THE BORDERS OF OUR MINDS: A REFLECTION ON THE BORDER PEDAGOGY INITIATIVE
Jennifer Jeffries, Ed.D.
The issues affecting borderland children have often been reduced to "cocktail party talk" in the United States. There is a cuchicheo element to these conversations, combining pity and judgment as the only way to respond to the plight of "those children." A sigh of resignation brings the conversation to a halt. It is akin to Sergiovanni's "congenial" culture. Senge et al. (1994) describe this as "polite discussion" and as, the most dysfunctional form of conversation, aligned with debate because participants hold their position in the act of speaking. However, members mask their positions in an attempt to show politeness, never truly revealing their thinking. It is a practice in deception. Most polite discussions are often filled with words such as "but," "except," "only," and "however."
The Border Pedagogy Initiative provides participants with an opportunity to practice a healthier form of inquiry. Senge et al. (1994) describe it as "skilled discussion" which, includes a balance of inquiry and advocacy. This creates a very productive way of conversing. People who are good at skilled discussion move back and forth between these two forms of conversation very effectively.
It is hopeful that during the first two Border Pedagogy Initiative gatherings the conversation anchored itself between "polite discussion" and "skilled discussion." There is every reason to believe that, if leadership keeps the conversation going, the conversation will move to what Senge et al. (1994) define as "dialogue," which is oriented toward inquiry for the purpose of developing collective understanding by the participants of a given topic. Deriving its meaning from the Greek root word 'dialogos'-through words-dialogue means to move through words.
If skilled discussion and dialogue become the predominate forms of conversation in the Initiative community, it would signal that the Initiative participants have moved past congeniality and into Sergiovani's idea of collegiality.
Another theoretical construct that supports the intent of the Border Pedagogy Initiative is called "appreciative inquiry." The work of Copperier and Srivastva (1987), as adapted by Hammond (1997, p. 24), proposes the following:
Cleary the Border Pedagogy Initiative is a call for all concerned and committed parties to gather in the spirit of "appreciative inquiry." If we think about children in the borderland to be all our children, we-educators north and south-are an organization in the sense that we can become united around common interests and goals. Reverend Willie Barrow once declared that "we are not as much divided as we are disconnected." This is certainly true for the communities in the borderland region. It is important that through appreciative inquiry we learn to transcend borders, issues, concerns, and different ways of knowing and understanding the events that surround us.
The Border Pedagogy Initiative gives us the chance to become connected in new and powerful ways. Wheatley (2002, p. 66) declares that: We already know how to create a healthy life- affirming future for all peoples. We have a different problem-developing the will to act once we know what to do. The gap between knowing and doing is only bridged by the human heart. If we are willing to open our hearts to what's really going on, we will find the energy to become active again. We will find the will and courage to do something. This is true in our individual lives, in our communities and organizations and in our nation-states."
Discussing the power of conversations to help us build community, be in conversation, and begin the process of appreciative inquiry, Wheatley (2002) states that only in "simple, honest human conversation" can the world be changed. Ultimately it will not be a geographic, political or economic border that will thwart us in our effort to unite around the needs of children. It will be the border of our minds that will trip us up. Can we transcend our own personal borders on behalf of all children? Let the dialogue begin and time will tell.
Hammond, S.A. (2002). The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. Plano TX: Thin Book Publishing Co.