Monday, March 03, 2008

Obama and Clinton - "We" and "I"...

First off let me say that Henry Jenkins is amazing and a must read for all educators. His recent post "Obama and the "We" Generation" has really gotten me thinking about and looking at US politics, not that there is much choice what with all of the 24-hour multi-channel coverage and all.

He starts by noticing that adult leaders were using "I" and "what I can do for you" a lot to describe what they did while younger leaders used "we" and "what are our goals...". Obama is the "We" and Clinton is the "I". As Henry Jenkins puts it - Obama is more of a movement than a campaign. He talks of community and organizes bottom up instead of the traditional top-down campaign model. Hillary Clinton is running very much an "what can I do for you" traditional campaign and now that I am aware of this have I ever noticed a difference,

An article in today's New York Times really brings this difference in the two approaches of the Democratic candidates home - "In Texas, Clinton’s Veterans Test Obama’s Rookies". The article describes the difference between the two campaigns as they set up in Texarkana - the Clinton campaign set up in a big building and handed out phone numbers to campaign workers to start calling. Down the street in a small office, two Obama supporters without any official campaign sanction set up their computers and self-generated activity to get the word out on their candidate.

This describes exactly what Jenkins is saying - Clinton is the controlling "I" candidate and Obama is the open, bottom-up "We" candidate - He is a movement, not a campaign,

My very good friend Randommind described to me an even better analogy from Henry Jenkins (and must blog about it :-)) that brings this diagrammatic difference between the two candidates home - Obama is a Wikipedia stub, and Clinton is the Encyclopedia Britannica - such an amazing analogy I had an AHA! moment when I first heard it. It so accurately describes the fundamental differences between the two campaigns - and for me explains why Obama has been so successful - he is letting the voters participate in the campaign to become a part of his "movement", to build the Wikipedia entry, while Clinton is simply telling everyone that she knows what is best and is ready to do the job Day One - the bound and printed Britannica entry.

There are implications here for educators - we can learn a lot from the differences in these two campaigns. Obama's success to me shows that engagement and participation, the creation of community is something that people understand and want - this leads directly to the creation of learning communities. Clinton is the old "sage on the stage" telling us what we want to hear. Obama is creating a "learning community" (a political community?) where participants engage in the election process - they feel a connection and a sense of belonging, of being part of what Henry Jenkins calls a movement. If this works for a presidential candidate (and it sure seems that it is), then it should work in our classrooms too, don't you think?

I wonder who will win...?

(Photo from "The State Of...")

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