Before you read past this sentence, how ‘bout a quick assignment for old times’ sake; jot down the 5 most powerful people you can think of. Go ahead. I’ll wait…
…now, take a look at your list. I’m less interested in who you put so much as what it says about your personal definition of power. Are they, for example, athletes? Politicians? All men? All Americans? All famous? Your mother?
Your list will undoubtedly contain your values as well as your prejudices. Don’t feel judged. Remember, “I don’t know you.” But I know me, and I know that my own predispositions and presumptions will filter their way into this space which is supposed to be an open forum for ideas and conversations.
So, rather than you trying to figure out whether I’m the kind of person you will want to befriend or befight, let’s cut to the chase and not pretend that any of us are objective. Objectivity is Dead. Long live Subjectivity.
Below are listed (in no particular order) my most egregious offenses and affections...
1. I love youth(fullness). Rather than looking at youth as the “leaders of tomorrow,” I believe they are infinitely powerful today and that adults need to shift their definition of ageism to include the disregard and disrespect that young people (throughout the world) endure from older generations. I have found the youth in my life to quite often be more honest, more open to change, more hilarious, more creative than the majority of their adult counterparts. As a wise signature intern said today, “I’m always afraid when I become an adult, my teenage sense of humor will expire.” Me, too.
2. I’m a progressive, not a liberal. For those of you who equate the two, wrap your mind around these paradoxical pairings: I am a public servant ambivalent about unions; I support entitlements and fiscal responsibility; I am pro-military but antiwar; I believe vegetarianism will help save the planet, but I love bacon; I am an English teacher who is "doing good" not "doing well." Progressivism, in my opinion, is about anticipating future trends and advocating policies and positions that will remain relevant 20, 30, 100 years into the future.
3. I relish copyright infringement and welcome it in others. Poach my wisdom and absurdity. I will give credit where I can remember to do so. But, like most teachers, I feel a perk of being a public servant is guilt-free Xerox privileges. I offset this piracy by holding with an open-hand all my original ideas, quotations, lesson plans, worksheets, etc. Rather than attempting to profit from my creative endeavors, I will store for myself treasures in heaven/nirvana/my Facebook feed.
4. My children are strong, goodlooking, and above average. Will I find ways to incorporate pictures and anecdotes about my two-year-old twins? Yes. Should you judge me? If it makes you feel better.
5. The road to hell is paved with convergent thinking. Too often we adults equate maturity with complacency or cynicism. Subsequently, we lose our willingness to believe in change. Practice this Madlib with me now: The unexamined (fill in the noun) is not worth (fill in verb ending in “ing”). The unexamined job is not worth doing. The unexamined lesson is not worth learning. The unexamined Ugg is not worth wearing. Now YOU try. Leave me some divergent thinking in the comment section below.
6. I reserve the right to be wrong. I call this my “there is no permanent self” and “Why I love flip flops and flip floppers” clause. Inevitably I will say something that is either, a) poorly worded and therefore misconstrued or, b) poorly thought out and therefore justly criticized. Part of both learning and character development is about strategic risk taking that leads to a refined and renewed outlook on life. As a wise nun once quipped, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”
7. I love people who push back. While I have other biases, the good news is I try to surround myself with people bold enough to confront me on my blind spots. While some people seem to take comfort from their prejudices, I distrust mine and feel that if I just had more information I would happily be able to surrender them.
And because honesty loves company, I would encourage my fellow teachers and parents (and all adults, really) to practice this with the young people in your lives. Being a youth is a practice in embracing or suppressing one’s authenticity. Whether a young person becomes or undoes themselves is largely determined by what they see the adults they admire doing…the adults in their “top 5.”
So whether you share or abhor my biases, tell me about it. We do not make change by talking to our friends. We make change by talking to our enemies.
So, what do you say? If we can’t be friends, let’s be frenemies.
Barbara Dziedzic is the lead teacher for Arundel High School's Community Development and Global Citizenship Signature Program.