Love / resistance

[I made a version of these statements in last week’s Future Trends Forum with Bryan Alexander. I am so grateful for Bryan’s support last week and for his letting me voice these thoughts. I’ll share the video when it’s available]

I feel devastated.

We need love more than ever. And resistance. Now more than ever love needs to be an act of resistance. And resistance must come from a place of love.

We live in a world that isn’t safe for a large number of our students–where our students are unsafe because of who they love, the color of their skin, who they worship, and the anatomy and identity of their bodies (and this has always been the case, this isn’t new, let’s not act shocked). We must love students as an act of resistance and we must resist alongside them, behind them. White educators, loving students means we have to recognize our complicity in the systemic, structural, and blatant racism, classism, and sexism in our country and educational system. Love as an act of resistance means naming, acknowledging, and tearing those down.

We live in a world where Silicon Valley, and its infiltration into education, treats none of our students with respect (this isn’t new–please, let’s not act shocked). Cares little about them or their experiences . Treats students’ experiences, their hurts, their loves, the things that undercut them at every turn, as things that don’t fit into the algorithm, things that don’t dashboard, that can’t be commoditized and are therefore left entirely out of the conversation. They treat the students’ data and agency in those spaces with disrespect and dismissal, all while purporting that their tool will be the next great equalizer—I shudder—in education.

Resistance…Love as an act of resistance. Love as resistance is not sitting back and watching this happen and being a soft shoulder or a distant ally. It’s resistance. It’s speaking up, it’s pushing back. It’s standing shoulder-to-shoulder with students. 

Civil rights leader Ruby Sales said: “Love is not antithetical to being outraged. Let’s be very clear about that. And love is not antithetical to anger. There are two kinds of anger. There’s redemptive anger, and there’s non-redemptive anger. And so redemptive anger is the anger that says that — that moves you to transformation and human up-building. Non-redemptive anger is the anger that white supremacy roots itself in. So we have to make a distinction. So people think that anger, in itself, is a bad emotion, and it’s where you begin your conversation.”

You may be thinking, “but I’m just a technologist, a designer, a faculty developer. I rarely work with students, mostly work with faculty.” In these roles, love as an act of resistance means questioning every tool we use at our colleges and universities. Rethinking every workshop on how to use Canvas, or social bookmarking tools for your class. We, as designers, need to ratchet up the deep questioning of pedagogical values and assumptions in every tech tool we and faculty use. Yes, what about intellectual property, what about data agency and privacy, what about surveillance…what does that analytics platform *actually do* and why, and how does it deny and suppress and remove agency from our students? That’s what we mean when we say “critical instructional design.” 

We can not just be technologists. What does that even mean? The dictionary says it means “someone who specializes in technology.” That’s not enough. Just being a technologist, just being a designer, just a faculty developer takes away our responsibility for what we are bringing to educational environments, to students. As Helen Beetham says, we should be wondering, “whether there is any role that educational technology might have played, or played differently, and what our responsibilities are now that the festival of democracy that the internet promised has descended into a circus of unreason.” That’s a conversation I hope we’ll be having as the president-elect comes into power.

I’ll leave you with these powerful words from Audrey Watters: “The feeling of fear and grief can be debilitating. There are a few concrete steps, I suppose, that people can take that involve variations on “speaking” and “doing” and “listening” and “refusing.” Love, remember, is a radical act – particularly love in a time of hate….Be safe, everyone. The next four years (at the very least) look quite bleak. Commit yourself to something, to someone. Commit yourself to justice. Listen. Love. Resist.”

Image by Matthew Wilkens, CC BY 2.0

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