboration in relevant activity settings: "the best teachers of poor and working people are the people themselves. They are the experts on their own experiences and problems." (Horton, 152)

Horton's autobiography also reveals other dimensions of his teaching and learning practices. For example, he seems to have used constructs of motivation situated both in larger social contexts as well as within the individual unit. This is particularly evident in his successfully turning around South Carolina's adult literacy programs for its African-American community by grounding the motivation to achieve literacy and put education to good use in the larger social context of the civil rights movement, with voter registration as the first proximal goal. As Horton himself observes, they "learned that you couldn't read and write yourself into freedom. You had to fight for that and you had to do it as part of a group...." (Horton, 104)

Key to understanding Horton's philosophy and methods is the fact that he viewed the role of education as facilitating transformation and not as a direct instrument of change. Using what he termed as the 'method of natural…

Sources Used in Document:


Berlak, H. (2001). Race and the Achievement Gap. Rethinking Schools Online. Vol. 15, No.

4. Retrieved Jan 27, 2004:

Horton, M. (1990). The Long Haul: An Autobiography. Kohl, J. & Kohl, H. (Contributors).

New York: Doubleday.

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