From April 5-9, 2019 the annual meeting of the largest North American research conference on education, AERA, took place in Toronto under this year’s theme Leveraging Education Research in a ‘Post-Truth’ Era: Multimodal Narratives to Democratize Evidence. EDiTE researcher Josefine Wagner was present and participated in Division K’s conference seminar on Theorizing Teacher Education and Teacher Learningwhich was aimed at teacher educators exploring how theory and practice could be better intertwined when teaching teacher students. Before each session commenced many scholars acknowledged that this conference took place in the lands of indigenous people past and present and that they fought with them for a decolonized future. In a similar vein, EDiTE supervisory board member and vice-president of Division K (Teaching and Teacher Education), Kathy Schultz greeted her listeners when she gave the Vice-Presidential Address, entitled What Kind of Teacher Education Do We Need in These Turbulent Times?She drew on her recently published book on Distrust and Educational Change: Overcoming Barriers to Just and Lasting Reformto suggest five principles that might guide the work of teacher educators: 1) Begin with love and compassion, 2) Recognize teachers and students’ enormous capacities for learning, their dignities and histories, 3) Think queerly, 4) Expand who we count as teacher educators, and 5) Nurture teacher activism.
Another unique experience among many was a moving debate chaired by Alfredo Artilles on Contested Citizenship: Knowledge, Race and Politics within the Educational Context, during which critical education scholars Eve Tuck, Nolan L. Cabrera, Michael Apple, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Zeus Leonardo engaged in questions, such as: What does citizenship mean in the context of public policy seeking to provide narrow and racialized definitions of American citizens? and: What can schools do to challenge the hegemonic practices of citizens making reflected within the current political discourse?
“The purpose of the session was,” as organizer Anthony Brown summarized, “to deconstruct various notions of citizenship as they are taken up through the discourses of national identity, nationality, civil and human rights.”
Furthermore, Division G’s (Social Context of Education) award session was an extraordinary occasion to witness. Nominated by Thea Abu El-Haj, Ariana Mangual Figueroa, and Rosalie Rolon Dow, Pauline Lipman of the University of Illinois at Chicago (The New Political Economy of Urban Education) received the Henry T. Trueba Award for Research Leading to the Transformation of the Social Contexts of Education. With kind permission from Prof. Lipman, please enjoy her remarkable acceptance speech that EDiTE scholars should keep in their hearts and minds as they continue on their academic career paths.
“I want to use my couple of minutes to also trouble the idea of research changing the context of education. Or how research might contribute to that. […] I think that we need to approach our task with humility. So I want to reiterate what I think we know which is that scholars engaged in the context of education that that kind of scholarship is powerful when the voices of the researchers are in dialogue with parents, and teachers, and young people, and communities. In which our multiple knowledges, and epistemologies, and standpoints are brought together to try to understand the context of schooling and how we can transform not just schools but the society as a whole. […] What does it mean that we do research that contributes to the transformation of the social context, when in fact it is only through our collective knowledge that we develop that understanding in the first place. Our understanding of the social world and theorizing about it is rooted in social practice, and in particular, I think through participating in community and education struggles for justice. It is in the process of participating in them, through praxis that we come to more deeply understand our social realities.
I think research contributes to the transformation of the social context of education when it is linked to organizing through social movements. We are contributing as researchers when we address the real questions of those who want “to move forward,” as Maisha Winn said, and when we work side by side, together, in ways that are empirically and theoretically useful to struggles for social justice, and in relation to the visions of developing social movements. And sometimes this means moving tables, and cleaning up afterwards, and taking care of children so that other people can speak. It’s social movements that change the world – not research. It is only when research is in collaboration with social movements, when it is taken up by social movements, that we transform our present conditions.
I want to end by situating our work in the present moment. I want to say some of what I said on Friday in our symposium on Neoliberalism, race, and disability. We are in a moment of immense suffering– economic, political, social suffering. But we are also in a moment in which racial neoliberal capitalism is reeling from multiple crises: economic, social, political. Suffering and the crises of the system are in dialectical relationship. The legitimacy of the neoliberal order is in crisis globally. Although it seems hegemonic, it is actually in crisis. I want to draw on Stuart Hall here. Stuart Hall reminds us that although crises are moments of opportunity because they signal a rupture of the existing order, a rupture of the existing social conjuncture, the outcome of a crisis is not guaranteed. They could resolve in various ways. And that’s the moment that we are in. So on one side we have a resurgence of explicit, explicit because it has always been there but is now blatant and overt, white, nationalist, misogynist, pro-fascist right wing politics. And on the other side, and we need to recognize this, we see resistance and resurgence and a surfacing or a foregrounding of new visions from native water protectors, the Movement for Black Lives, teacher strikes that are not only against neoliberal education policies, they are against the gendered crisis of care, the crisis of social reproduction that Nancy Fraser illuminates. We have the immigrant justice movement, feminist and climate justice movements, and more that are challenging hetero-patriarchy and racial capitalism and white supremacy. That’s the moment we are in. And, you know number 45, felt compelled to actually explicitly attack Socialism in his State of the Union address so that’s an indication of that moment and of the possibilities for social transformation.
I want to share an anecdote from Chicago as I end. We just had municipal elections, and there is a lot of talk about the mayoral election, but what you need to know about is the city council election. At the City Council level what happened is that grassroots people who have been on the frontlines, many of them have been fighting for education justice and against racist neoliberal policies, were elected to the City Council of Chicago. If you know anything about Chicago, you know it has a long history of entrenched Democratic Party machine politics controlling every aspect of city government, so this is astounding. One of the newly elected City Council representatives is Jeanette Taylor. Jeanette was a Dyett High School hunger striker. She has been on her local school council for 23 years, she is a mother and a grandmother. She is a grassroots person who rose up because her school was being closed and became a leader in the education movement in Chicago, and she was just elected to the City Council in Chicago. That is actually very, very significant and an indication of the possibilities of the moment that we are in. It is definitely a potent marker of the crisis of legitimacy of the racial neoliberal order in Chicago. So this is a moment to engage in struggles for a different future, for us to play some small role by joining our research with social movements.
I want to close with a question that was posed by scholar-activist Andrea Smith. She asked: “Why should academics be any less responsible for taking part in activist work than florists, garbage collectors and bee keepers?”
Prof. Pauline Lipman
The next AERA annual meetingwill take place in San Francisco from April 17-21, 2020, under the guiding theme: The Power and Possibilities for the Public Good: When Researchers and Organizational Stakeholders Collaborate. The call for submissions starts on May 10, 2019.