Week of Nov. 9, 2020
Dear Education Program Students,
We are writing in relation to the most recent communications from BiCo administrative leaders and student strike leaders to share our current thoughts about the Education Program’s ongoing commitments and how to continue making them clear when the terms dominating the current discourse do not reflect how we conceptualize our work.
Administrators have told faculty to get back to teaching and continue classes and delivery of the Fall semester’s curriculum, and student leaders have asked that we continue to support their movement by not holding classes. The Education Program, while it canceled classes starting on 29 October 2020, is not positioned—has not positioned itself—to get back to teaching as there has not been a break in our teaching during the strikes. We have been teaching in the manner in which we understand the word: holding open space for inquiry, analysis, connection, and reflection; supporting student agency and dimensions of self-directed learning; and co-creating relevant, responsive, necessary knowledge with students that respects and addresses what matters to them and in relation to broader struggles and questions arising in the world.
It has always been the case in the Education Program that teaching is not delivery of course content; it is the co-creation of curriculum through relationship in context. These perspectives center all of our work as scholars and teachers. We reject the term “delivery” as at odds with the theories and philosophies of teaching and learning to which we are committed. We also reject the definition of “teaching” as exclusively the transmission of knowledge. We have always seen all participants in our program and courses, beginning with ourselves, as teachers and as learners.
Beyond our own local context, these perspectives make up part of the landscape of our discipline. We are not alone in the commitment to trouble and to change the status quo in and through education; in taking this path, we are inspired by past and present leaders in our field, including but not limited to: bell hooks; Linda Darling-Hammond; Gloria Ladson-Billings; Paulo Freire; Geneva Smitherman; Bettina Love; la paperson; and Eve Tuck.
For these reasons, it is important, now, to be especially explicit about how our Program is by its nature, purposefully and essentially disruptive, not newly so. This is a long struggle we have been engaged with, and one we are entirely pledged to continue. We remain in solidarity with the BMC strike, celebrate the successful conclusion of the HC strike, and are in support of the demands the students have made. We want to do all we can to support all students and the colleges to engage with the movement for racial justice that animates the strike. We see this movement as completely necessary and vital, and hopeful.
To say either that we now return to teaching or that we continue to cancel our classes would support a misreading of how we define our teaching and an obscuring of the purpose of the Education Program. We respect that for the strike organizers, this distinction would not be primary, but we hope that in the context of this articulation of what we believe we are doing, it makes sense to them and their allies as also in support of the strike.
This is an important moment to assert that the Education Program is based on commitments to equity and justice and also seeks alignment with this particular movement for anti-racist change. While there is definitely more work needing to be done, we want to appreciate—and ask our colleagues and administrators to recognize—that we teach for social justice, racial justice, humanity, and living earth. Our work in the classroom, our relationships with students, our scholarship, and our collaborations are centered by this commitment.
This could seem like splitting hairs or a specious argument, but we are trying to take the measure of the situation and of ourselves in writing it, and we don’t feel it to be so.
Welcoming your thoughts —