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Education and Extinction: Creative Openings for Critical Social Imagination and What We Owe
“How can I ask you to do good,
When we’ve barely withstood
Our greatest threats yet:
The depths of death, despair and disparity,
Atrocities across cities, towns & countries,
Lives lost, climactic costs.
Exhausted, angered, we are endangered,
Not because of our numbers,
But because of our numbness. …”
Existential threats abound in today’s education scene. The threats range from losses of employment and financial investment to losses of personal liberty and even life. In the face of such overwhelm and instability, it can be easy to forget that it is the collective particularities of such threats that form patterns of extinction, collapse, and disappearance. At the same time, “education” has always represented an existential threat to minoritized cultures, languages, races, ethnicities, sexualities, and genders. Examples of such erasure abound throughout the history of educational institutions and continue to present in legislation, silencing, and expulsion.
Importantly, these patterns exist within a broader set of pressing concerns. The precarity of our planet and the climate crisis at the hands of homo sapiens correspond with the enlarged reach of fascism and unbridled capitalism in the US and across the globe. As philosopher Martha Nussbaum writes, even the question “what does it mean to be human?” betrays a form of narcissism that is so complete, it denies the fact that all sentient beings “try to stay alive and reproduce more of their kind. All of them perceive. All of them desire….” (Nussbaum, 2018). This collective self focus fosters growing political fissures and rising distrust for public institutions, such as schools, which fuel democratic collapse.
And yet, in the face of this vast turmoil, philosopher Maxine Greene reminds us that our social imagination represents an enduring capacity for responding and addressing these serious perils.
We also have our social imagination: the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient society, on the streets where we live, in our schools. As I write of social imagination, I am reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre’s declaration that ‘it is on the day that we can conceive of a different state of affairs that a new light falls on our troubles and our suffering and that we decide that these are unbearable’” (Greene, 2000, p. 5).
This conference invites proposals that engage the critical social imagination and reflect the many perspectives that fit under the umbrella of ‘educational studies’. Educators of all varieties, identities, histories, experiences, cultures, and all the intersectional possibilities these vast features represent, are invited to shape the conversation that will help us all respond to these very real threats.
An ode is a statement of thought and feeling, and thus requires vulnerability. If we take the idea of an ode seriously:
How might educators combat the ‘numbness’ that Gorman explores? As Gorman continues:
“This is the most pressing truth:
That Our people have only one planet to call home
And our planet has only one people to call its own.
We can either divide and be conquered by the few,
Or we can decide to conquer the future,
And say that today a new dawn we wrote,
Say that as long as we have humanity,
We will forever have hope. …”
All submissions are blind reviewed. Please remove identifying references from your proposal (for example, your name and/or publications that refer to you as the author/editor). Individuals may appear on the conference program a maximum of three times.
Word limits are as follows:
Presenters may submit proposals for individual papers, panel, roundtable, poster or alternative session presentations. At the time of submission, presenters will be asked to rank up to 3 possible presentation modes. Presenters will also be invited to volunteer to be a discussant or chair for a session during the conference.
Gorman, A. (2022, September 19). The Ode We Owe. Amanda Gorman (Poet & Activist) recites poem for the SDG Moment 2022 | UN Web TV.
Greene, M. (2000). Releasing the Imagination. Jossey-Bass.
Nussbaum, M. (2018, August 20). What Does It Mean to Be Human? Don’t Ask. New York Times.https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/20/opinion/what-does-it-mean-to-be-human-dont-ask.html