Listen to a recording of this blog post as you read.
It’s difficult to be an anarchist in six feet of snow! As I shovelled and wrangled with the snowblower this past weekend I thought I’d be a bit anarchistic and not follow the rule to clear the sidewalks in front of my house. Being compelled by a law to remove the snow just didn’t have any weight after working on the driveway for over an hour. By then, the snow, and the machine I was manoeuvering, was getting the better of me. But my civic conscience rolled the ‘wheels in my head’ and “thought controlled the will and used the individual, rather than being used by the individual” (Shantz, pg 126). My civic duty to my neighbours overcame my resistance. The children who walk along my street on their way to school would be in danger from the rushing traffic. I made the decision to act in a responsible way and continued to remove the snow until the sidewalks were cleared.
My mind turned to how anarchy in education works the same way as my snow blowing experience. For classroom teachers or school leaders, it’s the “two levels of the wheels in the head”, identified by Shantz, that control the will. These levels – the everyday life and the ideals that move people to sacrifice themselves for the greater good – are identified by Shantz as the mechanisms that prevent freedom. But, just as my own wheels rolled over my will to leave the sidewalk unplowed, the will to clear the sidewalk to make a difference for others emerged. This will to make a difference is very much alive in today’s schools. It may be subverted by the machine that operates education (standardized testing, data management systems) there are many individuals in my own educational communities that ‘break the law’, as Thoreau suggests. They make decisions about the injustices, just as Thoreau states, to either ‘let it go’, and hope it will wear smooth or wear out, to consider if the “remedy will be worse than the evil” or break the law if the injustice “requires you to be the agent of injustice to another” (Thoreau, p.7).
The term anarchist conjures images of disorder, lawlessness, and nihilism. Educators who make individual decisions, in the best interest of their students or their school, are not viewed as anarchists. These individuals take on the role of agents. Their agency, when taking control in these classroom/school contexts, makes them agents of change. Educators act from principle, perception and performance of right, to change things and relations (Thoreau, pg 7). Teachers and school leaders frequently make choices to think for themselves and act from their own conscience, rather than the fear of punishment, when injustice impacts children. There are many who follow the rule “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible” (Dalai Lama). This doesn’t make them anarchists – there are still rulers and rules – it makes them agents of change, in small ways that make a difference every day. Just as my singular actions with a snowblower in six feet of snow, agents of change are everywhere, doing small acts of lawbreaking or law following, for all the right reasons.
AJCI, (May 20, 2011). Gears. [image] Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/9K8Kcr
Becraft, A. (Oct. 23, 2011). Gears of war. [image] Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/ayx2m3
Shantz, J. (2012). Spaces of learning: The anarchist free skool. Retrieved from http://rebels-library.org/files/anarchistpedagogies.pdf
Thoreau, H.D. (1849). Civil Disobedience. Retrieved from http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper2/thoreau/civil.html