The Ethical Edges: What is Our Tolerance for Failure? Who are we Comfortable Leaving Behind?

Jess Mitchell
Age of Awareness
Published in
23 min readFeb 8, 2019


The following is an almost transcript of a Keynote address given at OpenEd ’18 in Niagara Falls, NY; October 10, 2018. Almost exact, but more fleshed out. It is the case that I might have been a bit nervous, missed a few key points, and carried on anyway. A video of the Keynote was released on YouTube.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee Peoples. Today I’d like to talk to you about The Ethical Edges: who is being left behind / slipping through the cracks? Why? How do we reconcile that? What is doing enough?

I am an American who now lives in Canada — I was struck by the practice of an acknowledgement of the traditional territory at the beginning of each meeting in my Canadian institution. It surprised me, I was surprised by how it made me feel — connected to the land in a deeper way, tuned into the indigenous history on the land, and acknowledgement of that matters — maybe even more-so and more accurately than the Thanksgivings we celebrate.


I’m going to do things a little bit differently today. Stick with me if at first it doesn’t make sense. And let it wash over you and think about what sticks — it might be something I say that you disagree with. It might be something I say that makes you want to stand up and yell ‘HELL YES’. It might be something that reminds you of someone or somewhere or sometime. It might upset you. Remember those barnacles that stick to you, because I panic during awkward silences. So if we get a chance to chat and I ask you what your barnacles are later, I hope you’ll tell me.

I want to tell you some stories today. They are stories from my perspective and some from my life. I’m about to talk a lot about black culture and indigenous culture in this talk. I still question whether I am the one to tell these stories or talk about these topics — I don’t mean for you to compare the stories I’ll tell. I am telling this through my experience and perspective I have thought a lot about this and am still uneasy, AND I think uneasy is where we need to be, together. Join me…

There are elephants in the room Our world is rife with inequities, discrimination, systemic biases. The so called playing field is not level — all men and women are not created equal. Our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness remain in reach of only some.

And so we have: #metoo #blacklivesmatter #occupy. And our right to education is not universally enjoyed. Some things aren’t changing: we’re still very much human, some of us are scared to say things loud and proud, some of us still have power, some of us still don’t have power. So, how does inclusion happen in this context? Where do we see it? I argue we see it in each of us — in our intolerance for failure — where we draw the line.

What is your Tolerance for Failure?

What I mean by this is — at what point do we with eyes wide open, knowingly draw the line and say to ourselves, “that is the best I can do” or “that is enough” or “that is as much as I can do.” Who can we tolerate failing? We don’t ask the question that way very often. We often talk about who we can help. I want us to ask ourselves, who are we comfortable leaving behind. The thing is, we all do this — we all draw the line — we all make a determination of what level of failure we’re ok with… we all do this, but we don’t talk about it.

We all make decisions every day — all day long. We design our fun, our lives, our priorities, our minimum, our maximum, our ethics — and therefore our tolerance for failure. How many design decisions did you make today? How much tolerance for failure do you possess? How many alarms did you set?

an iPhone with alarms set every 5 minutes

Here is a picture of alarms every 5 min on an iPhone, but this is the trivial — when we make decisions that impact others, the stakes are higher and the ethical implications are enormous.

What is your Tolerance for Failure in education?

  • Should we draw the line at race?
  • Should we draw the line at disability?
  • Should we draw the line at a particular socio-economic status?
  • Should we exclude certain geographies?
  • How should we divide the world up and decide who gets access? What about only English speakers, especially those in North America?

Who is education available to? The context has ALWAYS mattered. When we talk about education we often talk about it in the abstract. We are educators, we educate students, we do so in institutions for education. I want to get in deeper to this — I want us to talk about the contexts we learn, teach, and grow in. Let’s take a short journey together.

The way things begin matters

In ancient Greece education was for wealthy men. The foundations of all thought (including Ethics) excluded anyone else (women, the poor, the middle class). Most of us say education should be available to everyone, but we know it isn’t. Obviously some progress has been made, visible when we see who has access to education now. But is it enough? How do we decide when enough people have access to education? Are we comfortable with 90% access? What about 80% access?

I want to argue that while some of these question might make you uneasy, might make you squirm, we all decide where to draw the line everyday:

  • in admissions decisions
  • in class policies for attendance
  • in the cost of textbooks
  • in the cost of education
  • in our own willingness to make alternative formats
  • in the way we talk about students
  • in the way we determine success

The way things begin matters: Apartheid was legal, The Holocaust was legal, Slavery was legal, Colonialism was legal. Legality is a matter of POWER, not justice.

