Connectedness in Knowing and Leading: Are We Ready for the Effort?
Lorilee R. Sandmann
Professor, University of Georgia
Connected knowing rejects isolated, competitive modes of learning. In an era when the population is more diversified and social issues no long stop at the door of the educational institutions, the world is calling for connectedness for solutions. Harold Garfinkel (1967) once stated that what we know always depends on where, when, and with whom we know. That is situated, subjective, and collaborated knowing. It is not just playing “the doubting game” (Elbow, 1973, 148) – knowledge generation takes far more than polemics.
As John Saltmarsh has posted in his blog, the next generation of engaged scholars is more diverse, more tied to the communities, more tuned to social justice, and more collaborative. Such scholars are connected knowers. Rather than researching about communities and teaching to students, we want research with and through communities and teach with and through our students, as allies and advocates as we seek answers through diverse ways of knowing for the betterment of society. On the other hand, we are tempted by the comfy idea that “great minds think alike,” a culture that elevates individuals over the collective, and a discourse that obscures unification with uniformity. In the mist, we lose sight that “knowledge is made by people together…. to specific places with histories and cultures, and to different perspectives” (O’Meara’s blog). True connected knowing does not come naturally or easily. Spelman (1988) noted that knowing others, even those who are much like us, is strenuous. Connected knowing is “a rigorous, deliberate, and demanding procedure, a way of knowing that requires work” (Clinchy, 1996, p. 208).
As a firm believer that leadership matters, I can’t help thinking about connected leading, an idea intrigued by the notion of connected knowing. Rustled with many notions such as leadership for social justice, transformational leadership, shared leadership, and collective leadership, the field of educational leadership is definedly unsettled. How can leadership ensure and promote connected knowing within campuses and with communities? My study of the Carnegie Foundation’s community engagement classified institutions reveal that leadership for community engagement is a multi-layered, connected function running along the contour of essential expertise, rather than fixated with positions and pinned to individual leaders.
Excited as I am, I believe the 2012 conference is a live example of connected knowing. Differences are not something that should separate a common cause if we acknowledge and appreciate them. The real danger is a blindness and unwillingness to dismantle the wall that divide us and block the connections. Are we ready and committed to the effort that such connected knowing and leading will take?
Clinchy, B. M. (1996). Connected and separate knowing: Toward a marriage of two minds. In Goldberger, N. R., Clinchy, B. M., Tarule, J. M., & Belenky, M. F. (Eds.), Knowledge, difference, and power: Essays inspired by women’s ways of knowing (pp. 205-331). New York, NY: Basic Books.
Elbow, P. (1973). Writing without teachers. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Spelman, E. (1988). Inessential woman: Problems of exclusion in feminist thought. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.