I have time; it is a priority.
This is a short reflection on Chapter 5 of the book We make the road by walking by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire as part of the book club created by Bryan Alexander. (3 min read)
Paulo: “But we can also create space inside of the subsystem or the schooling system in order to occupy the space.” (p.203)
Zoom in on that sentence:
We can create space.
We can create.
It is so powerful, affirming, and inspiring. To me it says there is possibility. Stravinsky put it well (I included this quote in my book. Needless to say, it’s a quote I love.):
“Well, in art as in everything else, one can build only upon a resisting foundation: whatever constantly gives way to pressure, constantly renders movement impossible. My freedom consists in moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned myself for each one of my undertakings.” (Stravinsky, 1970, p.65)
Back to Paulo’s sentence: yes we can. Yes we can create. –and it isn’t impossible, we CAN and it isn’t something to be done alone. We is plural. You and me, and others: we.
Paulo goes on to talk about this within the context of education and speaks of the ‘intimacy of the bureaucracy of schooling system…’
(Perhaps this is a polite way of describing a ‘bubble’, and that can relates to any system: schooling, news, social media, and even our personal view in life away from technology, or any (apparent or outwardly) organized system.)
“…So after two, three, four, ten years of working, we [teachers] can’t see complete results of our efforts and we begin not to believe any more.”
Whoa. Now hang on a minute. Is he just being melodramatic? No.
No and yes. It is true that in a very closed and unsupportive system people can toil away and see nothing for it, but it is also possible that in a supportive system, people toil away and get stuck in their own process and see nothing of it.
Why? I think there are hidden clues in the text:
…can’t see complete results…
And when is learning or education ever complete? So by definition there are not going to be complete results, and sometimes process is frustrating. I certainly know that feeling (raises calloused cello-fingering hand in the air) – and I’m sure that anyone who has done a big or multi-faceted project also knows that feeling. It’s when motivation wanes, or when an unexpected obstacle pops up, or when we don’t get the anticipated response from someone. These yield gaps in the results as compared to our expectations, and then it is possible to lose hope.
I am not dismissing or absolving unsupportive contexts or systems, but acknowledging that there is more to this story than a simple multiple choice response.
Paulo: “I hope many of us are learning how difficult it is to make history, and how important it is to learn that we are being made by the history we make in the social process inside of history.” (p.216) …”Things can be taught inside of history, not before time, but in time, on time.” (p.222)
Process takes time, and is bigger than any one of us.
The last four pages of Chapter 5 are about change, committing to change, and the price some people have been willing to pay in time, effort, and sometimes more, because they not only believed in change, but lived it. Paulo is not talking about anything radical, not inciting ‘bad’ behavior, but telling stories about people who were educators in countries where you were not, at that time, allowed to freely do things like that. Paulo poses the question ‘What if.. we were moved to a point where we had to believe in what we did and what if carrying on was against whatever? He is purely speculating, but he ends with confidence, saying that he doesn’t think there’s any question [that people would indeed stand up for education].
In a world with so many possibilities, and so much turmoil, there’s comfort in hearing of people who came before and did. The message for me remains the same:
Yes, we can.
We can create
(featured image CC BY-NC-ND by Ian Foss)