The above point was made by Jose Antonio Vargas and delivered at DefianceML17. This is shocking — upsetting to many of us. PEOPLE draw the ethical lines, call them law, and do it as acts of power over another. These are not good lines… Seriously bad lines. We, people, are really bad at some other things too — I mean, we still get causation and correlation mixed up. We think tall people are more capable than shorter folks.

We are a mess of fantastic uniqueness, gnarly biases, and a sense of being reason-driven. We’re so silly! And it is so dangerous.

Who is education available to?

And so I say, let’s take this short journey together through stories that occupy my mind. Where the lines have been in our recent past and where they are today…

A few weeks ago some of you attended the Open Education Southern Symposium in Fayetteville Arkansas. A few hours away is Little Rock where my parents now live. It was there in September 1957 that the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine African American students enrolled in an all white, public school. The Governor of Arkansas at the time deployed the Arkansas National Guard to block them. The President of the United States intervened and the students were escorted to school by the US Army. The students were tormented, bullied, harassed — for years… not for a day or two… for years. How was their experience with education? What did they learn? What was their education?

If you drive about six hours North and a little East you get to my hometown in NE Missouri. I grew up not far from the Mississippi River, in rural farmland. To give you a sense of the community, the local high school would clear out of young men during the harvest and at the beginning of deer season. And when I think about my childhood there, I think about Cliff. Twenty-three years after the Little Rock Nine, Cliff was in kindergarten with me. It was 1980 and he was the only black child in our school. In our first week of kindergarten, Cliff was called the ‘n-word’.

I think about his mother, who had to give Cliff ’the talk.’ No, not the one about the birds and the bees, it’s the one that comes much earlier. It’s the one about being a black boy and understanding how the world sees him. I think about him in his home before the school day begins, reaching for his favourite hoodie sweatshirt, pausing, remembering what this culture thinks of black boys in hoodies, and then taking it off for a more “appropriate” shirt. He was in my school, in my grade, in the room next door. My mom was his kindergarten teacher. Where is Cliff now? What was his experience with education? Why am I here and he isn’t?

A picture of a green landscape in Missouri

The way things begin matters

  • Little Rock Nine
  • Cliff

Lines are a matter of POWER. These are lines — they are the lines that we as people have drawn historically. The changing of an ethical line (by force) in one case… The reassertion of that old line twenty-three years later in my kindergarten class This is getting heavy… let’s take a step back.


I have micro-obsessions — I always have. I went through a US Postal Service obsession a few years ago; lately I’ve been obsessed with making the perfect hamburger; I got really into the dividing of Mama Bell into Baby Bells in US telecommunications history, I want to spend some serious time this fall learning to tie different knots, and I went through a Nikola Tesla AC/DC moment. So, being here on top of Niagara Falls is pretty sweet — this is where the war happened AC beat DC; Tesla beat Edison and the rest is electrical history.

But the micro-obsession I want to talk to you about is the deep, dark path of ethics I’ve been wrestling with forever. Why some and not others? Why this decision and not something else? Why are we happy with the line here and not there? I recently re-watched the Ken Burns documentary called ‘The West’. And it led me down a deep, dark path of ethics.

The film might as well have been called, “the systematic eradication of the Native Americans.” This is a quote from Chief Plenty Coups, a Crow who said

Education is your greatest weapon. With education you are the white man’s equal, without education you are his victim and so shall remain all of your lives. Study, learn, help one another always. Remember there is only poverty and misery in idleness and dreams — but in work there is self respect and independence.

But education wasn’t really available to Native American kids. Their education came in experiencing the government killing off of an entire buffalo herd so their tribe would have no food. Then their tribe had to stand in line to get food, they were now dependent on government handouts. This was all in an effort to get them to agree to move onto designated reservation land. These kids experienced the signing, breaking and rewriting of a treaty every year or so — a treaty that took more and more from them with each version. Children were separated from their families and forced into schools where they weren’t allowed to speak their language or reference their culture. And this isn’t just old news.

