Middle Grounds

“May the weary traveler turn from life’s dusty road and in the wayside shade, out of this clear, cool fountain drink, and rest” R. E. Speer, “Robert Burns,” Nassau Literary Magazine 43 (1888): 469.*

Today, we are in the “middle grounds” of society, economy and the environment. This middle ground encourages the educator, intellectual and citizen to bend beliefs and praxis into new designs taking into account the realities of world systems.  Many recent encounters I have had remind me of the importance of developing and acting on a shared understanding for our collective work in education.

In The Middle Ground  (1991) Richard White describes the process of globalization, genocide, blended culture and mutual aid in the French-Algonquin great Lakes Region from 1650-1815 he writes that “the creation of the Middle Ground involved mutual invention” This mutuality was necessary because the French and Algonquian where displaced (for different purposes ) into a new space/human ecology and confident in the cultural forces that shaped there world view.  In their new- found common landscape however they did not war, or isolate the other but rather took part in the messy business of social, environmental and economic deliberation for mutual aid.  White posits:

Perhaps the central and defining aspect of the middle ground was the willingness of those who created it to justify their own actions in terms of what they perceived to be their partners cultural premises.

What is our shared middle ground as educators, community members and humans?  Forces outside of our control see many cultures, communities, regions, nations and world together at nexus in a new emergent space.  Education has been separated by the industrial and industrial culture for long enough that the new pattern of cultures, one currently under creation in our shared middle grounds takes a moment to see.  But the examples are everywhere.   Grant Litchman writes of interconnected “learning ponds” in a post he recently forwarded to me called Welcome to the Cognitosphere. This post was forwarded after I had shared a video with Grant that Roberto Greco had shared with me…. Both Grant’s post: a narrative of interconnectedness, along with Roberto’s feed that exemplifies his erudite thinking on the interdependence and need for freedom in learning without boundaries cause me to write this post. I could go on, my face to face meetings in the last two weeks with Kim SvickChris Thinnes, Mike Gwaltney, Peter Gow and more at at EdcampIS,  NAIS 13 and TABS Global Symposium along with my conversations (Twitter and other) with MaryAnn Riley, Selin Jessa, Matt Henderson,   Fred Bartels, Christina Jenkins to name a few….not to mention my small rural public school board….exemplify conversations with the traditional to the radical educator and all in between.

I hope that all of you reading this recognize what a moment we are in.  Large corporations in education seek to reinforce the hegemony of industrial education in practice and function  while our schools and projects make motions to upend an industrial revolution long past and acknowledge the information revolution upon us.  We are seeking plans, programs, places and praxis to express our passion for humanity.  Remember as Burns reminded us at the beginning of this post to rest for a moment in “the wayside shade”.  Relish in the relationships you have with the young and elder , new and old and look around at the landscapes that make up your spatial turn. Because as my friend and historian-geographer-networker, Jo Guldi writes: “by ‘turning’ we propose a backwards glance at the reasons why travelers from so many disciplines came to be here, fixated upon landscape, together.”*

See you in the middle grounds.

Readings I suggest:

Berry, W. NKU Commencement Speech http://youtu.be/oRgbLJnjwsQ

Boulding, E. (1990) Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2011 MOOC

Geertz (1977) The Interpretation of Cultures

* Guldi, J. http://spatial.scholarslab.org/spatial-turn/what-is-the-spatial-turn/

Independent School Magazine Spring 2013

Wagner (1981)The Invention of Culture ,

White, R. (1991) The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815