Re: Resistance and speaking out

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sat Jan 29 2005 - 12:49:28 PST

David and Jay--

Peg has proposed a way to connect through our communities to people
interested in
being involved in the deep crisis we find ourselves in nationally. And
some of us may
be able to operate effectively outside of our local settings, as David
suggests, while
other may not.

May I propose that we have plenty to do in our own communities including our
places of work-- colleges and universities? After all, they are as
much of the problem
as the solutions. Locally, I am putting a lot of time and concern into
appaling educational regime at my university. The current practices
are inneffective, inequitable, and I have
decided I can no longer engage in the regime. The result is a lot of
extra work on many fronts, but it is at least on a battleground where
I have some acknowledged expertise
and many years of experience, so given that I am willing to put my
time on the line,
it seems an appropriate place to spend that time.

I know of others on the XMCA list who are similarly engaged.

In addition, there are legitimate reasons for believing that part of
the local educational
solution lies in finding genuine links between university and
community that blend
theory and practice. Again, a way to put leveraged resources where our
mouths are.

my 2 cents

PS-- I believe that anyone with tenure should really examine what they
are doing if they are not actively engaged in changing the system that
has guaranteed them a livlihood. If they do not, that guarantee may be
withdrawn. In fact, it may be withdrawn regardless. I
have seen that happen in my lifetime, and believe me, it can happen
here..... again.

On Sat, 29 Jan 2005 14:04:14 -0600, David H Kirshner <> wrote:
> Jay,
> Part of what we're about, as an academic community, is developing a
> counterhegemonic discourse with application to matters of social and
> educational practice. There are many such communities that participate
> together in an intellectual movement of resistance. Within our enclaves we
> are articulate and insightful. In the long run we do contribute ideas to the
> mainstream culture. But in my experience, when our discourse is juxtaposed
> directly with that of defenders of the status quo--who have the advantage of
> default interpretations and assumptions on their side--we end up sounding
> tentative, insecure, ideological, or apologetic. How often have I cringed at
> those horrid televised debates pitting advocates of the left and right
> against one another, at how ineffective is the progressive voice. In fact,
> there is only one scholar on the left that I've ever heard speak who has the
> passionate conviction, the depth of insight, the breadth of scholarship, the
> quickness of mind, and the gift for reconnecting complex issues back to
> basic progressive ideals, to be effective in such forums. And that person,
> dear Jay, is you. I don't mean to be off-loading my/our responsibility for
> public action on to someone else (in fact, to my surprise, I find myself
> having just completed a political piece for our student newspaper at LSU),
> but please do consider diverting part of your time and effort to this kind
> of public service.
> Sorry to say so publicly.
> David
> Jay Lemke <>
> 01/29/2005 12:12 AM EST
> Please respond to xmca
> cc:
> bcc: David H Kirshner/dkirsh/LSU
> Subject: Resistance and speaking out
> Thanks for the online and offline responses to my posting about anti-gay
> and anti-educational policy by the US Secretary of Education.
> In thinking about how to respond, not just to this latest act of evil, but
> to the corruption of so much of institutional and political life in our
> times, and in the nation where I am, still, a citizen, I have been
> considering many alternative courses of action. Some may come sooner,
> others later; many are compatible. I think that many of us worry about what
> we ought to do, what we can do, and when and where and how.
> We are, most of us, not only citizens but educators, researchers, social
> scientists, members of university and professional communities, local
> communities, ...
> We are supposed to be intellectuals, at least in the primary meaning of
> people who take ideas seriously and critically reflect on how to think more
> profoundly about our lives and our values. So it ought not be beyond our
> capacity, or irrelevant to the rest of our professional and intellectual
> work, to address issues of resistance, and indeed of aggressive opposition
> to policies we detest, the people who impose those policies, the
> institutions that embody and enforce those policies. We can also advocate
> for and enact our own values and policies, not just in opposition, but
> positively and creatively.
> Certainly Ken Goodman has been doing this in his area of passion, reading
> and educational policy, in opposing not just the simple-mindedness of the
> NCLB law in the US, but generally educational policies and programs, and
> principles supported by political advocates more interested in their own
> power and influence than in the learning or welfare of most US children.
> More than one regular here on xmca wrote me to say that in their part of
> the world it's perfectly normal to live in opposition, risky opposition and
> hidden opposition, to the policies of oppressive governments and to those
> governments themselves.
> Being fortunate that the US is not yet, I believe, such a dangerous place
> for speaking out, it actually seems strange to me that I don't, and think
> perhaps most of my colleagues, and perhaps many of you, do not in fact
> publicly speak out and say what we REALLY believe.
> It strikes me that we are the victims of some hidden cultural norms that
> stabilize the status quo, silencing us by our own choice. When what we
> really believe seems to us to fall too far outside the mainstream of
> opinion in our communities, we are reluctant to speak out. Why? For fear of
> being thought extremist and radical? for fear of being marginalized in the
> community? for fear of being thought impolite and uncivil? And perhaps for
> fear that others may actually AGREE with us, and that we may then have to
> collectively face the consequences of our beliefs?
> I very rarely if ever, and only among my closest friends, say what I
> actually think about matters where my opinions would seem extreme, and
> particularly where they are negative and pessimistic. And yet I am as
> certain of these opinions and their importance as I am of anything I
> publish or say here, as anything for which I know that many people have
> high regard for my judgment.
> In the field of education in particular, I have realized that there is a
> cultural norm of optimism. People in the field of education tend to be
> altruistic in intention and optimistic about the possibilities of
> improvement and reform regardless of the facts or what we would conclude
> from the kind of reasoning we use in our research. I recognize that
> sometimes we have to hold on to hope in the face of everything; it is a
> human survival trait. And our reason can never be truly certain of the
> impossibility of success. But I believe we have become too willing to act
> against our own best judgment, or to refuse to make such judgment, because
> we do not want to face the consequences. That is not a survival trait.
> It may be time to start saying publicly what we really believe about many
> of our current social institutions, especially where what we believe is
> negative and has important consequences. While we still can.
> JAY.
> Jay Lemke
> Professor
> University of Michigan
> School of Education
> 610 East University
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> Tel. 734-763-9276
> Email.
> Website.

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