Education and the Fear Problem: An Investigation of “Truths”
R. Michael Fisher
Editorial Note: The original plan was to publish this article with the Journal of Unschooling & Alternative Education. After submitting the draft, published here in full as Technical Paper No. 71, it was clear to me that the editor of that Journal and the philosophy he has toward critique and research, was not at all compatible with my intent to publish a piece that was investigative and revealing of a problem with educators, and in this case “visionary” educators. After reading the editors very harsh critique of my work in this paper and his common concern I was “unfair” (repeated three times in his letter response), it was clear to me that being fair or unfair is not the way to get to truth of the matter. After a phone call with the editor, and I appreciate his candor and his openness to discuss this article, that I just could not revise it and try to soft-sugar coat what I have been attempting to show is the case (now empirically) that educators as a whole (and now even so-called “visionary” educators) are just not very interested and not very competent to discuss the current 21st century Fear Problem. The editor’s approach to a politically correct and more institutionally restrained addressing of this problem, if not censoring “truths” I have come by hard-earned in this fearwork and critique I do, are not a hopeful sign that anything is going to change much. I would rather let history judge the worth of this article, than one editor or a scholarly reviewer (whom I also asked to look at the draft and he was more or less also wanting me to soft-sugar coat it)—but two other scholarly reviewers I sent the piece to were not of that opinion and thought it was a good study and critique that needed to reveal what it does about educators and the topic of fear. Therefore, after 3 weeks consideration, and even trying to re-write another version of this paper, much softer, I just felt I was betraying the essence of my creative and investigative journalism approach in this study. Of course, I am not saying at all that the study herein of 15 visionary educators is flawless and did all the right things so-called. That’s minor compared to the truth it reveals—and, of course, some may argue it is only my “truth” being shared, as they will not like my interpretation of the larger truth that is exposed in this piece. Also, to be clear, this editor is not the first in my 40 years publishing, to attempt to challenge my style of research, writing and my philosophy of truthing. To say the least, I don’t find many souls out there who agree with my approach. I have chosen to send a copy of this Technical Paper No. 71 to all “visionaries” involved in this study. Finally, I am gravely concerned with the losses of quality critique that are happening in academia and society as a whole because of a growing over-protected culture of fear and its tendency to censor sometimes raw “truths” that need to be seen so we stay in touch with reality. I am no support of unethical or mean behavior and treatment of others, but I also am not about to pamper adults who teach and write in the public sphere. I too am one of those and I am as accountable to critiques of peers and others, just like everyone else I critique in this study. Thanks to the participants who responded, in whatever ways they responded. I know they all are doing good work out there in the world. I also know we can always do better in some areas. The Fear Problem is one area that needs a lot of work by educators. Thanks to Dr. Ricci for being willing to chat with me, and discuss the problems of this study on the phone as well. -rmf
Abstract – This article summarizes the results of an initial qualitative research Fear survey of 15 North American “visionary educators” in late-2017. The purpose was to determine how they think about and define the Fear Problem today in the field of schooling, unschooling and in society-at-large. The author argues that although the 20% of respondents to the Fear survey demonstrate a basic “in-touchness” with the Fear Problem, postmodern research perspectives on “fear” suggest the visionary educators have yet to keep up with the trends and complexity of how “Fear” is now a major shaping force of individual and collective domains of reality. The author suggests directions for improving upon the reliance on promoting love and hope as solutions to the Fear Problem, which unfortunately, characterized the visionaries responses.