Alves, Dewey, & Rinaldi on Our "Season of Design"

christhinnesUncategorized2 Comments

[A Process Post on ‘Our Role & Our Moment in Schools’]

 

Chris Thinnes

 

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.

 

#     #     #

 


You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes

  • Lisa Lopez

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for exposing your take on the moment. It is a very valuable one; Holly Chesser, Bo Adams and yourself are the champions of processing and distributing jewels of information on Twitter, and as such I value and treasure your opinion as “informed, balanced and insightful”.

    When I was born my father’s family (a typical middle-class Mexico City family with strong ties to their indigenous roots) claimed I looked like the reincarnation of a “Mayan Princess”. Mind you, I was two minutes old, but I had pitch black hair (which fell out!) and blue eyes. Yet, that legacy stuck with me. It is no wonder, my favorite subject in school was the Pre-Colombian Civilizations (which we studied a lot in Mexico!). The Mayans were radically different from us yet surprisingly similar. We have built our civilization entirely on “Reason”, while they built their civilization entirely on “Spirit”. Hence, the inability of our society to comprehend the “end of the Mayan calendar”, and ours to comprehend the mystery behind their rituals.

    I say all this, because, the end of the Mayan Calendar heralded the end of an era where “Reason” is the sole guiding force behind our existence. The age of “Aquarius” is more about balancing our existence.

    The “old school tower” is crumbling. This can be a very scary process if we do not acknowledge and willingly participate in the demolition of old beliefs (we are all a part of the old school, and must come to peace with, and subsequently grieve its loss). Resistance= Persistance. If we resist change, the old ways will persist. If we resist to change ourselves, innovation will not be authentic.

    In order for this immensely powerful, yet RAW ENERGY that is erupting now, to mold and take form, we must embrace the unknown as a journey of self-discovery. We are the date seeds and must feel the growth erupt inside us emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally (whatever that may be for each of us). We cannot assume that change will happen outside ourselves. We must be willing to be transformed and forever changed by this process.

    The key? The children. They are programmed for this. We must not assume they are “powerless creatures” that need to be “taught”. They are here to co-lead the way. This is the hardest and most delicate balance we have to achieve because we have to let go of control. (Reason v.s. Spirit).

    So, while we are co-creators of this process, we are not the ones in control, this process was all meant to happen. Our calling is clear, we now must work on planting seeds of faith. If we do not shift our perspective, we will remain “in transit” and never become aware of the changes already sprouting before us.

    P.S. I am currently watching Don Quijote with my Lower School children and have re-experienced the wonder of this timeless classic through their eyes. #Priceless

    • ChrisThinnes

      Holy Smokes, Lisa: thanks for this powerful commentary.

      First, I am humbled by your considering me alongside @HollyChesser / @SAISnews and @BoAdams1, both of whom set a remarkable example I also find inspiring.

      Second — and more powerfully still — I am taken by your thoughts about our role and our moment in schools; particularly by your thoughts about the intersections between our personal and professional commitments–

      The “old school tower” is crumbling. This can be a very scary process if we do not acknowledge and willingly participate in the demolition of old beliefs (we are all a part of the old school, and must come to peace with, and subsequently grieve its loss). Resistance= Persistance. If we resist change, the old ways will persist. If we resist to change ourselves, innovation will not be authentic.

      –and also by your invitations we should all accept:

      We must embrace the unknown as a journey of self-discovery. We are the date seeds and must feel the growth erupt inside us emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally (whatever that may be for each of us). We cannot assume that change will happen outside ourselves. We must be willing to be transformed and forever changed by this process.

      The key? The children. They are programmed for this. We must not assume they are “powerless creatures” that need to be “taught”. They are here to co-lead the way.

      I’m in! Thanks for the thought, feeling, and direction you bring to this shared effort.