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.