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Ideological Diversity

Yesterday we visited a family that my wife has known for years.  They’re small-time local pecan farmers, who have provide a niche market by keeping everything purely organic.  As I talk to the husband, I am struck by how similar we are despite huge differences in worldview.  He is both more conservative and Conservative than me.  Yet, as we discuss farming, politics, technology and current events, I am struck by the fact that we can engage in conflict while style understanding nuance. I need more people in my life like the pecan farmer, because I sometimes forget that outside of the talk radio rhetoric, there are many conservatives with a mind and a heart and maybe even a few ideas that might work.

Without trying too hard, I’ve managed to find a group of like-minded friends who, despite being ethnically diverse, tend to be ideologically similar.  We all enjoy Iron and Wine or Sufjan Stevens and find art houses to be intriguing and enjoy indie movies and drink independent brewery beer.  We pretty much all get our news from NPR and from links people post on Twitter (again, often a like-minded crowd in an echo chamber)

My solution lately has been to talk to my neighbors.  Simple concept, I guess, however I’m realizing that there is more ideological diversity in a one block radius than within my private Twitter Lists.

It has me thinking about education reform.  I realize that we might need a unified vision of what needs to change.  We might need a set of core values (I vote for authenticity and humility and paradox),  but if we want real, lasting, positive change, we need ideological diversity.  We need to see multiple perspectives to understand the nuances of the arguments and to understand on an emotional level what we claim already on an intellectual level: that the other side isn’t just a bunch of whacked-out Crazies hellbent on hurting children.

Ultimately change doesn’t happen without dialogue and dialogue won’t happen if we handpick who we allow to have a voice.  We need the perspective of charter and public and homeschoolers and unschoolers.  We need the ideas of those who see value in tradition and those who want a twenty-first century classroom.  We need conversations to occur with the power elites and the teachers in the classroom and maybe, if we’re open to it, the custodians and the sweepers and the secretaries as well.


About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


6 thoughts on “Ideological Diversity

  1. Twitter is great for connecting with opposing ideologues, John – and for folks who approach schooling and learning differently.

    I think the starker reality is that we’re going to need to convince acquaintances from all walks of life to move toward the visions of learning we embrace. We will need to voice ourselves specifically, honestly, and with our acceptance of our fears.

    We don’t have to privilege one person over another – to do so would be wrong. However, we do need to privilege authentic education, or else what’s a collaborative progressive education blog for?

    Best regards,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | February 7, 2011, 8:54 pm
  2. My closest friend is more conservative than I am liberal, if that’s humanly possible. We engage in rich conversations, challenging one another (when we’re not making fun of one another), and pressing forward to new possibilities. We need to learn to listen to those who are close, and those who are not.

    Posted by Tom Altepeter | February 7, 2011, 11:15 pm
  3. John,

    You ‘nailed’ it in the first paragraph: “Engaging in conflict while still understanding nuance” – this is the key to appreciating ideological diversity.

    I think that what gets lose within the educational reform debate is the reflective dialogue around the necessity of a comprehensive school that welcomes ideological diversity (just as we welcome and practice differentiatied instruction) and various forms of service delivery under the same roof to meet the needs of a dynamic learning community.

    I also think you underestimate the power of your core values: authenticity, humility and paradox. Without these, discussion and action around “lasting, positive change” will never happen.

    Great post: will be sharing your core values with my staff tomorrow morning!

    Posted by Gino Bondi | February 7, 2011, 11:39 pm
  4. I learned about ideological diversity on Twitter last night as Ira Socol and I duked it out over the Chrysler advertisements.

    Posted by johntspencer | February 8, 2011, 12:18 am
  5. This is really hard. I tried to describe my educational philosophy to my cousin’s girlfriend a few months ago and I mis-said something and she pretty much blew up. After hearing her rant against me, I realized that she and I actually agree quite a bit on education, but try telling her that when she’s mad. It’s important that we find ways to share our ideas without turning it into a rant, because once we close the lines of communication, there is no opportunity for discussion, and ultimately, no chance for change.

    Posted by dwees | February 8, 2011, 7:36 pm
  6. thanks John,
    I appreciate your post and what I would argue is that we polarize one another through the prisim of political world view. However, once we pull back the curtain of ideology, what we find is many similiarities. I would even argue, that progressive education is aligned, albeit, hiddenly, with what would be suggested as politically conservative principles. Although we all may disagree in terms of left vs. right. When we suggest core principles and ideas regarding education, it would not surprise me, if that some of those whose worldview we completely disagree with, within the prism of pedagogical approaches, we might agree far more than we think.



    Posted by educationalrevolutionist | February 8, 2011, 11:47 pm

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