“A good education helps us make sense of the world and find our way in it”
― Mike Rose, Why School?
Earlier this week, the field of education lost a friend, advocate, and mentor when Mike Rose passed away.
As John Warner wrote in the introduction to Rebecca Weaver’s guest post “In Honor of Mike Rose: Inviting Students Across the Boundaries” on Inside Higher Ed, “[I]f you become interested in pedagogy, it is impossible to avoid [Rose’s] work, and once you have encountered it, it is impossible to shake its influence.”
In her memorial tribute, Weaver referenced the following quotation from Rose:
“We . . . need a pedagogy that encourages us to step back and consider the threat of the standard classroom, and that shows us, having stepped back, how to step forward to invite a student across the boundaries of that powerful room.”
While, Weaver notes, Rose “didn’t mean it for a pandemic” but, rather, for “all the ways that the standard classroom threatens first-gen students, poor students, minority students, and so on,” I feel Rose’s words also speak volumes about where we are as a profession today, especially in light of the continued confusion of teaching in a pandemic.
Another memorial tribute to Mike Rose composed by his UCLA colleague John McDonald also highlights the late teacher/scholar/activist’s particular dedication to chronicling “the educational challenges confronting students from under-resourced neighborhoods, the skills and intelligence of everyday people, and the transformative power of learning. He drew on personal experience, keen observations of classrooms and workplaces, and deep engagement with cognitive psychology.”
Upon learning of Rose’s death, sociologist and poet, Eve Ewing, wrote on Instagram that while academia is often “full of people who are cruel, dismissive, and unnecessarily competitive,” Mike Rose was none of those things. Rather, he was kind and he cared — a LOT. For Ewing, Rose stands out as someone who was willing to reach out and show “the most kindness . . . for the least reason.” He is a powerful reminder and example that “a word of encouragement can really make a difference in someone’s life.”
Dr. Bernice M. Olivas’ recent post on Facebook also highlighted the very great impact which Rose had on her work as a student and educator. She wrote: “R.I.P. Thank you for making room for us working class kids. Thank you for teaching so many of us what it means to be a good teacher, what it means to reach back and lift others up.”
These are just a few of the many tributes to Mike Rose which have been shared. As they all so beautifully illustrate, Mike Rose knew teaching. But, above all, Mike Rose knew people. He valued them. He cared about them. Mike Rose knew how to bring us together.
TYCA was fortunate enough to have Rose create a short video about the power of teaching for the opening session of our 2020 National Conference. When that event was moved online because of COVID restrictions, we shared the video on YouTube instead:
Truly, Mike Rose was a consummate professional, generous with his time and talents, willing to share ideas and encourage both students and educators alike. While he may no longer be part of this mortal realm, he will continue to be an influence for good in our profession, and elsewhere. I think it’s only fitting, then, that we give Mike Rose the last word here:
“If I had to sum up the philosophical thread that runs through my work, it would be this: A deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.” (Mike Rose’s Blog)