After reading a previous post, I’m not sure I agree with the distinction between progressive and populist with regards to the reform movement. I don’t see myself as either populist, if populism means class warfare and an outright rejection of all “the elite.” We’re in a dangerous place when we define ourselves by being different than others (which I suppose I’m doing right now) and attempt, even for a moment, to speak for “the people.”
I can’t speak for the oppressed – not loudly at least. I’m still learning from my students, trying to understand their culture and trying to make sense out of our community. If populism means attempting to speak “for the people” rather than “alongside the people,” that’s not where I want to be.
I can’t call myself progressive, either. Political progressivism and the belief in a utopian paradise got us into two world wars. If we define progressive educationally, I’m still a skeptic. Yes, it’s the tradition of Dewey and authenticity, but it’s progressive education had its share of “white man’s burden” and well-intentioned stereotyping.
If progressive means innovative, I still can’t go there. When we push forward with technology and new ideas and amazing breakthroughs in STEM schools, we create the AstroDome effect – glossy, amazing, technocratic and new. Then, at some point we see it as plastic, outdated and as dangerous as the Astro Turf that injures players.
If I have to choose a category, can the category be humility? To me, that’s the real issue. People aren’t willing to listen to the teachers and the students and the parents. And honestly, that’s my real problem. I become an awful teacher when I lose sight on humility. I start lashing out in sarcasm and demanding my rights before parents and turning disagreements into battles.
But the murals, the documentaries, the debates and the writing conferences, the innovation time and the inquiry days – those began in humility. I also know that people listen to me more when I’m vulnerable. It sounds like weakness, but I swear, I grow closer when I’m not trying to tower above others with a megaphone. I admit that I have no data to back this up, but it seems to me that sustainable change begins with humility.
I want a humble reform based upon nuance and paradox. I want to wield the hammer that tears down the injustice, but also chisels something beautiful from the earth. I want to move forward and experiment while recovering some of the vintage ideas buried under the industrial carpet of standardized schooling. I want to embrace and criticize technology. I want to speak loudly and listen well.
I want balance over ideology.
I want sustainability over progress.
I want wisdom over expertise.
I want democracy, (the small-d kind, that comes from shared values and open dialogue) over populism.
I want a humble revolution.