conference Archives - The Jose Vilson


Public Education For The Public Good (On Inclusion)

by Jose Vilson on March 9, 2014

in Jose


Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

This past week has been nothing short of nuts.

I had the opportunity to attend (and present and moderate) at the first annual Network for Public Education Conference, a gathering of education activists from across the country, including Diane Ravitch (the organization’s president), Deborah Meier, Karen Lewis, John Kuhn, and a whole host of names everyone has seen in the education sphere.

My first real honor was tuning out adult voices as the moderator of the now-infamous student panel that included activists (and students) Stephanie Rivera, Hannah Ngyuyen, Chicago Student Union founder Isreal Muñoz, and Providence Student Union rebels Bryan Varela and Mayra Mostafa. As Chris Thinnes, who attended the conference live, noted, I assured that all of us stayed deferential to the students, both on the panel and in the audience. I brought out cards for the adults, and let the students in the audience do all the talking. Even with the powerful folks in the audience, Karen Lewis and Katie Osgood among them, I felt like we as adults could learn more by just listening to them and their thoughts for a change.

I still couldn’t shake the jitters, though. My calm exterior didn’t betray the internal angst of the notorious Sunday Morning Common Core panel with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, moderated by edu-blogger and organizer Anthony Cody, and featuring a few others who’ve advocated passionately against the Common Core State Standards and the privatization of public schools (Mercedes Schneider, Paul Horton, Geralyn McLaughlin). Even though others thought it was going to be a 5 on 1, I never had that impression because a) I had cut down my social media intake by 80% or so and b) I don’t see why people felt I had to go “hard” against Randi Weingarten. Without my union, I probably couldn’t advocate as hard as I do.

So, I’ve written numerous times about my ever-evolving position on the CCSS, but, more importantly, I’ve written even more about how reforms always go through people of color first before they go to “white suburban moms.”

To that end, I felt a certain anger after the question was posed about whether folks should join up with the Tea Party to oppose Common Core. To that end, my answer came from a place that wouldn’t let me sit still. I had already known a few of the liberal audience members who wanted to join up with TP to oppose policy like student privacy and CCSS. I have a hard time with this for a few reasons:

  • Public education is for the public good. When most of the students primarily affected by these deleterious reforms are of color, how do we work with people who view folks of color as sub-human and still presume we’re doing good?
  • Public education is for the public good. If the Tea Party succeeds in having student privacy and CCSS addressed, should they continue to rely on liberals who aligned with them on privatization of public schools and anti-women’s rights agenda as well?
  • Public education is for the public good. Do we consider what it means to have an education for the public in the vision of so many of all colors who strived for a truly perfect union?

There’s a big difference between having a difference of opinion, as so many do with our union representatives, for example, and a difference of vision. The difference is in how we view others in the same tent. Do we see each other as equal, capable of leading this movement, or as subordinate, a step towards a goal that eventually excludes? Inclusion along race, gender, and class lines matters. Examining the ways in which we hinder ourselves is so crucial to this work.

I thank the Network for Public Education for inviting me to this tent. I’m just hoping my sleeping bag works as well as the others’ in the night.


p.s. – Thanks to Sabrina and Xian who were in the audience because … because.

{ 1 comment }

My 7 Great Ideas and Themes Behind #TEDxNYED 2011

by Jose Vilson on March 6, 2011

in Jose

Despite my expected candor about the state of education conferences like these, I also reserve the right to speak on the ideas without attacking the person (because, for some reason, using the name of anyone in the edu-tech pantheon makes you vulnerable to fan-boy snipers and gasping doubters clutching their jewels). My TEDxNYED experience started off well enough because a) I live in the city so b) it only took me 30 minutes to get there c) the views at the New York Academy of Sciences were tremendous and d) friends like Diana Laufenberg, Stephen Lazar, and Tara Conley all made the side conferences that much more interesting. Last year, I was a newbie seeking a map to the views and faces who congregated upon The Collegiate School.

This year, I knew the territory too well.

1. I noticed the general theme of making technology human. I appreciated the idea of humanizing technology. Staying connected is important, but it has to be in the context of making those human connections more real, not hiding behind a computer like a modern-day Wizard of Oz.

2. I liked the fact that kids got to read their poetry in front of adults, even if it was teleconferenced. The presenters actually involved kids. In a presentation. With adults! That’s important. Yes, I’m aware there’s a TEDxKids, but the presentations I’ve been to sound like a me-me-me fest. Speaking of which …

3. I fear whenever any presenter uses “I” and “me” a lot. It speaks volumes about their school environment and the possible facades they’re presenting about their “impact”on our future citizens.

