CIES 2024 – Miami, Florida

68th Annual Meeting – The Power of Protest

The meeting ran between March 6-14, 2024, with a break March 8-9.

Conference Theme

“It is in your hands to make a better world for all who live in it.” – Nelson Mandela

The power of protest in education lies in the fact that it is, by definition, a public act. Protest allows people facing injustice to generate power through collective action. For many, this kind of protest carries the hope and promise that, to use the slogan of the World Social Forum in 2001, “another world is possible.” It is a declaration that all is not well in the world, and that the status quo must be challenged and changed. Struggles of this kind often situate education as a human right and endeavour to bring about more just and inclusive educational futures. Here too, the wider conditions for learning and working in schools and universities around the world have also been the subject of protests over the years.

Looking back, we can see it was through protest that important political rights were campaigned for and secured. The legacy of the Chartist movement in the United Kingdom in the 1830s and 1840s to obtain political rights for the working classes informed later social movements, including the Suffragettes’ claims for voting rights for women, and the 1960s civil rights movements. Globally, labour movements have brought together workers to demand better pay and dignity at work. Anti-war movements against imperialist aggression are as common as acts of war. The struggle for racial justice manifests differently across national contexts but includes Indigenous and Black movements in Brazil and Colombia, Black Lives Matter and contemporary abolitionist movements in the United States, and the fight against apartheid and its legacies in South Africa. Students have been central actors in all these protests, leading action against gun violence, the decolonising of education, and environmental justice. Many of these movements have sparked acts of solidarity in other places or inspired a new generation of protestors. But protest can also take the form of small acts: a refusal to join the throwaway society, a challenge to competitive individualism, a ‘no’ to mindless assessment.

As an act of public contestation, however, the nature of protest is always bound up in political claims about what is ‘right’ and ‘just’ to begin with. In many countries, populist and authoritarian regimes have energised protests around illiberal reforms to education, including those that further disadvantage and exclude already marginalised communities. In the US, conservative groups are using forms of collective action to advocate for banning queer children’s literature from school libraries, and for erasing black histories from the curriculum. In the UK, recent legislation has placed limits on the kinds of protest tactics that organisers can use, while ‘free speech’ legislation is aimed at closing down debates in universities. The urgency and intensity of contemporary issues has led to polarised public debates, in turn delimiting the deliberative qualities of collective action to effect change across divides and differences. As a result, channels for voices to be heard are blocked, arenas for debate are shut down, teachers’ professional decisions are policed, or students’ right to stand up and ask for protection are denied.

As a community of Comparative and International Education researchers, teachers, activists, programme developers or organisers, how might we engage with, and think generatively about, the histories, curriculum, theories and methodologies, and pedagogies that guide acts of protest?

Program Highlights

CIES 2024 hosted a resident Artist to engage conference participants in the conference theme: The Power of Protest. Xavier Cortada is an artist, Professor of Practice at the University of Miami Department of Art and Art History, and Artist-in-Residence at Pinecrest Gardens, where his studio, gallery, and socially engaged art practice are based. Using art’s elasticity to engage others, Cortada educates and inspires community members to work and learn together to solve our community’s problems. According to Xavier, his work “finds itself rooted in a deep conceptual engagement with participants”.

The work Cortada develops is intended to generate awareness and action towards the big issues of the day, that include global climate change and social justice. Xavier has created art installations at the North and South Poles to address environmental concerns. He has also been commissioned to create art for CERN, the White House, the World Bank, Florida Botanical Gardens, Miami City Hall, Miami-Dade County Hall, the Florida Turnpike, Miami-Dade Housing Authority, the Frost Science Museum, Museum of Florida History, and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum.

Throughout the conference, attendees engaged in the Artist’s participatory performances with the aim of lengthening our collective care horizon, promote meaningful dialogue, and foster a sense of interconnectedness. These include HELLO and A Longitudinal Installation.

The Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami, Florida.

HELLO aims to reframe the way we see one another and our collective vulnerability, notably to the risks associated with climate change and sea level rise. Rather than using a traditional name tag, participants are challenged to instead identify themselves with qualifiers such as their personal elevations, hopes, and fears.

A Longitudinal Installation presents the issues of climate change through the lens of a global community. In the original ritualistic installation at the South Pole, the Artist recited the quotes of 24 different people across 24 time zones who had been personally impacted by climate change. Participants join the global conversation by thinking about how climate change has affected their lives and communities, proceeding to contribute a 25th quote of their own.

WALKING CONVERSATIONS (Leaking/Oozing into Miami)

Xavier Cortada led walking tours to three local historic sites over the course of the conference and engaged participants in conversations around relevant topics. The three locations were chosen to explore the dynamic relationship between Miami’s peoples, environment, and discourse.

Miami Circle (Indigenous archeological site): Natural and human history of Biscayne Bay

At the Miami Circle, an indigenous archaeological site, Cortada took participants on a walk through history to explore the dynamic relationship between people and the environment, unraveling layers of colonialism, development, and environmental degradation with the aim of charting a course for a sustainable future.

