Where Do We Go From Here

Now that the fog has lifted, the smoke has diffused and the reality of our choices have been exposed: Now what? Or as Dr King posed, in the title of his final book: Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

The beauty and safety of life in the international school world is the feeling of a certain remove. The separation of geography and time somehow protects us. It’s as if we are sovereign islands buffered from the tumult of life back in America. But not really. Not ever.

Here in New York, which unlike the local mindset, is not the center of the universe, we have all awakened from the haze of denial and the aftershock of reality, to resume getting on with our lives. As educators we are faced with the thorny and existential proposition: How do we move forward?

With a sense of solidarity and regard for all of my international colleagues from Barcelona to Moscow, I share the following questions as handles and levers for making sense of our new reality and for continuing to infuse a sense of hopefulness and civic responsibility in all the students we work with and the teachers whom we support:

How do we grow global mindedness (cultural appreciation and intercultural understanding) in every child/student in a time of sectarianism, insecurity and divisiveness?

How do we infuse critical and creative thinking not across or into curriculum, but as the very basis for becoming educated and aware?

How do we tap into all students, a sense of agency, idealism and social imaginations to imagine the world as it should be, and provide them with the tools and capacities to act?

If education is the linchpin for democratic living, what does that look like in our schools, our classrooms and our boardrooms?

How does dissent and resistance function in the face of the irrational, the bellicose and the authoritarian with the threat of compliance and retaliation?

These are, in the veritable Socratic sense, meant to provoke and not prescribe. We are all at the dawn of an historical moment in which uncertainty and anxiety colors the global landscape. There is nothing to be taken for granted. And nothing that can be ignored. What we can do, is hold onto the immense responsibilities of using education to teach the young how to become passionate, ethical and inquisitive human beings. Or as the great educational philosopher Maxine Greene, once described, now is a moment when educators must become “lights in dark times.” I concur. It is neither a time for silence or for retreat, but a time to illuminate what matters.


About David Penberg

David Penberg is an urban and international educational leader. He has held leadership roles in non-profits, community-based organizations, independent, international and charter schools, and in higher education. He has a deep grounding in progressive education, the cross-cultural experience and leadership development. Dr. Penberg has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He was a fellow in the Carey Leadership Program at Bank Street College (1982-84) and Klingenstein Fellow for International School Heads at Teachers College, Columbia University (2008). He was the founding director of the nationally recognized Liberty Partnerships Program at Bank Street College. Since then, Penberg has held posts as Head of Studies and Head of School in international schools in Mexico City and Barcelona. He was most recently the Head of School at Innovate Manhattan Charter School in the lower east side and is an adjunct at Pace University’s Teaching Fellows program. He abides by Auden's dictum "We were put on earth to make things."
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