[A Process Post on ‘Our Role & Our Moment in Schools’]
In “Let Us Plant Dates,” an earlier process post on our role and our moment in schools, I speculated that we might look back on these years “as the era in education when everything was changing, and not the era in which it that change was fully defined or realized.” Reacting as much to personal and professional frustrations, as I may have been squinting towards a clear-eyed view of how to put my best foot forward, I ventured that “perhaps our ‘lot’ in life is not to see our clearest visions concretely realized, but to make that experience plausible for another generation of students, educators, and families that will follow us.” I cited the inspirational thoughts of Rubem Alves (sourced here and here) from which I had taken my cue:
This is not the moment of birth. It is not the moment of political confrontation. But if we are sowing something really new, it is inevitable that the community of faith and the existing order are on a collision course. . .
Let us plant dates, even though those who plant them will never eat them. . .
We must live by the love of what we will never see. This is the secret of discipline. It is a refusal to let the creative act be dissolved away in immediate sense experience, and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren.
I’ve spent the better part of the day researching, drafting, and getting lost in a longer essay inspired by extraordinary calls to action from Grant Lichtman and Peter Gow, in each case urging us to acknowledge the intersections of forward-looking thought about how to drive transformative learning in our schools, with the car keys put in our pockets more than a century ago by John Dewey. (Talk about ‘a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren.’)
In the process of dorking around on the googler, though, I came across a couple of passages that have me reflecting on my earlier speculations qua date farmer, and help me to see our historical moment, and our current challenges, in an all the more affirmative light. First, Dewey:
Everywhere we have outgrown old methods and standards; everywhere we are crowded by new resources, new instrumentalities; we are bewildered by the multitude of new opportunities that present themselves. Our difficulties of today come, not from paucity or poverty, but from the multiplication of means clear beyond our present powers of use and administration. We have got away from the inherited and customary; we have not come into complete possession and command of the present… That education shares in the confusion of transition, and in the demand for reorganization, is a source of encouragement and not of despair. It proves how integrally the school is bound up with the entire movement of modern life.
Yup: Uncle John put that in a gift basket, rang our doorbells, and left it on our front porches in 1902.
I also stumbled upon an extraordinary short post from Professor Carla Rinaldi, whose thoughts about “Cultural Competence and the ‘Pluriverse’ of Learning” I commented on earlier this week. In “The Space of Childhood,” Rinaldi finds further affirmation, rather than mere consolation, in the turbulence and tensions with which some of us struggle. She not only identifies an ethos that might help to guide us, but also predicts the concrete consequence and validation of our efforts:
Ours is a time of transition, and our generation is transient. Our task is to live a “season of design” in which it is impossible to use the old pedagogical, architectural, ethical, social and educational parameters and values, and in which it thus becomes essential to venture into the new and lay plans for real futures.
Though it is certainly a time of potential disorientation and confusion, of widespread uncertainties and contradictions, it is also an exciting time, rich in possibilities.
And if that isn’t a more balanced and hopeful way to look at things — than, say, the grim if ironic tribute I sometimes pay to Sisyphus, Tantalus, Hamlet, and Don Quixote — well then, I don’t know what is.
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You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes