Chris Lehmann’s post last week regarding Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody and educational change was particularly thought-provoking for me. If you haven’t yet read Chris’ post or the book, move them both closer to the top of your reading list. I thought Chris did an especially nice job of describing how the edublogosphere has been good at the task of sharing and is doing pretty well at community production (thanks, everyone, who’s contributed to the Moving Forward wiki) but has not yet done so well at collaborative action. Why? Because it’s hard to do, as Chris and Shirky note, particularly within communities that have loose ties like we edubloggers do.
Chris feels, however, that we possess the capacity to engage in collaborative action and that we maybe, probably, should be thinking in this direction:
The hardest challenge facing our community is that we’ve done a very good job at going after the low-hanging fruit. We’ve done what was easiest to do… and most of us would agree that it hasn’t been easy so far. To take things to the next level is going to be hard. Not impossible… and a lot easier because of the tools we have at our disposal today, but hard none-the-less.
But "hard" shouldn’t be the reason we don’t do it.
While I admire (as always) Chris’ good cheer and ‘we can do it even though it’s hard!’ attitude – and even usually possess a high concentration of those myself – right now I’m a bit more skeptical that our loosely-knit ‘community’ has the capacity, time, or even desire to begin engaging in collective action, at least at the level that Chris describes. I say this despite all of the incredible value that I gain from the edublogosphere.
At the very least, collective action is going to require a very focused target outcome and some folks who are willing to shoulder the heavy load of visioning / coordinating / re-centering focus. And I just don’t see that happening right now. I see a lot of good people who care a lot and are even willing to do numerous great things for kids, schools, and/or fellow bloggers. But I don’t see us as being in a place yet where collaborative action can occur on any meaningful and important scale (and I’m also not sure what that place would look like so I’d know that we were there).
Of course I’d love to be proved wrong…
[I confess that I’m also feeling a bit despondent today about the whole prospect of influencing American policymakers regarding K-12 education. After all, if an initiative with a $60 million budget and the backing of billion-dollar foundations isn’t getting much traction in terms of putting educational issues on the political radar screen, what the heck are our chances?]