📑 Are All Voices Equal?

Bookmarked Are All Voices Equal? – Ideas and Thoughts (ideasandthoughts.org)

I’m grateful for the advent of the web and social media by providing me with a voice. I’ve been able to publish many ideas over that last 12 years that previously would have only lived in my head. Through that publishing, I’ve been able to think through some things and had the benefit of others to add their thoughts as well. However, as much as this has democratized knowledge, it has also diluted the importance of expertise. The barriers of the previous publishing world lacked the ability to include all voices but it did help identify expertise. As adults and educators, I think we have to work harder to identify the smart people and allow their ideas to be heard over the din of social media. Expertise is not found in followers but on the quality and evidence of ideas that have proven the test of time.

Dean Shareski reflects on the place of voice in education. Whether it be students in the classroom or educators online, he argues that there are times when some voices are more important than others. This continues the argument that Thomas Guskey recently made about merely searching the web. I wonder where this leaves participatory culture, comments and blogging? Is it a reminder that such acts are first and fore-mostly selfish?

6 responses on “📑 Are All Voices Equal?”

    1. Indeed I do, and it is a very worthy question to answer Aaron (but then I expect nothing less!)

      Some voices are more important than others, more relevant, stronger, take seniority, carry more weight, etc etc but an issue that must be considered when judging the worth of one voice over another is, for me, context. That is not to say that expertise is not a consideration. It is, and I could debate that point for a looonnnggg time. Yet, when I think about the answer to the question of, “are all voices equal?” context is my main concern.

      As an example for my point, let’s think about student voice:

      In some contexts, the opinion, the view of the student is the most important consideration. This could be in terms of their learning where you are giving the students a choice on what to learn, how to learn or could be on some matter within a school’s decision making. In the same light, though, those very same scenarios could mean that the student’s voice is not an equal voice to those of the teachers and/or of the leaders in a school. Just think how many primary age students would opt for more Maths (or maybe their voice should be listened to in this debate!!). Similarly, there may be some students who would happily spend the school budget on inviting Messi to teach them tricks or Japanese digital toilets but that’s not really going to be feasible in most schools. The final decisions have to be with those people who can make decisions in the best interests of everyone in the community. Yes, that is about expertise but it is the context which is really important. Considering context to be ‘the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed’ (Google) then knowing what the circumstances are around voices in a debate or decision, seems to me to be very significant.

      Of comparable significance, though, when looking at voices and in particular student voice, is not equality but action or ‘being listened to’ as is described by Fielding:

      “It may be that the action recommended or hoped for is not possible or not agreed by those who are in a position to make final choices. But action, if only in terms of a considered and public response, remains a necessary consequence of the collective endeavour in which the
      voices of students spoke with conviction and determination.” (Fielding, 2001, available at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Fielding/publication/245584644_Beyond_the_Rhetoric_of_Student_Voice_new_departures_or_new_constraints_in_the_transformation_of_21st_century_schooling/links/5471bf360cf216f8cfad144a.pdf)

      In this work, Fielding shows how inequalities do exist in voices in education and, although he makes no judgement on whether that is right or wrong, he does explain how he has seen student voices dealt with effectively – through listening, acknowledgement and action.

      I hope these comments add to the debate. I will just leave with the image that comes to my mind and I apologise for the lack of originality but this comes to mind when I think of the answer to this question: See http://interactioninstitute.org/illustrating-equality-vs-equity/


      Nick (@largerama)

      Also on:

  1. I like your question, Aaron, and I like the detailed response from Nick. There is a time and place for listening to the voice of experts, ditto the voice of students, parents, teachers and other stakeholders, it is up to us all to make informed decisions about the time and place.

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