Iokarenhtha Thomas, a University student and mother of five, has lived without running tap water since the age of sixteen. About an hour from where we are is the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation’s Reserve in Southern Ontario. Thomas’ children lack access to things commonplace elsewhere, like toilets, showers and baths. For washing and toilet usage, they use a bucket. Are her children learning different lessons than the Native American kids in the 1800s? Why don’t they have water and most others do? Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water. We draw lines…

I’ve often been interested in social and political messes — in edge cases. I studied philosophy in undergraduate and graduate school. But there was something I didn’t feel I was getting in 20 page essay assignments about the Nicomachean Ethics. So, I went downstairs, literally, into the basement in my school’s library and ‘inappropriately’ squirreled myself away in the Music Library — micro-obsessing about Dylan and Baez and Vietnam, don’t even get me started with Woody Guthrie and the dust bowl.

The basement, the music library — it led me to learning about New Orleans’ native sons (the Marsalis’, the Nevilles), the music up and down the Mississippi (Muddy Waters, Old Man River) — I was procrastinating horribly — learning a TON. And my grades were lower every Spring Term because the New Orleans Jazz Fest and finals week would often overlap. No, I’m not a musician. I didn’t study music. I happened to go to school in New Orleans… And these diversions in the basement music library brought me to further rabbit holes of wonder…

I swam around in culture, and art: Baez and Martin Luther King, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, La Amistad, Strange Fruit, and I’m pretty sure this background education made me obsess about Beyonce Coachella 2018 even more!! I can’t wait to read the dissertations that are going to come out of that performance. Art and the social and the political and the educational and music — all together. There was no class for this, there was no major. I wanted to drink in all the stories I could find and follow them until my next micro-obsession kicked in. Like catching a frisbee backwards — something I mastered the next semester.

La Amistad slave ship

But New Orleans is a magical city — it gets in your bones — Southern Decadence, drive-through daiquiris, the music, the will to live, the resistance, slavery, subjugation, centuries of pain and suffering — those stories stuck with me. Of course now, I rewrite my own history — which is my prerogative. I maintain that I was designing my own education. A kind of game of following my curiosity, chasing rabbits down holes, and exploring. I was having fun. I had the room to have fun, I had the access, I was learning to draw my ethical line in the sand.

Tweet from Kent McGuire that says, “I learned deeply inspite of school much more than because of school. Wish it wasn’t true. Determined to flip that for today’s student.

And this is true for so many — because the ground isn’t level — and to learn to draw our lines, we need experiences.

And those experiences are the stuff of exploration, discovery, wonder, epiphanies and mistakes.

[We find ourselves] more and more flummoxed by a system that values assessment over engagement, learning management over discovery, content over community, outcomes over epiphanies. From An Urgency of Teachers: the Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy Jesse Stommel + Sean Michael Morris

So, there I was a young woman, 1 of 2 undergrads (both women) applying to grad school in philosophy — my ground was shaky. I was closeted, I was in the basement listening to music, and I didn’t know how to do this stuff — the stuff of learning within the expectations. There were advisors. There was the undergraduate advisor who said, “you just don’t suffer for it. You don’t have something in you that compels you to do philosophy — I don’t think it’s for you. Look at you, you look normal, healthy, uncomplicated.” He was an alcoholic in grad school. The other undergrad was not well — they were suffering. He missed it, he missed an opportunity… Philosophy is not only for those who are suffering — the Ancient Greeks got the line wrong and this undergraduate advisor got the line wrong too. I ignored him (which is to say, I overcame him eventually), but never forgot what he said.


And still, for others, resilience takes much more than overcoming. I want to tell you about Damon who went from being in a very “bad crowd” and dropping out of HS to getting his GED, going to night school at a private University, to transferring to that University’s engineering program, to getting a masters at an R1 to getting a Phd at an R1 to getting a tenure track job. He’s unusual though. There are other Damon’s out there, but that guy is special. He’s driven.

But the obstacles he had to overcome — the people who actively stood in his way — the professor he admired that said he didn’t think CS was for him; he thought Damon should give up his dream of getting into the Engineering School. I think of Damon walking back to his car from the library late at night, a young black man in a hoodie catching the eye of the campus police (you guessed it, same library I was in). The utter lack of diversity anywhere he looked on our campus. They all stood in his way and said, give up — this isn’t for you. You don’t belong here. I remember wondering what it looked like to him — by and large the people of colour who worked at the University were in the service industry — they were serving us food in the cafeteria.

