Where Are We Going? Where Have We Been?

Cathy Davidson writes:

We are at a turning point, and leadership is required to prevent disaster. We need to take in what is happening and change course. It is not too late. University leaders across the nation need to step back, think about what is happening, and be on the side of justice and right and, in the end, on the side of education. That is what our students want, and we want that too.

From Mark Naison:

Teacher Activists must put forth a vision of Radical Democracy which envisions an education which empowers students as critical thinkers and agents of historical change, not just as obedient test takers and which envisions schools playing a central role in neighborhoods united and mobilized to get a fair share of the nation’s resources.

At the end of an article, “‘Objectivity’ As a Barrier to Education: Teaching Intellectual Responsibility and the Role of the Citizen,” that I just sent off to the journal that wants it, I write:

Whatever the method used, education will never regain its strength it we do not actively pursue the school’s participation within the culture as a tool for improvement—not just of individuals but of the society as a whole. We teachers need to be aggressive in our agendas, and those need to extend well beyond the classroom. [John] Dewey writes [in “My Pedagogic Creed”]:

“I believe it is the business of every one interested in education to insist upon the school as the primary and most effective instrument of social progress and reform in order that society may be awakened to realize what the school stands for, and aroused to the necessity of endowing the educator with sufficient equipment properly to perform his task.”

This is not objectivity—but it is education.

Yet what am I doing, but writing here?  Very little, so far.  I did go down to Occupy Wall Street and listened in on a discussion on education where, at least, I made a few contacts.  But that’s not much.

We’re in a weird situation right now, we left-overs from the 1960s.  This isn’t our movement to lead, but we can provide a great deal of experience and information.  We also know a great deal of what needs to be done–those of us in education, certainly–but we haven’t been doing it.  As a group, we’ve been doing nothing to improve things, and for decades.  We’ve let the bureaucrats of education set our agendas, tagging meekly along while winking to our “comrades.”

We have failed, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to offer to the people who are on the brink of seizing the agenda.

Right now, we older educators, we who have had unfilled visions of what education could be, need to recognize that we aren’t the leaders, aren’t even the ‘sages on the stages.’  At the same time, we must be more that ‘guides on the sides,’ for that is going to lead us into excuses for inaction.

Treading carefully and deliberately, we can contribute.  We must take care, at the same time, and hold back a bit, for this is not our movement, no matter how often we baby boomers have gone down to OWS or any other Occupy site.  Let the young lead, but provide the room and backing for their success.

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