On the way to the Genius Institute this morning, I became aware once again that I am a cautious but impatient driver. Usually, the fastest way to campus in the morning is Highway 287 because the speed limit is 65 for a longish stretch. Usually. Unless as was the case this morning, someone has decided to drive 45 in the fast lane. I can only endure that state of affairs for so long before I’m berating that driver out loud, even though I logically realize s/he can’t hear me. I’ll do what I can to change the situation, but only to a certain extent. I’ll drive just close enough to exert some pressure without tailgating. I’ll weave between lanes as long as the window is wide enough to do so without risking a wreck. I’ll drive 4-5 miles over the speed limit, but not 6 in order to reduce the likelihood of a ticket. Sometimes these methods work, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I’ll find an empathetic driver—an ally—who will wave me over in front of them so I can make my way into the faster lane. (And again, even though this driver can’t hear me, I wave and shout, “Thank you! You’re my best friend!)
Essentially, my technique is to analyze my immediate context, reflect on my state of mind in light of how quickly I need to arrive at the place I’m going, and adjust my practice accordingly—to push just enough so that I can move faster than is comfortable without wrecking the car and endangering my life.
While I’m not recommending that someone adopt my driving habits, I do ask you to consider how the metaphor is perhaps relevant to the work we’re doing together in this workshop. As we confront privilege, critique inequitable systems, and work to change them, how fast can we expect to move? How imperative is it that we, our students, our colleagues, our parent population, etc., get the bleep out of the fast lane in order to arrive somewhere more quickly than we might otherwise? How urgent is this work in our world? And who gets the privilege to decide?
Let’s adopt the same exercise I use when I’m driving in an effort to mull over these issues:
- Describe your place. Consider the obstacles you’ll encounter and the allies who will support your journey.
- Reflect on your practice.
- Consider how you can push beyond both to teach from a position of social justice, that is to: acknowledge privilege, recognize oppression, and critique and work to change social and educational systems that inhibit equity and access to opportunity that would allow our students to thrive in their lives and in the world.