Today marked the official beginning of the International Democratic Education Conference. As luck and fortuitous timing would have it, this year’s conference is in my own backyard of Boulder, CO on the CU – Boulder campus. It’s been a full first day of meeting new folks, thinking about what democratic education means and whether our contemporary definitions of the concept shift depending on context.
I’ll have more on the conference tomorrow. For right now, I’ve been mulling the words of Grace Lee Boggs, a 98-year-old Detroit activist who recorded a message as part of IDEC’s opening. The conference is surely a collection of education activists who are constantly considering their roles as change makers. Reflecting on the decades she’s spent working in communities in Detroit, Boggs said this:
Movement building is helping people realize that the end of one way of life is not the end of all life.
I like these words for their complexity. They harness the essence of learning. Growth, wisdom, new skills, these all mark subtle changes in and transitions from one way of life to something new, without also marking the end of the individual who existed before.
The words are also dangerous. While I heard them (and I’m sure Boggs meant them) as a credo for the assembled activists, I can’t help thinking how easily they could fit in the mouths of the colonizers as much as the colonized. They could find home in the pages of Abby Hoffman’s Steal This Book while just as comfortable in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I suppose this is the more important message for those who think of ourselves as change makers.