Just returning from a retreat with 10 of today’s leaders in Democratic Education in the US, I am struck by how similar all of these conversations tend to be. Not only in terms of their overlapping concerns (e.g. social justice, youth engagement, meaningfulness) or methodologies (e.g. service learning, nonviolent communication, student/adult partnerships), but in terms of their limited scope: We all seem to have accepted that we can only tweak the system. I don’t know if its because of compounded challenges/failures, collective defeatism, or pragmattic realism, but honestly its starting to wear on me.
I feel like I am constantly expected to calm down my rhetoric, to relax my critical lenses simply because it makes others uncomfortable or makes me less desirable. This sort of slight is not new to me; instead, I have received these types of criticisms for years. The strongest relationships in my life are those where my allies, colleagues and friends have learned to listen to my perspective, however critical or “unacceptable” they may be for any given conversation. Today I am beginning to understand that my concerns aren’t just that we are failing at implementing any sustainable change or long term solutions to engaging young people; rather, I believe that we have to re-envision and recreate the relationships, cultures and structures we live in in order to fully realize the potential of human engagement, inclusive of children, youth, adults and seniors. We’ve got to rebuild this thing.
I’ll write more later.