We are all familiar with kids who sit, crossed legged, arms folded, with a pout, refusing to do what we ask of them. They refuse to put on their pajamas at bedtime, eat their peas at dinner, or write a paragraph at school. Of course, refusing is a form of power. Nikole Hannah-Jones visited Ann Arbor last week and talked about refusing to maintain the status quo of racism, rising authoritarianism, and disinformation campaigns. She had a power point behind her: Say: I Refuse. She urged us to take a hard look at the systems and institutions in our lives right around us, in our workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods, remarking that we have more power than we think we do.
And kids know their power.
Very. Much. So.
When children refuse, their refusals are often a cry for freedom, spirit, agency, joy, and …messiness in learning. They need to make mistakes along the way, to scribble out and revise their young developing thoughts, and to shape their identities as they make sense of their places in the world around them.
Certainly, we can’t have our schools running amok. We don’t want children tearing through classrooms in a manner that we call “misbehaving.”
But here’s the thing:
Running amok is a refusal to read, write, think, and share when
the power of literacies is taken away from them.
In a literacies circle, educators can think about and discuss the power that children readily wield:
Why are we having a power struggle?
Why is there a refusal to listen? Are adults listening to kids as much as the kids are expected to listen to adults?
Is what we are asking a demand for simple compliance? Does the request make sense to the child?
How do we practice humility and empathy?
Where is the humanity in the face of power?
What is the impact on our collectiveness, our caring for all?
Are we looking at information, misinformation, or disinformation?
Are we being asked to take things at face value?
Are there voices that offer multiple perspectives? Does the attempt for power incite high conflict or extreme concepts of binaries?