Can the AED Scholars Become an Organizing Center ?
The Institute works to advance the Agenda for Education in a Democracy. This Agenda consists of a four-part mission, a set of strategies to achieve that mission, and conditions that are necessary to carry out the strategies.
The agenda is mission driven and research based. It seeks to:
- Foster in the nation's young the skills, attitudes, and knowledge necessary for effective participation in a social and political democracy.
- Ensure that all youths have access to those understandings and skills required for satisfying and responsible lives regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or birth language.
- Develop and provide continuing support to educators who nurture the learning and well being of every student.
- Ensure that educators are competent and committed to serving as stewards of their schools.
To accomplish this mission, schools and universities seek simultaneous renewal of schools and the education of educators. They do so by putting in place the conditions necessary to renewing the nation's schools and its democracy.
There is little doubt about the commitment to the Agenda for Education in a Democracy among the AED scholars. I suspect we live out that commitment everyday and in every aspect of our work. The question before us, as I understand it, is not about commitment to the work of furthering the Agenda, but about whether or not we, as a group of scholars, want to be an organizing center for its promotion. Surely we are all enmeshed in a web of groups and institutions that occupy all of our waking hours (and some of our sleeping hours as well). We endeavor to exercise responsible influence on the groups and institutions within our spheres.
For me thus far, belonging to AED Scholars has been an honor. I feel privileged to be in the company of so many gifted, ethical and like-minded educators. It gives me some measure of comfort to know that others are doing the work to which we have a collective commitment. However, I do not feel as though I have been a very good steward of the agenda beyond my own personal actions day to day. That is to say, I feel that I have promoted democratic ideals whenever and wherever possible, but have not deliberately or publically connected them to AED. Very few people who have read my scholarship or with whom I interact day to day understand that my behavior is motivated by AED. Perhaps one of the best things we can do as AED scholars is make our commitment more public. It would not be a small thing to agree to use a common symbol of our work that acknowledges our group, one that links us to the agenda and to one another.
How are linked? What kind of relationships exist among the AED scholars? Thus far we have been primarily a community of ideals, not so much a community of place or even a discourse community (in the sense that we share scholarship on a regular basis). The AED scholars may not feel that it’s necessary to draw together as yet another freestanding entity. Do we wish to add to the current constellation of groups and institutions to which we belong? I would argue that we do need to draw together, that we do need to be an organizing center and that we do need to become a strong community of mind. We need to be so simply because our mission is to further the agenda. I once asked John what he meant when he used this phrase, for he uses it quite often. What does it mean to further the Agenda? Does it mean further develop the agenda or does it mean to better disseminate the Agenda? John was pretty clear that he meant the latter. If that is so, it implies enlisting others to share our values and see the world, and what is important in it, as we do. If you follow that reasoning, then the AED Scholars’ role would be to formulate an identity and expand our influence. We would go as many other organizations have gone – increase our membership, accumulate resources, undertake “missionary” work, mentor new scholars into this group, become better known. Surely we know how to do this. The question is, do we have the will?
I can think of six strategies for pulling a group such as ours together: 1. Write a text in which we each take responsibility for a section or chapter. 2. Convene together to present papers and discuss ways to support one another. 3. Make presentations about aspects of the agenda at state and national meetings. 4. Create a virtual community using all of the tools available to us on the World Wide Web. 5. Band together with other groups and organizations that share our values. 6. Construct a common syllabus and see that it gets institutionalized in our college or university.
I am sorry that I do not have more imaginative suggestions. The key in making this group more viable is for those of us involved to make a conscious pledge to devote a portion of every week/month/year to furthering the agenda through collaborating together. I look forward to seeing other ideas and suggestions.