The Agenda for Education in a Democracy rests on a strong foundation that was initially crafted decades ago, but has constantly been refined. It is the renewal process that continues to make this work important and rewarding. Without question it must be continued.
However, the greatest challenge that confronts the AED Scholars is to create a mechanism to sustain this work. Leadership, sustaining leadership and setting a direction are just as important as charting a plan of attack. The “White Papers” were an experiment that provided targets in the war to renew education. Armed with that experience, we know what we need to do and what we have to do.
A good organization continues to create leaders. Its movement continues regardless of time and change. And, the AED Scholars should be the leaders of the NNER! Yes, we have encountered tremendous degrees of change since our formation, but we have weathered the storm. The fact that the movement continues and the majority of us are still involved is a good sign. The core of this group has been active before the formation of the AED, for more than fifteen years dating back to meetings in the University Inn. We know each other relatively well, so it should not be difficult for us to continue this work and allow each AED Scholar to play a key role in achieving our goals.
As I have read responses from two of my colleagues, I am reminded that this work is now based in multiple settings and serves as the heart of several national organizations. It was first developed at the NNER gatherings in Seattle, but it is now part of the summer symposium and most of the NNER settings as part of Leadership Associates programs. Our work has also moved outside of the confines of the NNER into bodies like the League of Democratic Schools and Teachers for a New Era. Recently, some of the AED Scholars have become involved in the UNESCO International Network.
In response to the notion of being under the radar, I think that the time has come to promote the NNER and AED Scholars in certain settings. We have seen some groups, both friend and foe, emerge on a national scale by being extremely visible. The Agenda has reached a good number of educators and communities. It has to evolve to another level to become more effective.
So, I think that we have to double efforts in our own settings to make sure that every educator in our networks understands this work and our roles in educational renewal. We have to bring the communities into the tripartite. Additionally, we have to spend more time cross-pollenating ideas across settings. Too many settings operate in isolation.
Finally, I second the idea of meeting in Denver to discuss next steps. The concept of regional groupings (West, Midwest, Northeast and South) is a good idea to maintain a critical mass between annual NNER meetings. It also makes sense if we can send a representative from each of the regional groupings to speak to other groups. I also think that we need to continue to publicize our successes in print and in other mediums.
While I would not propose another “White Paper, “ I do think that we need another group project. We tend to work best as individuals in our own settings, but the immediateness of this situation fosters a collaborative effort. I think that we can offer ideas between now and October so that when we have the Denver meeting there will be a set agenda for future plans.
My initial idea would be to see how we can revolutionize a partnership at one setting to serve as a model for other settings to follow. This setting needs to illustrate how a community can play a key role in educational renewal. The work needs to be documented in print and in video so that it can be shared with a large audience.