Radical listening

It occurred to me last night as I sat through yet another dreary meeting -- when a person demands "just give me one example!" S/he really doesn't expect or want one example, and … no matter what might be said -- it will surely fall short of convincing. Usually a person who asks to be convinced is neither interested in being convinced, nor listening to what might be proffered. Next time someone asks -- just give me one example, be aware of the time given to provide the example and note whether the person listens. The challenge for education and educators might not be so much about science and mathematics education as it is about learning to dialogue with others and learn from what they say.

Representation is a thorny issue that is ever present. Who do I represent in this moment? My experience is that there is a tendency to represent "me" rather than "us". I wonder if this is another example of creating binaries. Must it be either - or? In dialogue, speech is not only for the speaker but also for the listener -- not entirely for the listener, but also for. The distinction is important. In what ways is speech "for" a speaker? And in what ways is speech "for" a listener? I do not request -- just give me one example. No, my queries are intended to be expansive. The purpose of the queries is to catalyze thinking about an issue and to expand thinking and associated action -- including inner andoutset speech. I am not speaking to catalyze chatter or to expect immediate outer speech. Nor do I speak with theexpectation that silence will be the primary outcome. Instead I consider speaking as speaking for and to another -- speaking for the purpose of adding to and expanding dialogue.

Let me return to representation. When I speak I am enacting culture -- producing knowledge in action. What is said, when it is said, and how it is said are all contingent on the unfolding structures associated with the fields in which activity is occurring. Interaction is radically historical, actions and interactions being shaped by what has happened when similarcircumstances arose historically. Of course actions and interactions also are mediated by the agencies of others in the field, including the agency of the self. Another way to say this is that enactment occurs in a dialectical relationship of passivity and agency; presupposing other dialectics like self | other. So, how does this lead to the other sense of representation? Do I pursue my own interests in dialogue or do I pursue the interests of others? Why ask the question this way? Is it possible to always pursue the interests of self and other? If this becomes a goal, and hence a focus for agency, can it lead to an ethics of representation that circles back to some of the central tenets of education and our research in education -- radical listening, right speech, identity… is it necessary to be elected in order for representation to be an issue? Or is it a useful stance to take that in social interaction agency necessarily presupposessymmetry in the interests of self and others? Is it a useful way to think about moral conduct? Is it moral to elevate the interests of self over other in socialinteraction? What about the converse? Others over self? What is the unit of analysis? Is some form of equilibrium/symmetry necessary in every singular moment or is equilibrium/symmetry best examined over someinterval of time-space -- such as an event?

If I am elected do I become a delgate who speaks for you? Or am I elected to speak with and for you? Is the with | for dialectic missing in politics? I believe so. In our local community elected delegates speak for without often speaking with the communities that elected them. The argument is that "you elected me to speak for you." Is this how it is? Do I elect anyone to speak for me or do I want my voice to be part of what those I have elected have to say? How will they know if they do not speak with those who elect them? Is election necessary? To what extent does it make sense to argue that all outer speech ispolitical and necessarily involves representing self | other relationships? If frameworks like these mediate agency then over time it also will mediate passivity --- is this what we seek through education? That is, could we have a goal of reshaping agency to foster outcomes like radical listening, right speech, dialogic inquiry and adherence to an ethics that embraces self | other interests -- all for the purpose of creating ahistory that will provide a foundation for different forms of passivity?

Kenneth Tobin 2015