A call for collective reflection: Keeping the dream alive

Blooming dandelionIn browsing websites over the weekend and on MLK Day, I was struck with how many people posted quotes and called for action. It seems that a collective reflection, in writing, by Warner community members may be an opportunity to consider how it is that we, as a community, incorporate aspects of Dr. King’s commitment and work in our own teaching, learning and action. Below are two questions that seem germane. Please respond as you see fit.

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.
Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967

Each of us should look in the mirror and ask the question, “What are you doing to keep the dream alive?”
We could extend this to also answer the question, “What are we as the Warner community, doing to keep the dream alive?”

Article written by

Nancy Ares

Nancy Ares is an Associate Professor at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education. Her research examines classroom and community practices, with particular attention to the ways that cultural and linguistic diversity and social interaction affect teaching, learning, and community transformation. For more on Prof. Ares, click HERE.

5 Responses

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  1. Bert Bones
    Bert Bones at |

    The quotes on MLK day made me think of a lot of instances in my life where I’ve had to turn that mirror on myself. I was asked an interesting question once during an interview… “If there were only justice and mercy in the world, which side would you fall on?” I answered mercy and I believe MLK would have too. Justice has its place and yet without mercy we have no means by which to become better people. I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject since and I really believe that forgiveness/mercy is an attribute of the strong. True justice comes from being able to move on, make changes that improve the lot of yourself, and others.

  2. Emily Daniels
    Emily Daniels at |

    Balancing concepts of justice and mercy is an interesting point – the terms can be difficult to capture in their entirety.  I think they may be closely connected.  It’s a good starting point to move toward the ideals, and to realize that struggles are constant, not isolated instances in ourselves or in others.    I think that in reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s the kind of time that helps us to focus on what needs to be done, but doesn’t it seem a bit like it should be an everyday kind of thing?   What examples can we offer from our daily lives that help others?  I think that forgiveness is absolutely a strong point, and is (not simple) but an excellent everyday example of working for the Greater Good.  What else can we offer, where do we contribute in coalition with others?  I think it’s a ripple effect.  What we eat, where we shop, what we say, how we give, what we choose, how and where we work for good these are all aspects of contributing.  Thank you for posting!

  3. Jessica  Guzman
    Jessica Guzman at |

    In response to Professor Ares’s questions, I believe that the mission of the Warner School is in fact keeping the dream alive. We are educating a diverse population of the nations’ and international current and future teachers, counselors, and administrators in K-12 and Higher Education settings. From my experience, the classrooms created by members of the Warner faculty are in fact safe spaces that allow the students to engage in thought provoking discussions and explore a range of scenarios that are applicable to us as practitioners and benefit a wide range of consumers. I also believe that we create a learning environment that is conducive to conducting research on important diversity related topics, which create a theoretical foundation where we can examine the work done by our peers and visa versa. This is especially true when the articles or studies are published or presented at conferences.
    I also can’t be naive and must acknowledge that there is always room for improvement. When Professor Ares asks, what am I doing to keep the dream alive? I must believe wholeheartedly that my doctoral dissertation research can add a bit of insight and a voice to the body of knowledge surrounding the experiences and self-identification of multiethnic college students on a predominately White campus. Based on my research, interactions with my peers in the classroom, and personal and professional experiences, I hope that I can be proud of my decision-making process and progress as a Counselor or an Administrator when working with college students. I also believe that we as a community must support our peers, faculty, staff, and alumni in their social justice endeavors and lend a helping hand or supportive words when we can.
    In sum, I believe that asking the questions and allowing people to reflect on how they perceive they are keeping the dream alive is a very powerful tool. If there is one thing that I have learned at the Warner School, it is that learning and educating is a collaborative process. Sometimes it is important to reflect on how the process of change is going and if in fact you are progressing and accomplishing what you want it to do. If it is not, then there is always time to modify it and collaborate with others to create something amazing in the end…isn’t the same for keeping the dream alive?

  4. Kathryn Jensen
    Kathryn Jensen at |

    I am a recent Warner grad teaching 7th grade science in the Rochester City School District.  We were just finishing up a genetics unit and moving on to evolution.   On the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I taught a lesson on skin color as an adaptation based on the work of Dr. Nina Jablonski – TED talk link – http://www.ted.com/talks/nina_jablonski_breaks_the_illusion_of_skin_color.html   I used an NPR interview from Morning Edition in February 2009 which allowed my kids with literacy issues to better listen to it while reading for better comprehension.

    It led to some interesting discussions about the “accident” of location that determined skin color in ancient peoples.  Some students originally thought the article was racist because of statements about adaptation but we talked it out and they better came to understand some of the science concepts that I was trying to teach.

    My learning at the Warner School sharpened and strengthened my lifelong focus on issues of social justice.  I am excited about bringing these issues into a science classroom in a meaningful way.

  5. Nancy Ares
    Nancy Ares at |

    Howard Zinn, historian and activist ( http://howardzinn.org/default/), passed away Wednesday, and, as with commemorating MLK Day, many people are posting quotes from Zinn’s various works. One in particular made me think of Bert, Emily, Kathryn, and Jessica’s very insightful, thoughtful blog responses:

    “And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” (from his autobiography, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train”)

    The connection I see to the blog responses is the focus on taking personal responsibility for the ways we live and work, responsibility built on commitments to others. Something I don’t see in the posts is a naïve sense of what is possible. Instead, all three authors do, like Zinn did, recognize that there are major challenges that require hope, self-reflection and collective action. I find it heartening to be reminded that while we will, sadly, always have to work hard against oppression, we don’t have to act alone, we don’t have to hope in vain.

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