Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?
As Newsweek editor Batya Ungar-Sargon has noted: wokeness is, almost always, a smokescreen. By focusing the attention and energy of the rich and powerful on say, whether using the word Latinx is preferable to Hispanic, we let them off the hook for actually doing something about the fact that Latinos remain more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line as whites and Asians.
The larger point, it seems, is one education reformers would do well to engage with. When I listen to smart debates, between say Ian Rowe and Sharif El-Mekki last week at the NACPS* conference, what you hear is two people driving toward that same goal – how to help people gain by it – but with different perspectives and methods. Too many people in the jeering and cheering section seem most animated by the theater of it**, where to draw lines, and how to make sure people know what side of the line they are on (and a lot of preference falsification in terms of what people say publicly and privately).
To use the woke vernacular, seems problematic?
*By the way, NACPS (yes, disclosure, a client of BW) hosted two genuine debates at their recent conference. Not the typical education conference debate where it’s three people arguing fractional differences around the same general point (‘with respect, we don’t need to just get rid of the SAT, that’s insufficient, we should put it on a rocket and send it into the sun!’) while a moderator phones it in. Rather, actually divergent, challenging, and informed points of view. It was fantastic and a genuine learning opportunity.
**Related, many of these conversations are not new, they are instead long running debates that get treated as new flattening the diversity of viewpoints along the way. Rowe and El-Mekki both make important historical references too often missing in these conversations.