This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Jordan Mroziak
I have, throughout my life, had a certain pride in the knowing of facts. I think this comes from the indoctrination into a school system that equated success with points awarded for coming up with facts on demand. I think it is pretty safe to say that no chemist regularly times themself on how fast they can fill out the periodic table; no historian gives themselves true/false tests on who participated in what battles; and no musician writes chord analysis of their music to show they can perform a piece. These were all parts of my education...and none of it required demonstration of application, evaluation, analyses, or even superficial personal opinion. And yet, even knowing how flawed this system was in giving me a voice, providing a sense of agency, or developing critical thinking skills...I have to admit well throughout college and into adulthood, I felt a weird bias towards those who underperformed in school. So when I read, Disdain for the Less Educated Is the Last Acceptable Prejudice, I felt seen in a very uncomfortable way.
So I’m grateful for Michael Sandel in providing a voice, acknowledging the complexity, and grappling with a very real tension that exists inside of me as much as it exists at the core of our school systems. And I’ve worked hard over recent years to not only see my own biases but to confront them in ways that work to disarm and educate. This is not an easy task - we all find ourselves (at one point or another) confronting the issues that are part of the fabric of our being. At least, I think we SHOULD confront those things if we hope to grow. And what is learning if not an intentional act of growth? An aiming towards a future that, while being compassionate with the individual that we are now, knows that we are capable of greater - a stretching forth to learn about the REALLY valuable things. Not how fast we fill out forms from memory, but how we might be better people and how we might better live in community. And how we can undo the harms perpetrated by the systems of our youth, maintain the assets that we find to be noble in them, and come together across the established lines of “success” and “failure” to redefine our social landscape. Sometimes, maybe too often, school teaches us that there are winners and losers. Us and them.
Perhaps, with an ounce of humility, we might un-learn this. And if we say that this is too idealistic, too pollyanna, maybe it’s only because we’ve been taught as much.
Jordan Mroziak, Ed. D is the Director of Community Engagement at CMU’s CREATE Lab. His work considers the intersections of inquiry, empathy, technology, and art in the shaping of community and learning practices. Jordan has a background is music technology but tries to avoid being pulled into public demonstrations of his undergraduate degree. Asking Jordan to answer questions only yields more questions. He prefers it that way.