Richard Kahn is an anarchist educator whose primary interests are in researching the history of social movements as pedagogically generative forces in society, and in critically challenging the role dominant institutions play in blocking the realization of greater planetary freedom, peace, and happiness. In 2007, he graduated with a PhD from UCLA with a specialization in the philosophy and history of education. While a student there, he published widely with his mentor, the renowned critical theorist Douglas Kellner. Together, they have authored oft-cited and collected pieces on the radically democratic potentials of educational new media like blogs, wikis, and the social networks, as well as of the importance of online subcultures such as hacktivism. In 2002, Kahn himself began an early weblog, Vegan Blog: The (Eco)Logical Weblog, that went on to receive press attention from places such as CBS Marketwatch, MSNBC, and CSPAN.
An alter-globalization activist, Kahn has been at the forefront of championing and organizing what he terms, “total liberation politics,” that seek to advocate for nonhuman animals, the biosphere as a sacred entity, and social justice through systemic transformation. Such politics, he argues, constitute an ecopedagogy movement that opposes the globalization of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, speciesism, other aligned hegemonic ideologies, and the further worldwide development of the military-industrial complex generally. Kahn’s writing and teaching to date have thus sought to synthesize the field of critical pedagogy with types of ecological and vegan education in order to arrive at a radical education for sustainability that seeks both individual and collective emancipation.
Whereas much teaching posits that it is preparatory activity on behalf of a future life, Kahn envisions his teaching as an attempt to make history live concretely in the present. Such work requires ongoing struggle against those aspects of society that prevent the more full realization of human feelings, ideas, conscious sensibilities, and practices. Thus, he offers a problem posing pedagogy – one that poses problems for the powers that be – and not necessarily a problem-solving form.
Music and the arts have played a crucial part in sustaining this mode of education, and consequently Kahn (a singer-songwriter of 17 years) has moved increasingly to take up teaching of the tradition of protest song both inside and outside his classes. This preservation of the past is thus pedagogically aligned with the creative expression of novelty in his philosophy of education. In this way, Kahn thus seeks to ask students to ponder questions such as: Can we open and evolve our pedagogical imagination into spheres that extend beyond the alternating tragic and epic modes of status-quo modernity? How can our labor as educators produce elegies for the dead and broadside ballads that effectively intervene into issues of community? What does it mean to seriously desire a sustainable world as a member of a planet undergoing unprecedented crises of mass extinction, war, hunger, poverty, and moral decay? How does this affect our identities as teachers-at-large?