Damon was my best friend in University. He was the first person I came out to. We were a young, distractible lesbian from a very small town near the Mississippi and a young black man from the other end of the Mississippi in New Orleans, Louisiana with a GED and a dream of being a University professor. Damon would like you all at OpenEd ’18 to know that if he were a superhero, he’d be “Iron Man because he has a cool lab and nearly unlimited funding.” That’s my nerdy best friend.

Now he is Dr. Damon Woodard, University of Florida, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, a tenured professor. And standing next to him is Dr. Tempestt Neal. She’s a lot of ‘firsts.’

  • The first African-American woman ever to receive a doctorate in computer engineering from the University of Florida
  • Damon’s first PhD graduate from University of Florida
  • Damon’s first graduate to join the academy — Tempestt just began her first semester as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida

The way things begin matters:

  • Little Rock Nine
  • Cliff
  • Iokarenhtha Thomas
  • Damon

Lines are a matter of power. The changing of an ethical line in one case. The reassertion of that same line 23 years later in my kindergarten class. The eradication of a people and their way of life historically as a starting place. The dissuasion of a young, black man trying to climb.

Precedent: The Playing Field is Flooded

We know folks don’t have the same opportunities. We know the ground isn’t level. In Louisiana especially — the ground is under sea level in many places — there’s an amazing Randy Newman song (I recommend the Aaron Neville version; also (for those from the South) Too Tall Marcia Ball did a lovely version; and (for those from Canada) Jolie Holland (co-founder of Be Good Tanyas in Vancouver) did a nice version. It’s called “Louisiana 1927.” The chorus says, ‘they’re trying to wash us away.’

See, all that wasted time in the Music Library turned out to be useful today… I learned about Randy Newman’s song, Louisiana 1927 — it’s about the Great Mississippi Flood that affected Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana — it left 700,000 homeless. Between Memphis, Tennessee and West Memphis, Arkansas is the Hernando de Soto Bridge. The bridge spans 1 ¾ of a mile over the Mississippi River. During the flood of 1927 the river just below Memphis reached a width of 60 miles. That gives you a sense of scale.

The Hernando de Soto Bridge

Ninety-four percent of the more than 630,000 people affected by the flood lived in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, most in the Mississippi Delta. More than 200,000 African Americans were displaced from their homes along the Lower Mississippi River and had to live for lengthy periods in relief camps. As a result of this disruption, many joined the Great Migration from the south to northern and midwestern industrial cities rather than return to rural agricultural labor.

A group of influential bankers in town met to discuss how to guarantee the safety of the city, as they had already learned of the massive scale of flooding upriver.

They dynamited the levees in poor towns, towns populated largely by African Americans. The day after they did this, they realized they didn’t need to — the Mississippi had begun receding. It was too late, homes were destroyed and people were not compensated. It was forgotten. But it really was never forgotten…

This is the history, this is how families and children experienced a natural disaster — the rich, white bankers flooded their lives and they lost everything. Some of you will remember when Katrina hit New Orleans in August, 2005. There were rumours of levees being intentionally dynamited in the Lower Ninth Ward, an African-American neighbourhood to preserve the wealthy French Quarter.

The rumours:

Mullen has a schoolteacher’s kindly demeanor, so it was jarring to hear him say he suspected that the levee breaks had somehow been engineered to keep the wealthy French Quarter and Garden District dry at the expense of poor black neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward — a suspicion I heard from many other black survivors.

Racial paranoia and conspiracy theories persist, however, including the conviction that the city’s elite blew up the levees to protect rich neighborhoods at the expense of poorer ones, or to drive low-income African Americans out of town… This falsehood — cued by inexact memories of a deliberate levee breach in 1927 — gained currency after the storm. Louis Farrakhan claimed that Mayor Ray Nagin told him that the levees had been blown up, a view Nagin felt obliged to disown under questioning on Capitol Hill. And Spike Lee, who would later direct a documentary about Katrina, espoused similar ideas. “I don’t find it too far-fetched,” he said in 2005, “that they try to displace all the black people out of New Orleans.”

There was precedent, and people remembered. These lines last a long time. They become scars, and they live within people. They do not happen in isolation.

Open Education where do we draw the line in 2018/19

Where is our ethical line drawn? Digital redlining? Who is authoring our OERs? Who is publishing? Who can publish? How are technology decisions being made at our institutions? Privacy?

And we aren’t just talking about who gets in the door — literal access. We’re talking about who comes in with a belly full of breakfast. Who sees people like themselves in the stories they read. Whose voice is heard in class. Whose voice is heard in the world. Who does the advisor think is fit for graduate school.