4. We (and by “we”, I mean me and my fellow peanut gallery observers) couldn’t help but notice how powerful not having a PowerPoint at a presentation can be. It will either make you look severely under-prepared or supremely confidence and awesome. In both instances, the latter was true.

5. Never mistake popularity for inspiration or relevance. Ever.

6. For that matter, never mistake aloofness or obstinacy for fallacy. For instance, before the conference, I already held certain views about a few speakers. Most of them proved me right, but one in particular made me see my own failures in objectivity. The person can be a jerk or any other set of names I won’t mention on a Sunday, but if they share the same viewpoint or idea I share about the current state of education, then they too are an ally. Which brings me to …

7. Diversity talk is a litmus test … for their openness to new ideas. Yes, I was the first in the Twitter back-channel who brought up the lack of diversity in the audience (the speakers came from all walks of life). Yet, what ensued was two separate discussions: one about problems and one about solutions. I lean more towards the latter. I met others in the conference who knew how to market a typical edu-geek event to more colored people. I even found others with a similar mindset as me who weren’t colored, but understood the need to find different voices based on race, class, gender, and occupation.

Overall, the experience reminded me of the work people like me have to do in order to push the conversation to a more inclusive dialogue. I have to use my bit of influence to ensure that more people who want to open these conversations up come with me.

What did I miss?

Jose, who just wants to talk the ideas out …


The Token’s Worth More Than You Bargained For

by Jose Vilson on August 12, 2010

in Jose

Fuck That Shit

What About Our Dreams?

My favorite part about the GE Futures in Education Conference in Orlando wasn’t the wonderful 85+ degree weather, the beautiful accommodations (including free wi-fi), or even the wonderful speakers ranging from Jon Saphier and Robert Marzano to Ron Ferguson and David Jackson. It was my eclectic crew of math and science teachers who I broke bread with, hated on multiple people with, and had meaty debriefs about the daunting realities that our classrooms represent. In the midst of the edujargon we’re so quick to lean on like “professional learning communities,” “accountability,” and “curriculum integration” (sidenote: we’re likely to use that when we want to be comfortable or we don’t feel the need to explain ourselves to every and anyone), we forget about the real shit, the gangsta, or what some might call the pedagogy.

At the speed of education talk, it’s hard to escape using some of these terms, but more importantly, it’s hard to not clone oneself to sound like the others. When the most popular tweeters talk about ed-tech, then everyone’s going to talk about ed-tech. When the most popular bloggers talk about ed reform, then everyone else is going to talk about it. It’s similar to something I said about #edchat recently: when discussions about certain things get too hard, people go to that which they have an expertise on or that they can simply hypothesize on without making any critical dent into something.

That’s usually when I come in and stomp my foot like I interrupted a fine game of Hokey Pokey.

For some, they appreciate my eloquent, scrupulous thoughts on things because it’s not the same perspective (and the majority of those who appreciate it are White people). For others, though, they’re quick to change topic and become wonky or derisive. But Vilson don’t play that. Often, what this kind of talk does is shut out young voices, Black voices, female voices, gay voices, Asian voices, non-comformist voices … or any voice that doesn’t fit into this frame that’s got a Post-Note label with the word “teacher” on it. Those in the conversation that want real change, even when they may fit into the mold, notice when voices are ostensibly reticent.

When I see pictures of educators clamored together and none of them look like me or have my experience, I don’t think to run away from that crowd. I think: “What could I bring to that dialogue?” When I see a concentration of a certain type of blog, I don’t think: “Well, if everyone else is doing it this way, then I should write that way too. I need the comments.” I think: “What isn’t being talked about here?” I’m not here to agitate for agitation’s sake either; I’m here because conversations about equity, pedagogy, and the voiceless. Those of us with a voice need to speak up, be courageous, and find integrity and passion with our message. We’re not all going to agree, but that’s the part about being uncomfortable that’s going to need more than a bathroom break and a paper towel.

This is also why I have no problem being the only Black / Latino person in the crowd. Sometimes, the token is worth more than the collective bargains for.

Jose, who may be a token in certain settings but never settles for tokenism …


Karma Police (Jealousy Is A Crime)

July 19, 2010 Jose
Radiohead's Thom Yorke

Today, I’m at the beautiful Portofino Hotel for the second year in a row for the GE Conference, where I just heard Robert Marzano (The Art and Science of Teaching) speaking to us about the marrow of this skeleton we call “teaching.” I read his work and wasn’t particularly interested since I’ve heard much of […]

Read more →