crossing over

everywhere i look, people are making their multiple and often hybrid identities public. my friend marc, for example, frames our reading of his website and blog as that of "professor.author.speaker.public intellectual" - not only one of those things, but all together at once. i recently learned that alicia keys is flexing her acting chops in the upcoming film version of the "nanny diaries." madonna, as i've noted below, continues to assume and perform varied identities. and angela blogs about the adventures of her alter/2nd life-ego.

so why, with all of the examples of multiple and hybrid identities that abound, do we continue box some people in? for whom is reinvention allowable or perceivable? and for whom is hybridity an unrealistic possibility?

this seems particularly insidious when video games, reality television - nay, books, even, demand of the reader/audience/participant the awareness and instantiation of varied positioning and fluidity of self. and yet, with all of these invitations, the good student and the good school continue to be pictured as:

i'm on this kick cuz as i was watching a late night rerun of yesterday's oprah, i was annoyed by a few things:
  • the images of supportive classrooms as having desks in rows
  • oprah's claim that bill gates had the original idea for making large, comprehensive high schools into small schools. um, wouldn't deborah meier and bill ayers be pissed to hear that? i don't blame oprah so much as i do her researchers; and i do blame bill gates for nodding emphatically (all will be forgiven if i were to, say, receive a gates grant :) )
  • once again, kipp was lauded as being the savior of black boys. ok, not explicitly, but that was the implication. i was happy to see that images of success included kids imagining futures and not solely limited to test performance, however i worry that the message of "knowledge is power" might get muddied if not situated within a more critical framework that includes questions like, "in what ways do we construct knowledge?" and "whose knowledge has what power where? and what can we do about that?"
oprah has a choice, and the power, to do both - that is, praise these approaches/programs and also create a space to continue to push the potential complacency by demanding a critical lens. that is, yes we need schools were there are small enough classroom populations where teachers and students can get to really know one another; and we need a variety of resources to be available that stimulate kids imaginations, and not just help them meet standards or pass tests; and opportunities to engage in collective projects that actually do something in the world... there's more, but i'm tired and need more chai. bottom line: ed researchers are (hybrid) people, too, and possibly could have some interesting things to say about the state (crisis...?) of education today - things that not only true to do the same ol' better but that propose ways of engaging and educating that recognize and create spaces for individual hybridity. thank you alicia, marc, madonna, and angela. :)


DrCammack said...

i saw that oprah too and was totally annoyed for the same reasons. that hi tech hi was all about creating potential products for microsoft, it seemed, and there was no interrogation of the solutions. higher structure and uniforms = better schools for black kids? argh. she has so much voice and people will take what she says without thinking -- she could really open up the conversation here.

as in -- what might other solutions for urban schools be that don't involve more rules, but more choice? education is definitely power, but are traditional structures the only solutions (or more computers?) what about for the kids who aren't drawn to either? what are the possibilities in vocational programs? apprenticeships? other models?

lalitha said...

hey dr. c - glad to hear your voice :) and i agree. makes me at once frustrated and hopeful when i think of some of the innovative work being pursued and questions being asked. however, is it enough to be producing this work for ourselves? i think of aera - 15000 people and not an oprah among them...