Of Two Minds

I feel as though I’m of two minds at all times when it comes to the work I am doing (and hope to continue doing) in the field. So these are some conflicted thoughts I have that I believe others committed to social justice in education can relate to.

On the one hand, I would prefer never to publish in journals that the public (and really, I just mean the educator public, since other folks probably won’t care) can’t access without paying. I think open-source is the future and it’s the only fair way.

On the other hand, the open-source journals don’t carry the same weight as PRESTIGE. And you need the Names to do a lot of things in academic or academic-adjacent work.

On the one hand, there is so much I want to write and say that is critical of the education I have received thus far and how I feel I’ve been let down, particularly as a learner of color.

On the other hand, would I not be in the position I am in to write the way that I write had I not attended these institutions? Can I prove the counterfactual that I’d be better off had I studied in other places? I cannot. It’s a sample size of one, and there’s no control group, to be a wonk about it.

On the one hand, I want to shout that there is such a poor understanding of the ordinariness of systemic racism that, yes, you can perpetuate it even if you’re a “good person.” I have perpetuated it too.

On the other hand, to make any progress, I’ll need support from a broader community, and I can’t be running around with a rhetorical flamethrower this early in my career.

On the one hand, any writing and presentations I do may make more of a splash if provocative.

On the other hand, they’re likelier to just not be accepted/published, or, if they are, just make a splash while sinking to the bottom after a short burst of activity. Provocation isn’t sustainable, because you just end up chasing it instead of doing good work after a while.

This last point is the crux of the internal debate I have now made external: it might feel cathartic to poke people, but it’s not very productive to make that a goal in itself. If it happens, be prepared, embrace it, roll with it. But if you just want to shake people up for its own sake, you won’t really succeed for more than half a second, even though the system does need to be shaken to its core.

So that leaves all of us, with a clear-eyed view of what needs to change, looking for small ways to chip away at a mountain. By the time it’s reshaped we won’t be here, but the small steps are worth taking anyway. At least that’s what I choose to tell myself. On the other hand…