AS a non-traditional educator I find myself constantly engaged in a dual process of seeking out team-members who admit they experienced a form of isolation in graduate school not too different from the social isolation during Corona 2020, and a barrage of terms that seem to change with the seasons in silos of disciplinary domains. Before I graduated from community college and then the public University, I was the first in my family to graduate with a degree, I worked in political campaigns and for a not-for-profit focused on civics and human rights education for high school kids. That experience guided me through law school where I worked on the pragmatic implementation of human rights from the ground up instead of the lofty ideals of chambers at the United Nations. I had experienced the constant need to work across differences, backgrounds, and opinions, unlike many of my colleagues in academia. Through this project, with a team of faculty members across differences, I intend to further my work to bridge the gap between law as ideal (among elites) and the reality of law for ordinary folk. Like others, I am convinced that a practical use of rights consciousness and social change comes through education.
In a published article from 2018, I responded to a claim by Andy Lane (2016) that the “rhetoric” about “open education” and pedagogical practices was “ahead of the reality.” While I agreed with Lane that emancipation in the learning process requires a more political stance by educators, I argued that for social change to occur (beyond platitudes and citations to Freire) in the classroom, “technology must be integrated into course work in the humanities so that students can engage with social, political, and legal institutions and behavior.” I ground this epistemological claim in the work done by political scientists who push beyond a pluralist model of politics. Lukes (2005) and McCann (2020) have long articulated the work done by Foucault and feminist scholars such as Patricia Hill Collins for a view of power and social change that includes not only the dominant position, but also the resistance strategies and the social construction of reality evident since the turn toward empirical science 100 years ago (2019).
In my work, I have tried to work with others to study collective action problems in the shadow of work done by Ostrom, Hardin, Bateson, Lator, Levi, and many others. While the successes have been modest and the failures persistent (2016), I am encouraged by the turn towards equity among institutions, faculty, and students. As social science theorists know well, our attempts to construct a shared language around open pedagogy, equity, and social change will largely influence what successes we are able to implement in reality. I am optimistic about this work and hope others join us as we try to think of ways to integrate urgent modern problems into the curriculum at our community college in one of the most diverse areas in the world.