Carol A. Hand
“Transformation of the world implies a dialectic between two actions: denouncing the process of dehumanization and announcing the dream of a new society.” (Freire, 1998, p. 74)
This morning I awoke reflecting about the connections among widgets, community building, and political advocacy. What is the purpose for using widgets skillfully or expanding one’s blogging community? What is the reason behind promoting political candidates on the basis of their support for paid maternity and sick leave? And what do these apparently unconnected realms have in common? Widgets, political advocacy, and community building all rely on neutral technologies. Each can be used as a tool to work toward a vision. But what vision should I use my time to pursue? Which technologies should I try to master?
Photo Credit: http://wp-themes.der-prinz.com/clearfocus/
If I dress up a blog with clever, engaging widgets without attending to the content of my posts, what is the purpose? If I work to expand my blogging community and lose my sense of purpose, what’s the point of blogging? In a world beset by so many serious challenges, is the wisest, most compelling focus of advocacy really paid-maternity and sick leave? How does this change corporate hegemony? How can the technological tools of widgets, community-building, and political advocacy be used to further the vision of creating caring communities?
“… it is as necessary to be immersed in existing knowledge as it is to be open and capable of producing something that does not yet exist. (Freire, 1998, p. 35)
My recent excursion into the contemporary world of political advocacy raised many more questions than it answered for me. Yes, I do want to volunteer my skills as a writer to create caring communities, yet I feel out of touch with what motivates people. Expert-driven banking models of working with people are just not my style. Yet these approaches may be more effective for the women who recently attended the event I observed than anything I might suggest. Who am I to critique people who shoulder the challenge of advocating for progressive agendas in today’s political environment? To critique women who show up for an event because they care about issues? Just because I feel a need to focus on root causes and deeper questions doesn’t mean my approach is better or more effective. Yet without a broader and deeper framework, do we really have a way to connect each advocacy step toward a larger goal?
“ … to teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge” (Freire, 1998, p. 30)
One of the speakers mentioned the importance of stories. Each woman in the room had a story to tell about the specific issues that were salient for her, and the reasons why she showed up to make persuasive phone calls to other woman to encourage them to support “progressive” candidates. Although each woman was asked to introduce herself at the beginning, each was limited to one sentence that described who she was and why she was involved in the call-bank event. Then, each participant was given the script she should read when she contacted potential woman voters – a script that was written by the sponsoring agency staff. Yes, there were forms participants could fill out to record the stories they heard from other women, but what about sharing their own stories in the conversations? What about beginning the meeting by giving each woman 10 minutes to write out her story and reasons for showing up for the event? What about asking each woman to share her story as appropriate during her phone conversations? A voice of experience and passion based on her shared connections with the women she called?
“… the educator who is dominated by authoritarian or paternalistic attitudes that suffocate the curiosity of the learner finishes by suffocating his or her own curiosity.” (Freire, 1998. p . 79)
I was merely a respectful observer until I was asked to role play the phone call recipient. There were no willing volunteers so I reluctantly agreed. I wanted the women in the room to be prepared for tough situations, so I played an anti-welfare conservative. The woman role-playing the caller gave me a “thumbs up” as we sparred in our demonstration. The woman near me whispered – “That’s exactly how some of the people I call respond.” But the supervisor for the sponsoring agency felt a need to say that the scenario I portrayed rarely happened. The message I heard was that my skills didn’t fit with the agency’s agenda. Intending only to be helpful, I felt like I was threatening her control of the event’s agenda. All I did was respond to a request with the best of intentions. I used my education and experiences as someone who taught interviewing at a college level to help people deal with anger, rejection, or tough topics.
“The freedom that moves us, that makes us take risks, is being subjugated to a process of standardization of formulas and models in relation to which we are evaluated.” (Freire, 1998, p. 102)
The organizers of the event knew I was only there to observe to see if there was some way I could write about their efforts for the general public. The message I walked away with as people gathered their phones and learned the sophisticated technological system that would keep track of the calls and responses, was perhaps it’s best to explore other volunteer opportunities. There was no room here to dialogue about root causes and larger visions of creating caring communities in partnership with the women who came to make calls and the women who were called. My values and visions didn’t fit with the approaches I witnessed. I do, however, have another possibility for volunteering that I plan to explore. But I’m still not sure about spending stressful time dealing with widgets or the wisdom of continuing to expand a blogging community that already stretches past my ability to read and respond thoughtfully to the many people I follow and admire.
“The place upon which a new rebellion should be built is not the ethics of the market place with its crass insensitivity to the voice of genuine humanity but the ethics of universal human aspiration. The ethics of human solidarity.” (Freire, 1998, p. 116)
Photo Credit: http://www.lakeshore.wnyric.org/domain/19
In the spirit of strengthening our caring community, please let me know what you think …
Paulo Freire (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
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