Why I am no longer talking to salesmen about education

This post borrows on Reni Eddo-Lodge, 2017- “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race”  for the overall construct of refusing to engage in conversations that render me invisible.

In her introduction, she states: “I’ve written this book to articulate the feeling of having your voice and confidence snatched away from you in the cocky face of the status quo” (Eddo-Lodge, 2017:xvii).

This book was recommended to me and I read it during lockdown.  I have used it to reflect on the psyche of white corporate middle-class male privilege as if affects me in my current role where I look into that cocky face nearly every day.

see https://www.npr.org/2017/11/14/563728725/why-im-no-longer-talking-towhite-people-about-race-is-a-call-to-action

My standing place:

  • I refuse to accept the legitimacy of the history of mass compulsory schooling. It was never set up in the best interests of children and young people.
  • I refuse to accommodate the behaviours of others who feel they have the right to disconnect from the conversation when someone who has a different experience (Me!) tries to articulates their experience.
  • I reject conclusions drawn from lives that have been lived oblivious to the fact that mass institutional education has damaged very many people, and continues to be used to perpetuate inequality.

This is what happens when the middle-class advantage seeps into conversations about education:

“you’re not living in the real world”

“It’s what the customer wants”


They’ve never had to (or been expected to) think about what they are saying in power terms- about who has set the terms of engagement, who has the right to speak and who doesn’t.

They seem to truly believe that their experiences of life and the ‘real world’ of business are universal and unquestionable

Contrary opinions are received as an affront and defensiveness stops further dialogue.

They feel a right to tell you that you are unequivocally wrong.

I am required to prioritise a business discourse and ergo their feelings about the ‘rightness’ of the educational experience they think we should design.

Logical fallacies devoid of history and the experience of the vast majority of the world- who do not benefit from the meritocratic equation!

I’m silenced

They appear completely confused, as if I am you are spinning a story that has no evidence base, but it’s not really my job to ‘unconfuse them’ and I just shut up.

I can’t talk to these people anymore because of the consequent denial or erasure of another perspective.

Even if they hear me they are not listening, not really.

Being a woman does not help- risk of behaviour being translated as overemotional female, need to ‘toughen up’, get a grip on the real world etc or else.

By virtue of advanced qualifications, I am positioned as the academic living in the ivory tower.

If I tell my story it risks being trivialised or being ‘the exception’ and so my experience is as an outlier and therefore discounted or minimised.

I’m worried

The global pandemic has heightened anxieties about economic collapse. This is retrenching rather than interrupting the ubiquitous politics of capitalism.

They seem happy to move closer and closer to a system that progressive educators have been trying to dismantle for a hundred years.

They won’t know what they had til it’s gone i.e ‘we paved paradise and put up a Plunket chart’

I’m offended

I insult my own integrity when I list to this nonsense masquerading as the truth.

It’s astounding to be in the presence of people who feel entitled to speak, who have no doubt of their permission to speak and who become indignant when asked to consider another perspective.

They have not lived the other side of having been outcast by the structure of schooling.

I am expected to validate deficit strategies to supporting increasing opportunities for people of colour e.g. bring them up to scratch so they too can play in the status quo sandpit. As if by simply increasing our numbers of Maori learners we are helping to reduce inequality. (Maybe we would, if we actually put in place strategies that represent and validate Te Ao Maori).

I’m fucking angry.

People feel entitled to challenge our model and are given airtime rather than being interrupted.

The inability to be alerted to another paradigm as the current one has benefitted them and they have no alternative constructs.

I have to sit in meetings dominated by sales focus as if the real impacts of measuring people’s learning using old school measures is trivial.

I’m amused

The levels of unselfconscious bias and ignorance are laughable. (Or would be, if these people did not have the power).

Do they not see that their arguments against my principles are positioning me as as an irrational or deluded other? OMG this is sociology 101 and I just can’t take it seriously.

Yeah nah- school guidance counsellors had a go at making me feel like I was confused and bad-  not buying it.

I’m ambivalent

I’ve been told to be staunch and raise hell but  I’m not a martyr.

I can’t be bothered having conversations as we’re still not on the same page.

I’ve taken 50 years to get to here and I’m tired of pushing back.

I don’t have enough power to push against this current tide of history, but I can draw a boundary around myself.

I’m only acutely aware of the hidden (and not so hidden) hurts of schooling because I was marked out as different for refusing to swim with the tide. The ‘marked identity’ of being a school refuser/phobic/truant allows me to analyse this as an outsider, even though my current position entitles me to claim and occupy the status of having “made it” through education.

I am comfortable being that outsider- it’s a gift. It allows me to notice things that many others don’t.

Staying silent is an act of self-preservation. I am used to keeping my own counsel.

Express contrary feelings I drink a potent neurological cocktail and I’m drunk for far longer than the actual time spent in the conversation. Why would I do this to myself? I’m not the one drinking the fucking Kool-Aid.

I’m bored

I’m over circular conversations.

I want to work alongside people who give me energy and support me to thrive.

I am not the work I do, I am the person I am (Toni Morrison).