“No time passed is good enough for my living,” Dionne Brand – a Black poet and essayist who lives in Toronto – contends, in response to Indigenous poet Billy-Ray Belcourt’s question “what if any, is the relationship between nostalgia and poetry?”. Unfolding on an episode of the Between the Covers podcast hosted by David Naimon, Brand continues: “I can only think of the future, the place where we might live, which would refute all that we are living; negate and tear up all that we are living. I am always living in the future…my work is to live in the future”. When we listen to Brand’s words as a pedagogist might, we are struck by the emphasis on ideation as a world-making tactic: to envision a future that refutes the neoliberal, settler colonial pillars of existing early childhood education because the future must be imperceptible; it is a requirement that the future be illegible to the white supremacist, humanist, developmental grammars of the present. A pedagogist, learning with Brand, is uninterested in creating a “better” future where better is simply a synonym for status-quo with a slight social justice flavour. A pedagogist is, instead, interested in discerning how and why different questions and concerns matter differently to specific educational experiences and responsive curriculum-making such that we might generate situated, responsive pedagogies grounded in the ongoing rhythms, politics, ethics, and flows of an early childhood or post-secondary education space.
We are inundated with questions of returning and restoring in education at present: there are conference calls for papers, journal special issues, and an avalanche of publications both developmental and outside developmental logics that take up questions of return: how do we enact (or exact) a return to the “new normal” in education, they ask. How do we take today and make it a yesterday in 2018, pre-pandemic, pre-world shaking virus? Some take a more nuanced approach, asking how we might return. Some ask why – why return to a past filled with oppression, injustice, and ontological violence when this is a moment to decide not to return, not to proceed in the vein of reiterating what was. We might also wonder if we can talk of a re-turn at all, since returning implies having gone somewhere, a shift, a movement. We wonder if in the educational worlds that we inhabit we can claim that we have gone somewhere or just stayed, repeating what is already given. Here we hear Brand: “my work is to live in the future”. To return is to refuse nostalgia, to be deeply suspicious of anything labelling itself the “new” or “normal” or “new normal”. Instead, a pedagogist might grapple with this emphasis on returning, asking herself where this desire to return in early childhood education lives – who wants to return? On what ground? Why? What are the gestures of returning? She might also deepen her understanding on the intimate intersection between acts of returning, memory and pedagogical work. How might we enhance this relation within our practices? Particularly when attending to curriculum making and story making, she might also pay attention to the ways in which, pedagogically speaking, returning is both of the past and of the future. What are the pedagogical processes set in motion (and not) in the guise of returning to the institution, returning to what it was we abandoned in a snap in 2018? Perhaps returning is a practice to contest, to be skeptical of, to ask what returning makes meaningful and imperceptible in education spaces. Rather than a process, this makes returning matter as a non-innocent politic.
It is these questions of returning that our Fall 2022 issue of the PNO Magazine pivots upon. The images shared with each article are from Adrianne Bacelar de Castro and are part of a series that explores “what it meant to stay for longer periods inside the home and what happens when the space of home becomes the sight. It is about how to pay attention closely noticing ordinary objects through alternate points of view”. We felt these images were fitting for our questions of returning, as these images invite a return of sorts as we orient ourselves amid their disorienting frames.
To begin this issue, we share a stunning piece created by Alicja Frankowski, Jenna D’Andrea, Lisa Johnston, and Tesni Ellis. They share their curatorial process of coming to name the 2022 York Graduate Students in Education Conference as “re:turn”. They story how “the process of thinking about re: as a prefix, meaning both again and back, hinted at our relations with histories and futures and resonated with our feelings of being in the midst of something significant, a pivotal moment full of potential and consequence”. Re then, marks a doubled move that navigates past with future – something a pedagogist must know well as she learns a context and then participates in collectively creating an otherwise to that context. At the heart of Frankowski, D’Andrea, Johnson, and Ellis’ piece is a gorgeous poem built of contributions from different conference collaborators. This poem is a reminder of the interdisciplinary texture that a pedagogist might bring to her thinking, and what this opens up for thinking returning as messy, unsteady, ongoing work.
Then, we share an interview with Dr. Adam Davies where Cristina and Nicole think some questions of return with Adam. We begin by delving into Davies’ work, noticing how they centre a politic of embodied, felt knowledge in their scholarly activism. We first discuss the interruptions that Davies sees most pressing for pedagogy to offer in our times, a time ripe with discourses of returning. Then, following Davies’ discussion of how our bodies carry pedagogical knowledges and stories, we ask who (and how) we might co-conspire with in such pedagogical projects, and Davies turns us toward questions of who we want to be in relation with and why – and, who we refuse to be in relation with. This ethic of refusal grounds our final question, where we ask how critique and pedagogy intertwine for Davies. They remind us that refusal is always mounted from within a system wherein “perhaps this is where intentionality can be reclaimed in a reflexive manner — a type of intentionality that imagines a new future, critiques the present, while leaving the self open for change and randomness”. This conversation reminds us that the work of the pedagogist in contesting normativity in all its shapeshifting frames – technocratic practice, hetero and cis-normativity, ableism, child development – is not a project of nihilism but one of a resolute insistence on tuning to the pedagogical in the name of hope and (re)invention.
Finally, our third contribution to this issue is a conversation with three post-secondary institution pedagogists, Paolina Camuti, Marah Gardner Echavez, and Cory Jobb. In this interview, Nicole and Cristina begin by asking if we want to return as post-secondary institution pedagogists – and if yes, why? This raises questions of what we might be returning to, disrupting, inheriting, and refusing with pre-service educators. Then, we ask a question of methodology: how do we return? Here, Camuti, Echavez, and Jobb gesture toward dialogue, critical thinking, subjectivity, tension, and the importance of pedagogical documentation as a process concerned with the how of our many threads of returning. Finally, we conclude by highlighting the tensions that have emerged through Camuti, Echavez, and Jobb’s responses, opening space for the pedagogists to dialogue with one another. What we want to carry with us from this conversation is that returning as a post-secondary pedagogist means returning to many contested spaces from the early childhood classroom through the post-secondary classroom and to the faculty boardroom. There is nothing simple about returning.
Taken together, these three pieces make clear that we need to think pedagogically if we want to take this moment of return as an instance for imagining how we might live well together in the educational worlds we are part of. We need to ask questions of return that a pedagogist might: what is the value of returning to what past or what present? To whom are these yesterdays and todays perceptible, livable? What are the futures we might foreclose in the name of return? Can the question of returning become an invitation towards a praxis that unsettles epistemological certainty? And, revisiting with Dionne Brand as we did at the outset of this editorial, how might a pedagogist live in the future where the future is not a hypothetical haven but is made in the labour of refusing, collectively, the oppressions, violences, and inequities of the present in education?