“No one does inequality better” than the United States, he put it plainly in the Opening Keynote address. Showing graphs, data, and comparisons, Jeff Duncan-Andrade reminded us of this truth that gives lie to the myth of progress. This truth that buries its chronic pain into certain communities who are told to bear the injustices with “grit.” This truth that keeps us un-free.
What can we do? What must we do? “We need to stop drinking from that fountain because it’s making us sick,” he said. The fountain which is schooling, he described. Schooling that is conflated with education. Schooling that codes data in a way that promotes phony and delusory images and notions of progress. Schooling that makes students into profit. Schooling that promotes a one-size-fits-all model of equality that is premised on what fits the dominant and dominating culture of white heteropatriarchy. Schooling that requires people to focus on “grit” to deal with the hierarchy-promoting system that continuously and consistently impoverishes and presses down on particular students and communities while inflating in others the power to dominate.
Instead of continuously getting sickened by schooling, we pursue education. Countering the oppression schooling teaches us to accept, education offers gifts depending on what the students need, he reminded us. Education gives hope that helps young people deal with toxic stress, hope that gives them a sense of control over their destiny. Education gives young people the possibility of achieving their full potential with curriculum that is relevant and pathways that empower. Education builds safe communities and loving relationships where people can open up with their hurt, where people can heal. This education saves lives, he said. And that truth about education is one that many in the audience probably know from firsthand experience both as educators and students, and one that probably motivates many to come to this conference.
And with all the academic research that Duncan-Andrade mentioned that illustrates the problems of schooling and the possibilities of education, he reminded us that this is all ancestral wisdom. The lessons of our ancestors. They are here, they are with us, they show us these truths that we know to be true. And these truths free us.