We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds. We have been drenched by
many storms. We have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretense… Are
we still of any use?
What stirring words these are, words that should make anyone working in schools, especially administrators, ask themselves, “Are we still of any use?” In a time when we have been drenched by many storms, when we practice the arts of equivocation and pretense, can there be any doubtthat Bonhoeffer’s words have meaning for us today?
The words of Isaiah, as Bonhoeffer shared them, are, “He who believes does not flee.” The words strike home as I reflect on education today. For those who can, have fled schools. They have fled
our schools and abandoned their colleagues, the children, and moved on to greener pastures. And, who can blame them that they chose to take advantage of the active exit strategy to deal with slow death?
Yet, this should not be my response. As an administrator, and a believer, I am called to re-examine what the will of God is. Is it really to convert the masses of educators, legislators to the gospel of educational technology? And, since such a worthy purpose requires daily re-dedication, what method or approach could I take to accomplish this systemic a change? Would it be possible for me to learn from people like Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, or fictional characters like P.K. in The Power of One? Am I able to unleash the divine within myself, to become an
instrument of the divine to transform education? I am encouraged by this piece of poetry or writing recited by Mr. Cruz, a basketball player in the movie, Coach Carter, and elaborated here:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.’ Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Source: A Return to Love,
more info at http://www.marianne.com/
Since school districts may be perceived to be acting like authoritarian states, it’s not inappropriate to follow the advice of someone who lived and died in the context of Nazi Germany and Hitler. Bonhoeffersuggests these steps:
1) Speak out and ask authority if what they are doing is legitimate and according to their original responsibility. Ask them to recognize if what they’re doing is legitimate. As educators, we must question, speak out and ask if banning/blocking web sites, controlling and locking down computers, is really what we started out to do as educators. But the questions are broader than technology issues. We also need to ask if we’re really going to allow K-12 education to be
destroyed while charter/private schools are built-up. Is this what we really want to allow?
2) Help those affected by the rules. We give succor to those who are hurt by the Authority, help them and mitigate the effects of the danger, of the wheel that is crushing them. For me, this means helping teachers and administrators in any way possible, to help them find some way to engage students. For me, this includes efforts like digital storytelling, blogging, problem-based/project-based learning, and other initiatives that involve students doing work that cannot be easily tested, that requires authentic assessment.
3) Jam a spoke in the wheel. This last is active, work against the Authority that is abusing its authority. This is political action, the type of action that EFF, GlobalVoices.org encourage in fighting back. We must jam a spoke in the wheel that is crushing K-12 education.
As an educator, I do feel challenged to speak out. In reflecting on my efforts, I have ask if banning/blocking sites is legitimate. But, I have also helped in identifying ways around their bans. And, I cannot continue to do that. How to put a spoke in the wheel…that is what I
must be about. Currently, I enjoy “conditional confidence,” a term Quinn, author of Deep Change, defines as “confidence that you will act well so long as the situation does not violate your assumptions about it.” Isn’t this exactly where schools are at now? We are expected
to act so long as we do not violate the fundamental assumptions that are in place. The root of these assumptions, in spite of separation of church and state, is faith and values. After all, what are the core values of K-12 education? Don’t they flow from the values that people
who run schools hold dear?
As a leader, I must enjoy unconditional confidence–confidence that I can dump inaccurate assumptions and ineffective strategies in the midst of ongoing action. And, that action must be to put a spoke in the wheel. It must involve allowing myself to be powerful beyond measure.
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