By 2030 the United Nations Social Development Goal 4 is to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’

I think it’s time we got a little uncomfortable again. We’ve achieved so much as a community. We need to do more. We need to celebrate the successes and then we need to look at where we drew the line. Is open licensing enough? Ethan Senack and many others suggest no. Is open content enough? Jesse, Sean, Rajiv, and Robin say no and push to open pedagogy. Is MOST students enough? The UN says NO, it should be ALL.

Who has been architecting our schools and education? Who made the rules we follow? Do they still make sense? Who stands to benefit? I am going to say something that might be controversial. In this community We have many open textbooks — with more to come. We have great progress on open content and open licensing. We have a rich group working toward open pedagogy — the work isn’t done — never done!

But we don’t have any open dialogue.

Open Dialogue

We don’t know how to have tough conversation. We don’t practice productive critique. We as a community don’t talk about the hard things — the elephants. Why don’t we talk about the institutions that say it’s too expensive to make accessible content? We don’t talk about how we don’t know how to hire for diversity. We don’t know how to talk about sexual harassment in a productive way. Why won’t someone do a session at OpenEd about Mormons and OERs? About why so much leadership is coming from Utah? Incidentally, if you want to learn more about Mormons and why Utah, and the struggle to get to Utah, go watch that Ken Burns documentary — The West.

Nothing is neutral — we make design decisions all the time. I was in a session Rajiv was facilitating at another conference and a researcher from the UK who wrote his own open textbook had an ah-ha moment — a big one. He taught at a college in a poor neighbourhood. He realized during that session that each time he made edits and asked his students to download the book again… he was contributing to digital redlining… each time he was contributing to a use of their data — without knowing their context. He changed the way he makes edits and shares the information.

What is the role of capital? Whose voice is being amplified? Whose is being diminished? So let’s be transparent about it all. What is our tolerance for error? What is our demand for transparency? What about privacy and representation?

Diversity is a number; inclusion is a process; equity is an outcome. — Barbara Chow

Inclusively designing anything fundamentally gets at issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. It requires us to not only change our methodological approach, but also examine our own individual biases. we are beyond the point where you have to think about edge cases (Diversity Equity Inclusion, DEI) — if you aren’t thinking about it, if you aren’t hiring for it, see me later today. Do you walk in the room aware of your privilege? If you wake up in the morning and aren’t plagued by issues of diversity, equity, or inclusion — then you are walking with a giant chip of privilege and should find people in your life who will help you see that.

Open Education can help change these issues

Open Education is the reason I learned about Ted. I met his wife at an OEGlobal conference in Alberta a few years ago. He stuck in my head. He is a farmer, he is painfully shy, he has a learning disability, and he hated school so much he dropped out. His wife is an instructional designer at Portage College. By her own admission, she can’t make it through a MOOC — she has yet to complete one, he’s completed over 20. He loves them. He comes in from the fields at night and works on his courses. Designing his own education, at his own pace, to his own preference. THIS IS OPEN.

A tweet from Angie Contreras of a young girl at a STEM event in Guadalajara Mexico.

This is a picture of a young girl at a STEM event for young girls in Guadalajara Mexico. She’s holding a comic book picture of me and other women in the open movement. This comic book is the hard work of Kelsey Merkley — she has given us Uncommon Women — these comic books that make visible and amplify the diverse voices of women working in technology. And a colleague in Open, Angie Contreras, brought these back home and these young girls see women who work in technology, women who look different from one another, women who are from different cultures — this is the future folks. This is how change happens. THIS IS OPEN.

Truth and reconciliation

OISE Library tweet about Indigenous resources for teachers

Kathleen Wynne, previous liberal premier, promised in 2016 that Ontario’s schools would teach all students about the legacy of residential schools and incorporate Indigenous perspectives into the provincial curriculum in elementary and secondary levels — including social studies, history, geography and civics. When Doug Ford was elected premier, that effort was abruptly cancelled. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education responded with a large list of open materials that teachers could use to teach this material. It’s an open list that anyone can add to. Once this information is open, you can’t box it back up. THIS IS OPEN.

A screenshot showing SpiFind, a game developed and designed by Ria Bhatia as a Google Summer of Code project with the Inclusive Design Research Centre.

