stephanie jones

to be unruly

In Uncategorized on December 7, 2011 at 3:04 am

Donaldo Macedo gave a fabulous talk (passion-filled and fueled, talking like his hair was on fire) at the annual convention of the Literacy Research Association and he made a point of criticizing the scholarly reproduction of knowledge for the sake of reproducing knowledge, and admiring scholars who continue to show up at research conferences to “be unruly.” For the latter claim he pointed to the Goodmans (Yetta and Ken) who could have, Macedo said, stayed at home relaxing and enjoying the good life.

I love this idea of unruliness.

Well, let’s face it, I loved everything the man had to say and the direct ways in which he said these things.

But this idea of showing up to “official” spaces – research conferences, schools, meetings (and more meetings and more meetings), universities, etc. as one way of being unruly…well, I just really love that.

I’m like most people I imagine, I get tired of showing up honestly. I’d rather show up at other places where I wouldn’t be considered unruly at all, but rather quite the opposite, like I fit in with the crowd very well.

But showing up in spaces where people don’t want to hear that things aren’t all peachy, where they don’t want to hear that certain kids and families are constantly getting the short end of the stick, where they don’t want to hear the questions we have – again – about why kids don’t get recess, about why drilling kids with flash cards is still happening, about why kids don’t get to choose what they read and study, about why families have to undergo background checks before they are allowed to volunteer in the school, about why kids aren’t going on field trips, about why every teacher has to teach the same subject at the same time, about why lesson plans have to be submitted in a standard format (why? why? why?). Showing up in those very places and asking those direct questions is a form of activism – a way to be unruly, a way to disrupt – even if only for a few minutes – the comfortable machine that grinds away at kids and teachers and families every day.


Thank you Donaldo Macedo for reminding me that showing up alone can be perceived as unruly in many spaces, and that being unruly in the sanitized institutions of education is one of the most important things I can do.


  1. i wish this had a “like” function, b/c i would click it! 🙂 im also wondering what you would make of the nytimes op ed piece re: poverty and education — and wondering whether we might move from persistent talk of a limited notion of “achievement” to other words that might beget other actions, some of them more than a bit unruly… 😉

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