While I was in a discussion group talking about Chris Hedges last week, one of the older gentlemen in the group complained that Hedges explained a lot about his own activism, but he didn't tell us what to do, so we're left rudderless.
Hedges talked about the many different ways he subverted authority and changed things for the better with hugely entertaining examples. And he suggested specifically that we be in connection with marginalized groups. But, no, he didn't tell us precisely what to do next, each of us, individually.
So figure it out!
This is a key difference between a leader and a manager, and we're all too complacently used to being managed rather than led. Too many of us actually want (or need) to be told precisely what to do.
The conversation reminded me of some classes in which I give a broad assignment to challenge the kids to discover the key aspects of the concepts for themselves. There are some that are so excited to have limitless choices, and they dive in and end up producing amazing stuff. But there are always many more who keep asking for more information until I eventually suggest I just do the assignment for them. They prefer fill-in-the-blank handouts. It's too hard to make decisions and come up with ideas. They're convinced I'm asking far too much of them.
Thinking is hard work. Figuring out what to do and how to do it is a struggle. But it's necessary to get people to actually think for themselves. And I'm amazed how few relish the challenge. They like games where they make somewhat educated guesses at the best moves and are immediately rewarded or punished for their efforts, but they don't so much like puzzles.
And that doesn't bode well for my little scheme to create an army of activists in my classroom (or at least a few kids who care about life outside themselves) because this whole mess is one giant puzzle that has to be dismantled and put back together in a way that works but still fits without any pieces missing. (Well, there might be a few pieces I'd toss.) It's a challenge our generation is unlikely to finish, but it's our duty to take up the torch anyway - even though we might not live to see the rewards our effort reap. And it involves a lot of thinking and deciding: We have to figure out which issues are important to us, and then figure out all the players involved and how it all works - which also means deciding which sources are most accurate and why (which brings in some critical thinking skills), and then figure out what we bring to the table - what skills or connections we have that might help, and then actually get off the couch to do something with all that figuring. That's insane!
But it's not impossible. And if we can get the thinking started, who knows where it will lead!
In other news, I'm freakin' 50 today! How the hell did that happen?