movement building: Scott Nine at Homeschool+ 2014

Recordings of all the Homeschool+ 2014 conference sessions are up now. A great session is available to listen to  Scott Nine of IDEA. This session is called From protest to politics: A provocation about the future of learning in the US. Grasping the Bayard Rustin reference in the title and mentioned in the talk is essential to understanding IDEA and Nine's work in movement building and connection.

I agree that we need to expand beyond our individual solutions and situations and I think homeschooling's legacy isn't just that families with money can be happy. I've blogged about how creating exemptions to compulsory attendance laws are a key contribution of homeschooling and should be seen as a way to change the power base of education away from the factory model. Partial transcription:
This ...educational paradigm is dying. It hasn't been realized yet. You can watch the current common core dialog and narrative .... The reality is that [the idea that] we are going to use high-stakes tests ... to narrow and compete is done. But its a mess of future possibilities and there's not much coherence in terms of public discussion of what we want. ... What's core ... is the understanding that learning has left the building. [...] 
IDEA's view of the world is that over the last twenty years progressive educators have gone into hiding. And for this particular conversation, I would say many students and parents opted out of the system completely. They went home. And I wouldn't say people shouldn't go home. I believe every parent and young person has the right to decide where they want to learn best and if they have the ability or capacity to do it, I'm not going to argue against that. But often people have done that because they felt trapped, broken, scared, it wasn't working for them, they wanted to do something different. Sometimes with an ideological bent ... a Christian ethic ... people have all kind of reasons for doing what they do. IDEA's story is that ... people ... because of these conditions, went into hiding in some form. For some people that meant doing some great work inside their classroom ... for some people that's building alternatives, or charter schools or independent schools. ... But people who share a lot of values about what really healthy learning environments can look like, ran away ... and they're in some outposts, and in some isolation. And we're at a unique moment when people are trying to tip back and beginning to find one another and lots of new ... connections are being made.

There really is great education going on all over the country. Sometimes in living rooms, sometimes in classrooms, sometimes in whole districts. And we don't have to take a position that is ideological about one of those environments being superior to the other but instead try to look at what's fundamental to those conditions and who should have access to more and more of them. ... How do we put people together in coherent, politically powerful ways? ... What would it look like to build a network that has real political and social influence in thinking about the future of learning? ... And it is our analysis that we need to try to convince numbers of people coming from very different perspectives, that it's a time to move from protest to a political engagement and strategizing together ... trying to find where there's a common set of values...

(Nine talks about working with Dr. Vincent Harding) .... you can't make a movement but you can prepare for one ... my provocation ... is that as we think about pursuing learning alternatives .. or even stop using the word alternatives but we pursue learning ... what we're preparing to help happen ... on behalf of whom and with what values are we working?

... my last provocation we have to hold two tensions. We're at a time of incredible promise ... the very beginning of the tipping point that will change quite significantly I believe in the next ten years .. we're also at a time of tremendous peril: we have tremendous gaps in equity in our country, there's tremendous injustice, there is huge amounts of social poverty, and the reality is that for many communities of color and for poor people, what their kids experience as a learning environment and what they feel like their families can provide looks very different than what other families. .... and the history from the 1960s and 70s ... it is not enough to have a progressive or a unschooling movement that is filled with middle and upper-class white people. And that if we are going to have something powerful happen in the country to unfold, it has to be something that joins with and weaves with some of these tensions and ideas and tries to think about a public purpose for learning and how to hold and stitch those things together. ... what I am advocating or proposing ... how those realities are showing up in your own work or life and what kinds of structures ... might begin to weave and stitch together...

Q&A (partial)
Steve Hargadon asks a question about how we deal with organizations that have power structures in place ...
Nine answers ... and I believe passionately, from a strategic perspective going back to that Bayard Rustin article that we are at a similar moment, we have to be able work on multiple fronts, we have to be able to have authentic conversations, .... we have to play strong ... how to be powerful advocates ... being comfortable with some of the structures, recognizing all structures are inhabited by people ... we choose the title Executive Director ... we know that that will make much of the educational world be able to see us and to potentially allow access ... there is a political consciousness ... that we have to decide that we are not just going to resist ... how we build the capacity in ourselves and how we network in ways that step forward ... if we don't work at both levels, where we are connecting all the parents and young people and community groups and also playing at that macro-level [with power structures]... we are doing a disservice to the possibility of the moment ... we need to be building those muscles. [...]

Steve H: ... I always think of that Bible verse, Scott gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent
Scott: Dr. Harding's expression to me was to be like love and iron fused together

Steve: Pasi Sahlberg ... GERM ... a virus spreads because its good at spreading ... how do you think about spreadability and stickiness .. Gandhi's spinning wheel allowed people at all levels to get behind an idea...

Scott: ... I'm of two thoughts about it. I want to leave room and excitement ... there is already emerging a huge movement ... I'm also really aware of the fact that we have 40, 50, 60 years of [great works in all media on learning] ... some moment, an expression will happen ... let's spend time trying to understand [our differences] ... being able to control the relationships, the networks, the pathways, the muscles, to be able to have a moment become viral ... when the Chicago teacher's unions was first striking in Chicago ... [Scott discusses how they were able to get early responses to the Chicago teacher's union strike out by having relationships in place that enabled communicators to move at great speed and get a frame in the media]...
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