A Community of Values
The education community is the most caring, most supportive, and most honest community that I have ever been fortunate enough to be a part of.
When I became a teacher I was welcomed by the other staff members and supported as I learned how to teach. When I became connected through Twitter I was welcomed with resources, answers to questions, and encouragement. When I started going to conferences and first had the experience of my digital PLN converging in real life, I was overwhelmed with the strength of the community; a community whose cultural values are self-evident, shining out with openness, support, authenticity, positivity, and respect.
We pride ourselves in these values. We pride ourselves in this culture. And we pride ourselves in what we are and have been able to accomplish because of this community.
What Lies Beneath the Surface
Last week the hidden reality of our community's culture was exposed. Our perception of what we believe our community to be was shaken in every aspect. Many people reacted with feelings of betrayal and horror, followed by support and calls for change. But others reacted with denial, blame, accusations, and worst of all silence. Returning to a beautiful and merry echo chamber of perceived safety.
And as quickly as the news cycle has changed, conversations have faded — conversations around the disturbing revelations of what lies always just beneath the surface.
These things happen all the time. For some people they happen over and over again. And as insignificant as many of these micro-aggressions might seem, the cumulative effect is lasting. For those of us who bear scars from more escalated, intentional, or physical attacks, the effect can lead us to question the value of our entire existence.
The more we choose to pretend that these are isolated events, that "it could never happen to me", that it hasn't happened to our friends, the more these actions are reinforced and allowed to self-propagate. To feed off of one another, to poison the community. And the longer they are able to exist unacknowledged, unspoken, whispered in silence in the community, the more ingrained they become into the culture.
Let’s be honest, when we go to conferences, we think of it as going on awesome learning vacation. We get to hang out with some of our best friends, meet new people, stay up late, go to parties, and drink copious amounts of coffee to get through it all. We do things we wouldn’t normally do, because hey it’s vacation. Conference culture is set up as an opportunity to escape from the norm. The promotion, marketing, after-parties, give-away prizes, top ten-lists, inspirational keynotes, the inevitable infiltration of the conference twitter stream with #whathappensatXCONstaysatXCON all reinforce this. We’re away from reality. We can do what we want. We can escape accountability.
Where Do We Start
In order to protect the community of support that we have, we must start by changing it's culture. We must stop turning to denial, ignorance, and blame to cope with things that happen that we feel are outside of our control, by beginning with that which we can control.
We must openly acknowledge that micro-aggression, discrimination, objectification, harassment, sexual assault, violence, and rape happen in our community to women and men.
We must actively work to increase awareness that the micro-aggression, discrimination, objectification, harassment, sexual assault, violence, and rape that happens in our community is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.
We must support programs that establish rules and consequences to protect members of our community from micro-aggression, discrimination, objectification, harassment, sexual assault, violence, and rape so that we can change the culture.
We must take the same self-evident values of the education community that we so greatly value and turn them into agents for change.
And we can start by actively demanding the adoption of Codes of Conduct in Education and EdTech Conferences.
First Steps to Change
The only people who can change a culture are the people within the community. EdTechWomen is calling on the members and leaders of our community to make a commitment to changing this culture.
Tweet and share your commitment to changing the culture. Raise awareness of our cultural problem by including conference and event hashtags. Raise awareness of the need for Education Conferences to have Codes of Conduct by using the hashtag #EduCoC.
Our community allows sexual harassment and violence to happen. I will make cultural change by supporting #EduCoC.
Harassment and Violence happen in my #Edtech community. To make my community safe, I support #EduCoC.
Help allow conversations regarding the existence and effects of harassment, discrimination, micro-aggression, objectification, sexual assault, violence, and rape on our community by making the unseen seen and raising awareness.
Add teal squares to the bottom right corner of your public profile pictures. Teal is the recognized color for raising awareness of sexual assault.
Tie teal ribbons to your conference badges. (EdTechWomen will have reels of teal ribbon at conferences we attend. Please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in carrying around a reel of teal ribbons to distribute or feel free to purchase your own to bring to conferences to raise awareness.)
These are only the first steps towards a concerted effort to changing the culture of our community. More effort and activism will follow, but the dialogue must start somewhere.
And it has to start now.
A Few Words :: This is the first in a series of posts that will continue to address this topic. Information regarding programming for the upcoming Leadership Dinner will be posted separately later this week. For more information please visit Conference Code of Conduct and Ashe Dryden's Codes of Conduct 101 + FAQ. Thank you Ariel and thank you Audrey for taking risks, accepting challenges, and inspiring others to stand beside you. The EdTechWomen Events and Community Code of Conduct is available on our website under Events and will hold all participants in this community, engaging in any EdTechWomen events or EdTechWomen spaces of any kind, to this Code of Conduct.
Editor's Note :: The title of this post was changed on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 1:54 PM to better reflect the content of this post. The original title upon publication was "Violence and Oppression in Edtech and What We Can Do About It."