I’d like to tell you about Ria Bhatia. She’s a young woman from New Delhi, India. She applied to the Google Summer of Code program with the Inclusive Design Research Centre this year and was selected for her proposal for our project. We asked her to create a game for children who use eye-gaze. Eye-gaze is used when someone has limited motor control and they use their eyes to activate onscreen keyboard and controls. It’s as if your eyes were your mouse. Ria created an adorable game called SpiFind (think goodnight moon meets animation and spiders) — and she sent me a message this weekend It said, I wanted to share something with you.

I got the prestigious Google Women Techmakers Scholarship 2018 from Asia Pacific region. They asked me about Spifind during the interview and absolutely loved it. As a part of the scholarship, I will be visiting the Google office in Singapore next week.

She’s amazing. THIS IS OPEN.

I’m done asking ‘who is going to stand up’ — now I’m going to challenge you to sit down — sit down when you won’t stand up for the following:

  • if you’re a man and you see someone interrupt or shut up a woman, what are you going to do?
  • if you’re a white person and you see the voices of Black Indigenous or People of Colour (BIPOC) getting excluded or shut down, what are you going to do?
  • if you’re a straight person, and you see a queer kid struggling, what are you going to do?
  • if you’re a woman in a senior position and you’re in a position to help a young woman — to mentor her, what are you going to do?

This work doesn’t stop, it isn’t a task — it’s a practice and we need to push ourselves further! — Are you only having DEI conversations in DEI spaces (or not at all)? Time to have them all the time. — Are accessibility bugs in software blockers yet? — are your events held at accessible spaces? — are your lectures or keynotes live captioned? — who is going to say, we need to talk? — We need to figure out this #opendialogue thing!

Do Not Listen To Me

This has become the currency of our field, with high resolution pictures and the fancy fonts: who does it exclude? Who benefits from it? Beware the entrapments of the sexy slide deck. Remain critical evermore.

Who You Should Listen & Talk To

Listen to Todd Rose, Sasha Costanza-Chock, Chris Bourg, Sean Michael Morris, Jesse Stommel, Tara Robertson,

Listen to Open Textbook Network, Maha Bali, Michelle Reed, REBUS, BC Campus, Uncommon Women, OpenStax,

Listen to children, moms, LGBTQIA2S, BIPOC, people you disagree with, your curiosity, your gut.

It isn’t the job of people who are marginalized to help you understand how to include them. It’s all of our jobs evermore. @ashedryden #ccsummit

It is your job to be curious, open, inclusive. Listen more. OPEN IS THE WAY WE FIX THIS

The way things begin matters
• Little Rock Nine
• Cliff
• Iokarenhtha Thomas
• Damon
Lines are a matter of power. Don’t forget the lines

The OPENness of things matters:
• Farmer Ted
• Las Niñas
• Truth + Reconciliation
• Ria Bhatia
Access to education is POWER, it is inextricable from issues of social justice. We need to celebrate these successes.

Draw the Ethical Line

This isn’t a difference of opinion between the pragmatists and the principled — we are all both. This, my friends, is an ethical battle we all are waging within ourselves to decide where to draw the line. Now let’s talk openly about where you’ll draw it. If you clump together this week at OpenEd you won’t benefit from all the stories you all have. If you know everyone in the circle of people you’re talking to, turn around and find someone you don’t know to join. If you find yourself in what you would describe as a group of the ‘usual suspects,’ stop, look around and grab someone else to join — someone you don’t know, someone you’d like to know, someone you disagree with, someone you agree with in a totally different area of work. Adjuncts, where are you, raise your hands? Students, where are you, raise your hands? Grad school drop outs, see me later — I’m one of you!… Outsiders, misfits, and the unusual suspects — make yourselves seen and heard this week.


Remember to Push Farther

I worry about the queer kids. I worry about the BIPOC kids — 1865 13th amendment abolishing slavery — 153 years later, how we doing? I worry about how little has changed. I worry that we don’t exercise a Hippocratic Oath in Education and Do No HARM. But I believe that changes with all of us wrestling with where we draw the line…

We are the people who draw the line. I’d like to thank the OpenEd Program Committee for inviting me to speak today — thank you so much for taking a chance on me, I am deeply honoured. And I’d like to thank David Wiley personally for being open, for being kind, and continually doing the work.

And finally, to those who never get justice, who start below zero, who don’t enjoy the benefits — the many benefits. We are coming, hang on… THIS IS OPEN



Jess Mitchell
Age of Awareness