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What is the Rouge Forum?

By Deborah Walker
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Rouge Forum was formally organized in 1998 at Wayne State University in Michigan. According to the Rouge Forum's website, the forum is an activist group made up of "educators students, and parents seeking a democratic society," through non-oppressive schools that it claims foster critical thinking and with the freedom to question authority and the status quo. Members of the forum believe that class-based and capitalist societies, where there are few wealthy and many poor, are kept afloat by the way the government regulates schools, and subtly trains children to accept what it calls a classist, imperialist, war-driven society. The Rouge Forum advocates for grassroots activism and democratic, inclusive schools, against what it calls "high-stakes" testing in schools, opposes the No Child Left Behind Act, and against wars, racism, sexism, authoritarian societies, and other similar issues. The forum produces a twice-yearly digital newsletter and holds an annual conference.

Members of the Rouge Forum come from all educational levels and backgrounds. They believe that as the farm was the focus of society in the past, schools should serve that same role now. Teachers and schools have a responsibility to educate children in a way that fosters a more equal, open, and democratic society in their view. In the Forum's opinion, teaching and learning in a democratic, inclusive, community-based school, where everyone is welcomed and valued, is to be the mirror and pivot-point for overall social change and justice. The social changes include building a community that is inclusive, where people have equal rights, and an understanding that "an injury to one is an injury to all."

The society that the Forum envisions is open to questioning without fear of reprisal. They look to uniting people across all socially-constructed boundaries, including the boundaries of race, gender, communities, unions, and religions. The Rouge Forum encourages grassroots activism among its members to bring about this change.

The Rouge Forum in particular speaks out against standardized testing mandated in the public schools. Members contend that such testing does not measure real learning; instead, it reinforces the status quo and societal divisions. The Forum argues that the results of the tests indicate this in that most of the schools labeled as failing tend to be in districts with fewer resources, the rural areas and inner cities, and where most teachers would rather not teach. According to the Rouge Forum, schools that do well on high-stakes tests tend to be in areas that are predominantly white and upper class, with plenty of resources, and that attract the best teachers. Members of the Rouge Forum stay in contact with one another to discuss ways to promote their agenda through the twice-a-year newsletter, the Rouge Forum website, and an annual conference.

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