We recently sat down with three doctoral students who are midway through their first-year of graduate studies at UC Santa Cruz. As they embark on careers dedicated to improving the quality and accessibility of schooling, we wanted to provoke their ongoing efforts toward self-discovery by asking: what is the single-most revelatory discovery or new understanding that you’ve encountered thus far at UCSC? Here are their responses:
Salvador Huitzilopochtli: The first paper of the first quarter of my first year in this program was unnecessarily difficult to write. I was nervous and full of insecurity. My mind was working much harder than necessary under the self-imposed pressure to produce a ‘brilliant’ work. However, my disposition toward the work has since changed. I have embraced the work of reading, digesting, and writing (not necessarily in that order) and find myself freer to be productive. I realize that I am prepared, I want to be here, and that I really enjoy intellectual endeavor. I look at my professors, peers, and advisor and realize that I am exactly where I belong.
S.N.: During the first half of my quarter, I ignored the world outside of my readings. Then one day, I subscribed to a news blog and education-related current events started to flood my inbox. As I began to catch up on the current state of affairs, I was reminded of my conviction for social change and why I chose a doctoral program in Education as opposed to any other field or discipline. Like Freire says, “we cannot be pedagogues with these traits (hope, love, conscientizacao, and freedom) if we are not indignant about the existence of conditions of oppression” (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008). Often we ignore news stories to prevent becoming angry or depressed. We forget that the “future is not predetermined [and] anger should be partnered with critical hope that we have the capacity (and responsibility) to act to change oppressive conditions” (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008).
Sarah Rapp: Our schools and educational system are not neutral or objective: what is taught, how, and to whom always springs from a particular ideology. More often than not, stakeholders in schools are so immersed in the normed policies and practices that the meanings behind them are not questioned or explored. Educational research can help to illuminate the backstory, and then (hopefully) guide us all to more nuanced and helpful conversations about schooling.