CHANGEd 60-60-60: IDENTITY

Thinking about CHANGEd: What if we really examined our identity as schools? 60-60-60 #16 and reflecting…

What is school for? Seth Godin opens his manifesto with this quote from Bob Dylan. It’s about identity. Our identity. Our schools’ identity. Our country’s identity.

Bryan Stevenson’s We Need to Talk about an Injustice TED Talk addresses the issue of identity as well. Again, it’s about identity. Our identity. Our schools’ identity. Our country’s identity.

You know ultimately, we all have to believe things we haven’t seen. We do. As rational as we are, as committed to intellect as we are. Innovation, creativity, development comes not from the ideas in our mind alone. They come from the ideas in our mind that are also fueled by some conviction in our heart. And it’s that mind-heart connection that I believe compels us to not just be attentive to all the bright and dazzly things, but also the dark and difficult things. Vaclav Havel, the great Czech leader, talked about this. He said, “When we were in Eastern Europe and dealing with oppression, we wanted all kinds of things, but mostly what we needed was hope, an orientation of the spirit, a willingness to sometimes be in hopeless places and be a witness.

Maxine Greene’s Teaching as Possibility: A Light in Dark Times, a different kind of manifesto and one I reference quite frequently, addresses this issue of identity as well:

If our purposes were to be framed in such a fashion, they would not exclude the multiple-literacies and the diverse modes of understanding young persons need if they are to act knowledgeably and reflectively within the frameworks of their lived lives. Situatedness; vantage point; the construction of meanings: all can and must be held in mind if teachers are to treat their students with regard, if they are to release them to learn how to learn. Their questions will differ, as their perspectives will differ, along with their memories and their dreams. But if teachers cannot enable them to resist the humdrum, the routine, or what Dewey called the “anesthetic” (1931, p. 40), they will be in danger of miseducative behavior, ending in cul-de -sacs rather than in openings. If situations cannot be created that enable the young to deal with feelings of being manipulated by outside forces, there will be far too little sense of agency among them. Without a sense of agency, young people are unlikely to pose significant questions, the existentially rooted questions in which learning begins. Indeed, it is difficult to picture learner-centered classrooms if students’ lived situations are not brought alive, if dread and desire are not both given play. There is too much of a temptation otherwise to concentrate on training rather than teaching, to focus on skills for the work place rather than any “possible happiness” or any real consciousness of self.

If we were to design schools from scratch, starting with a vision first (as Jeff advocates in his comment on Bo’s post) with our identity, our schools’ identity, and our country’s identity in mind, what could we create?

Greene concludes her essay with the following.

Muriel Rukeyser has written:

Darkness arrives
splitting the mind open.
Something again
Is beginning to be born.
A dance is dancing me.
I wake in the dark.

She offers a metaphor and a watchword. It may help us light the fuse.

In my mind, identity plays a central role. I also think it offers some hope. A light.

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