At the end of my last trip to the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), I decided I no longer wanted to submit proposals or attend the conference. I had lots of reasons, but here are some of the biggest:
- The AERA Annual Meeting embraces mainstream (nonthreatening) research. As researcher and activist Jeff Duncan-Andrade pointed out in a session I attended, AERA offered up Diane Ravitch at its opening plenary session. Ravitch, after 30 years of supporting standardized testing and teacher accountability based on test results, recently reversed course and stood up against standardized assessments. “Which is super,” Duncan-Andrade said, but added that Diane Ravitch should be spending the rest of her career in apology to all the kids whose lives she helped to destroy.
- The AERA Annual Meeting does not support dissenting or alternative voices. It’s true that lots of individuals and a handful of sessions introduced radical or controversial theories or ideas, but those were drowned out by the plenaries, featured speakers, and sessions designed to promote the general mainstream of educational research.
- The AERA Annual Meeting does not effect or result in any significant, lasting change in education.
- The AERA Annual Meeting is expensive. Which wouldn’t be a problem if the membership and attendance fees resulted in any significant, lasting change in education. But it doesn’t.
So. Here we are, a mere 9 days before the submission deadline for AERA 2012, and I’m preparing to submit at least four different proposals, and I’m hoping to have at least one accepted so I can go to Vancouver in mid-April. I haven’t changed my mind about any of the points above. So why in the world am I spending so much time and energy on a conference that goes against everything I believe comprises good educational research?
- Someone’s gotta be the chainsaw. I know lots of people who feel like I do about AERA, and some of them have chosen to no longer attend. It’s a good decision, choosing not to participate in the AERA circus, and it means those people can spend their energies in far more awesome ways. But we also need people to work on tearing AERA down, and I’m willing to do my best.
- Someone’s gotta bring the heat. If accepted, I promise to introduce dissent, to introduce an alternative perspective in my presentations, in my participation as an audience member, and in my attendance at business meetings for the Divisions and SIGs of which I am a member.
- Someone’s gotta bring the challenge. I am planning on organizing a protest against the fees and ineffectuality of AERA. Tentatively, I plan to organize attendees to commit to donating the $70-$205 they would spend on registration fees for the Annual Meeting to one or more local educational initiatives. Attendees could announce their participation in this protest by wearing an armband indicating their refusal to pay the registration fee. Let’s say that just 4% of the estimated 13,000 attendees donate their registration fees. That would result in a pool of at least $70,000 to support local initiatives–a drop in the bucket to some, but a much needed income source for others.
What do you think, dudes? Wanna join me in taking a chainsaw to AERA?