Throughout my attempt to embrace the “literacy myth” via the Deweyan vision of “growth” I was aware of this Niebuhrian anxiety. Through the formation of the small-group tutoring program, I was able to sublimate this tension by focusing on the Center’s profoundly collaborative learning environment. Once the group tutoring program stabilized, the social energy which fostered and sustained it did not transfer over, at least to anything like the same degree, into project work where much of the creative edge of my psychic energies were increasingly moving, in part, as a compensatory escape valve against the growing complexity of daily management activities. This may have been due to the limitations of my own pedagogical acumen and organizational negotiating skills in not being more effectively able to make the linkages between program operations and project work as to anything inherently in conflict between the two. Nonetheless, the tension between my personal vision and the articulated public goals of the broader agency and the more dominant features of its organizational culture had a certain ineradicable-like quality to it that extended well beyond my personality attribute limitations. With the Reading Center’s stability achieved through the small group tutoring program, its cutting edge distinction was seemingly becoming diffused, as more visible entrepreneurial energies became exerted in the realm of community outreach programming, and in the general growth of the agency’s staffing, funding sources, and board development. My pursuit of projects was partially motivated to keeping the Center’s distinctive pedagogical environment at the core of the affiliate’s collective consciousness and also to make inroads in the “field” which I hoped would strike a responsive chord “back home.” That which was in tension was my vision of the Reading Center as a laboratory/research center and the more normalized objectives of the organizational leadership to stabilize the on-site programming, which required a much more detailed focus on daily operational management than what I was able to easily provide.
Discussion beyond my personal angst also bears merit. We have examined the Center’s work in student writing and in the creation of oral history narratives. Volunteers also contributed to other projects in the areas of program evaluation, portfolio construction, the development of an experiential counseling and referral program, and in the creation of a book of learning interviews of students at the Reading Center (Demetrion, 1996). This work was largely accomplished by college interns, which enabled the program to extend its focus toward some of the more cutting edge innovations in the field, even as certain projects did not achieve overwhelming success. All of this activity helped to move at least certain aspects of the program toward the “consummation,” on my reading, of its vision as a regional and national laboratory/ research center through the Deweyan imagery out of which I was operating to establish a first-rate progressive adult literacy center in the conservative milieu of Hartford, Connecticut However, that “end-in-view” remained far from realized. It stemmed all too much from the meandering of my solipsistic imagination, which I nonetheless viewed as a “live option,” but far from sufficiently grounded in the pedagogical and organizational climates of daily operations and the broader agency leadership vision.
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