Torch of Friendship (beacon to refugees): Free speech & protest
Participants visite Miami’s iconic Torch of Friendship, a symbol of hope for immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean since 1960. Together, Cortada and participants explored this historic site, the heart of many of Miami’s rallies and marches, delving into a discussion on the nuances of free speech and protest—weighing amplification against polarization, unilateral communication against interactive discourse, and action against introspection.

Incorporation Palm (City of Miami birthplace): Race, immigration & community
Learn about the roots of Miami’s vibrant diversity at the “Incorporation Palm,” the birthplace of the city. Planted by Cortada as a living monument, this site represents more than just the city’s incorporation in 1896; it honors those who brought the city to life and those who work today to keep it growing. Join the artist in exploring the dynamics of Miami’s multiculturalism, delving into its strengths as a majority-minority community, its tensions over time, and its role as a model for the future of the United States.

Keynote Speakers

Oren Pizmony-Levy (Breaking Barriers: A Dialogue on Leadership, Diversity, and Change in Higher Education)

Oren Pizmony-Levy is an Associate Professor in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. Pizmony-Levy is the Founding Director of the Center for Sustainable Futures and is an affiliated faculty at the Columbia Climate School. Trained as a sociologist, he specialized in the study of global educational movements, including test-based accountability and international large-scale assessments, LGBTQ+ education, and environmental sustainability education. His current projects include studies of teacher engagement with climate change education, and the international landscape of organizations active in climate education and communication.

Thabo Msibi (Breaking Barriers: A Dialogue on Leadership, Diversity, and Change in Higher Education)

Thabo Msibi is the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning and Professor of Curriculum Studies in the School of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is a PhD holder from the University of Cambridge, has a Master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, and undergraduate degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Thabo’s research interests centre on critically theorising diversity, particularly gender and sexual diversity, and what this means for education, the agency of students, and the curriculum. Thabo has written extensively in these areas as an advocate for social justice, seeking ways to subvert and disturb various hegemonies which result in the marginalisation of individuals in society.

The Politics of Hate: Organizing Against Racism for Educational Justice in Florida

In this keynote panel, which included community organizers on the front lines of the struggle against racism and education justice in Florida, panelists discussed recent legislation’s impact on Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities as well as educators in the K-12 and higher education systems. Chair David Edwards (Education International) and Discussant Mildred Boveda (Pennsylvania State University) led panelists Karla Hernandez-Mats (President of the United Teachers of Dade), Jonel Edwards Mickels (Dream Defenders), Marvin Dunn (Florida International University), and Maxx Fenning (PRISM Fl, Inc.) in this discussion.

Special Sessions

The Power of Protest: Paulo Freire and the Strikes against the Extractive University"

Kneller Lecture: Michael Burawoy

After Reform: Improving Education for a More Equitable World"

Presidential Address: Jun Li

Palestine and Protest: A Critical Conversation Hosted by the MENA SIG"

Presidential Panel: Salim Vally, Mezna Qato

The Power of Art to Engage and Educate"

Dialogue Series I: Xavier Cortada, Hugh McLean (Chair)

Let's Talk About Tax Justice for Education"

Dialogue Series II: David Archer, Steve Klees, Carol Anne Spreen, Hugh McLean (Chair)

Let's Not Just Talk About Climate Justice in Education, but Act"

Dialogue Series III: Delaney Reynolds, Chris Castle, Aaron Benavot, Iveta Silova (Chair)

Let's Talk About Transforming Teaching Through Social Justice: Insights From the UN High Level Panel on the Teaching Profession"

Dialogue Series IV: Carlos Vargas, David Edwards, Beatrice Ávalos, Jordan Naidoo, Amita Chudgar (Chair)

Thank you!

I am filled with immense gratitude and profound appreciation for your unwavering support, dedication, and contributions for making CIES 2024 a great success.

To my Advisory Board, Unit Planners, volunteers, and many others, your selfless commitment and tireless efforts have been the cornerstone of our success. From coordinating logistics to assisting attendees, your passion for the Society has shone through every task. The partnership of our sponsors has been instrumental in creating an environment where educators from around the globe can come together to share insights, strategies, and best practices. The dynamic and diverse array of organizations and institutions that were exhibitors enriched the conference with their products, services, and expertise, and added depth and dimension to our shared experience. Your contributions have been invaluable in shaping the conversations and shaping the future of education.

Thank you, in particular, to conference participants, who came together in the spirit of the Conference theme to explore the ways in which those involved in doing educational work in its broadest of senses can make their concerns about injustices heard.

As we reflect on the moments shared, the connections made, and the knowledge gained, I am reminded of the impact that each of you had on the conference and the broader landscape of comparative and international education. Together, we have reaffirmed our shared commitment to the power of education, and together, we will continue to shape a brighter, more inclusive future for all. Thank you.

Susan L. Robertson, CIES President Elect and Conference Convenor