Conference Theme: The Dynamics of Difference
Colloquially, we refer to difference in multiple ways. It can refer to a quality of being unlike or dissimilar from a standard or norm. It can refer to a disagreement or argument about something meaningful while also referring to the cause of the disagreement. Difference could even describe a significant change or effect on a situation. Invariably, we encounter difference on a daily basis, yet, we much less often consider how standards, norms, and meanings give context to these dynamics of difference.
As educators both within and outside of school contexts, we know educational spaces, from Pre-K through higher education, are a crucible for these dynamics of difference. John Goodlad, recognizing the important role of schools to embrace the interactions, relationships, and interdependencies of local cultures and environments, asserts how “education is corrupted when the schools are expected to inculcate belief in certain values and traditions rather than promote open inquiry into them” (p. 64). While difference and conflict are a natural state of affairs, schools and educators are often encouraged to deny, ignore, and marginalize problems rather than confront and resolve them.
For over 30 years, the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) has led a central role in emphasizing the importance, in a democratic society, of supporting schools to go beyond the custodial functions and regulations of schools so that we develop in our citizens the wisdom necessary to “sustain in good health the delicate social and political ecology of the complex, moral community that is the United States of America” (Goodlad, p. 153).
The dynamics of difference have been with us since our county was born. How might we examine our differences as a sign of our vitality? How can we demonstrate that difference gives testimony to our resiliency? How does difference actually support and sustain democratic life? The 2019 NNER Annual Conference invites you to explore these crucial questions and engage in conversation and research that explores the Dynamics of Difference. The conference offers a venue for educators and public school constituents from various settings to share their ideas, their research, and their knowledge of best practices in relation to one of the three connecting strands described below.