By Bill Tierney
The conference is upon us, and it’s a chance not just to renew past acquaintances but to make new ones. At a meeting that approaches the size of a small city, the temptation is to cordon oneself in a particular disciplinary, ideological, or methodological neighborhood and never venture out. I encourage you to resist temptation and travel the vast terrain of the conference (and bring your walking shoes—we’ll occupy six hotels).
I began these messages last summer with a call for dialogue. The decision to specialize is understandable, but interdisciplinarity suggests we must also escape narrow intellectual domains and learn in areas where we are not expert, where we might even disagree. We need to engage more fully across the boundaries between scholarship, on the one hand, and policy, practice, and reform, on the other.
I am weary of the abuse of social media by writers hurling anonymous, venomous insults—a practice that encourages the general retreat to intellectual neighborhoods. Our work and our interactions with one another should model productive conversation about the nature of education, schooling, and reform. The conference gives us an opportunity to demonstrate very publicly how thoughtful disagreements can take place. I hope that in the invited addresses, the presidential sessions, the myriad papers, roundtables, and posters, and in my own presidential address, we will challenge our own assumptions rather than simply reconfirm what we think we know.
This year’s Annual Meeting has new wrinkles worth investigating. We have films on educational issues, followed by discussions with filmmakers, writers, and in one case, the participants in a documentary (search the program for “Film Festival”). We have rapid-fire Ignite sessions and ED Talks to take us out of the ordinary. We can visit Glide Memorial Church, or get involved by volunteering here or by donating to help kids gain access to computers here. Check e-mail each morning for Annual Meeting Preview with late-breaking news and intriguing recommendations. To the tweeters among us: Go to #AERA13. For people who are unable to attend the conference we will be live-streaming some of the sessions.
For the first time the Awards Luncheon is a separate event where we will honor our colleagues whose work has been found exemplary. I am thankful to my dean at the University of Southern California and to the dean of Kris Renn, our program chair, at Michigan State University for underwriting the AERA Awards Luncheon this year.
Finally, as some of you know, I have cancelled this year’s presidential reception. The receptions began as a way to thank the committee chairs, members, and others who volunteer on behalf of the Association. Over time, the cost became exorbitant. And this year, in particular, at a conference focused on poverty, it seems inappropriate to throw an extravagant party. But to all who volunteered this year, I want to convey my sincere gratitude. And to all who took the time to tell me what you think about an activity or message of mine—particularly if you disagreed with me—thank you. Dialogue is key to learning, and I have learned a great deal from many of you this year. For that, I am in your debt.
On to San Francisco!
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