More on Solidarity: “Speak to Shared Goals,” Not “Speak with One Voice”

Responding to my musing about the lack of solidarity among new media resistance to education reform, Sherri Spelic cautioned:

Solidarity, yes. However, in movements in which the aim is to “speak with one voice” whose voices are most likely to be quieted or softened or pushed to the edges? I fear it is often women’s voices which are sacrificed more often than not.

Certainly the number of voices in the ed reform push back camp is growing and we have to realize that new readers, writers, lurkers are finding their way into social media daily. The edu blogosphere is expanding as educators attempt to keep up with what appears to be a runaway train. They are told they must blog and pin and tweet in order to call themselves “connected.” And that’s when folks who were here earliest and built those initial cults of edu personalities began to talk about how shallow and repetitive twitter was becoming and asking whether they shouldn’t move on….

We can add to the solidarity not by limiting our use of voice but by lending it where it may be needed: to uplift one or more of our colleagues in need, in support of the policies and movements which align with our common cause.

My initial response was appreciation for the ideal and thoughtful framing, and then, because of Spelic’s challenge, I was pushed to think better about what I was asking, to state better what I envision.

Solidarity, for me, does not require speaking with one voice, but speaking to shared goals.

Here, then, possibly to continue the conversation, I want to explore what those shared goals may be, keeping in mind we need them to be clear, attainable, and few:

  • Seeking an end to one (preferred) educational experience for privileged children and another (worse) educational experience for “other people’s children.”
  • Seeking a greater appreciation and realization of teaching as an autonomous profession.
  • Confronting and ending inequitable punitive policies (academic and disciplinary) for marginalized populations of students along race, class, gender, and other status categories (English language learners, special needs students).
  • Ending high-stakes accountability focusing on outcomes and implementing a structure that addresses equity of opportunity metrics.
  • Calling for social reform that guarantees for all children that the coincidence of birth is not the dominant factor in their opportunities in life and education.

Among educators, researchers, political leaders, and the public, we will likely disagree about how to achieve these goals—that disagreement is likely important, in fact—but I believe we can and should be in solidarity for achieving these goals.

5 comments

  1. edifiedlistener

    Thank you for this reflective response. I am humbled and grateful to have spurred your thinking and my own in this process. The goals you articulate here are clearly ones that I support wholeheartedly. Clarity gets us that much closer to change. Real dialogue – being open to have our ideas challenged and our minds changed – is essential to moving any of these agendas forward. You’ve modeled that here expertly. Let’s take heart in that and press on.

  2. Margaret Benson

    Absolutely agree with those goals, and I’m really glad you took the time to lay them out and delineate them clearly. But once i got that far I found myself wondering if we ought to look at them in terms of which ones we have to accomplish in order to deal with the others.
    Can we work for educational equity (good public schools for everyone’s children) before, or while we try to dismantle testing madness? Can teachers take back their professional autonomy while their employers demand that they administer all these time-consuming, and as far as I can see, useless tests? The social reforms that are needed go far beyond the perceived boundaries of educational institutions, so that is a goal we can work on while attacking the others.

    But they are all BIG goals. Each one demanding, none easily reached. I suppose dialogue is a beginning.

  3. VanessaVaile

    Reblogged this on As the Adjunctiverse Turns and commented:
    A good lesson for adjunct activists… PS don’t miss the preceding post this develops from, https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/divided-conquered-everybody-blogs-nobody-reads/

    Although a K12 activist, blogger Paul Thomas also teaches in higher ed and writes for the NCTE Journal, https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/speaking-truth-to-power-english-journal/

    We’re all in this together, defending public education

  4. lizmurray08

    The points raised in this post and in the previous post remind me of what happened in the Spanish Civil War, brought to the screen in “Land and Freedom” by Ken Loach. There was so much division in the groups to the left that Franco had a fairly easy march to Madrid with his one language, one religion and one country message. In Barcelona the Trotskyites were fighting the Leninists fighting the anarchists and so on. The inability to unite around common goals, and then arguing the finer points, lost the war for the left. There are major holes in this analogy, and we’re not fighting a war with a clear cut end, but solidarity around main goals is more important at this stage than disagreeing over the finer points. We’re fighting standardisation, and advocating for teacher autonomy so there will always be a need for open dialogue and letting go of ego to learn from others, while holding on to what makes us tick as educators.

  5. nflanagan

    Well said, Sherri Spelic. I fully believe that the fact that K-12 teaching is about 80% female is the factor that has kept teachers from rising up, union or no union, and demanding control over their own professional work. And your point about new social media users is spot-on–just when you find the time and courage to speak, those who have been dominating the discussion (and seeking still more followers) decide that your new discovery is so yesterday.

    I am teaching a graduate course for teachers–“Teacher as Change Agent,” and find that the smart, engaged, dedicated teachers in my group are not fully aware of the corporate takeover of their own work, either. They tend to focus on one or two issues– cuts in funding, for example, or excessive and punitive testing–rather than back up the camera and see the landscape of players and initiatives that are chipping away at public education.

    I have been involved in several “progressive” (for lack of better word–and I know it’s not precisely the right word, but it will serve as another example of not being in solidarity, this carping on language) education groups and movements, and seen them splinter over a single issue, rather than focus on their commonalities. All that energy, going in the same general direction, implodes.

    In my course, the splinter issue is the Common Core. Several of the folks in my class are very pro-Common Core, doing work to create lessons using CCSS, evaluating textbooks for alignment, being paid BY THEIR UNION to endorse and create PD around the CCSS. Others are anti-CCSS, seeing it as the foundation for invalid evaluation of everything–student progress, teacher effectiveness, whether their school gets to live or gets replaced by a charter. This schism has caused one course member to drop out, angrily.

    Paul Thomas is right. The cult of personality–and the need to be “right” and in charge– has impeded our ability to built momentum, while the Corporate Train is steaming along the tracks. The five bullet points he identifies are exactly where we should be focused.

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