“First, education is a political act, whether at the university, high school, primary school or adult literacy classroom. Why? Because the very nature of education has the inherent qualities to be political, as indeed politics has educational aspects. In other words, an educational act has a political nature and a political act has an educational nature. . . . Education worldwide is political by nature.”
– Paulo Freire, The Politics of Education
What is Freire saying here?
I finished reading Brene Brown’s latest book, Braving the Wilderness, The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Here is a quote that got to me:
True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are. (40)
She calls this the Quest and the Paradox. It sounds crazy. She explains that paradox has its origins in Greek and Latin. The Greek combines two words, para – meaning contrary to – and – token – opinion. The Latin word, paradox, means, “seemingly absurd but really true.” Doesn’t that seem like most of our lives when we think about them?
How many of us show the world our authentic selves? We learn or we are taught not to do that. We will get hurt, emotionally or physically. People won’t like us. They will take advantage of us.
Since 2009, people in the United States have been “sorting ourselves” into tribal factions, political, social, gender, and other orientations. By 2016, we had become polarized into our respective camps.
“At the same time sorting is on the rise, so is loneliness.” (51)
On the outside looking in – you are in a group of people but still feel lonely. As social beings, we want to belong, but when we don’t, we go into self-preservation mode.” (54). We go into protective custody of ourselves. We became fearful of being vulnerable, getting hurt, being disconnected, criticism, failing, conflict, not measuring up to others’ standards or even our own. Fear of not knowing what was happening or why it was happening. We also felt we couldn’t speak to our fear or of our fear.
Our biggest issues are racism, sexism and classism. We have never faced our racism, our gender inequality, or our neglect of our poor people.
We now have a leader who is a bullshitter. A bullshitter ignores the concept of truth. He pays it no heed. It is not an issue for him because it doesn’t apply to him. This makes him more dangerous than a liar or a truth-teller.
“. . .lying as a defiance of the truth and bullshitting as a wholesale dismissal of the truth.” Harry G. Frankfurt defines this in his book, Bullshit. This leader is more dangerous than someone who lies. I watch how we are numbed to outrageous acts, to farce, and to the lack of compassion and decency.
I am also reading up on my teaching. I am looking at dealing with controversial issues. Working with students to develop critical thinking skills. Let’s define critical thinking: “a dedicated search for meaning and understanding.” “In the public domain, to consider and evaluate the arguments made on controversial issues.” ( Teaching Controversial Issues, Nel Noddings & Laurie Brooks, p. 1). Is an argument based on BS, really an argument? Let’s think about that.
We must have a moral commitment to our society, to our community and for the common good. Well, we have to define all these terms. Our society – where we live, who we are and what we believe. Our community – those we choose to associate with, to live with and care about. The common good – this one is harder, isn’t it? What is best for our society, community and our nation. We must have a moral commitment to what we have in common. In the United States, WHAT DO WE HAVE IN COMMON? Good question. We were founded by a group of white men that had the financial ability to devote themselves to government. They had common influence in their lives. They were influences by their classical education. A connection between character and reason. A person innately knows what is good and will act in a moral fashion because of this knowledge and understanding. Most religions rely on this type of understanding. The Puritans believed that. Knowledge and virtue.
“True knowledge is virtue, and perfect knowledge describes the mind of God.” (Noddings, p. 6). Reason, moral decision making, development of character. Socrates, Plato. An examined life. Started with having a ruling class, monarchies, lords, and others. Those who worked for money were not part of these groups. Our country was founded during this age. That is why we have a republic, that was to be run by our “best and brightest,” those who could devote time and energy to governing for the common good. Those that would put “the welfare of the republic and its citizens above their own private concerns.” (Noddings, p.7). Do we have that today? Do we want that today?
This is a rambling piece now… but it all ties together eventually. I see our country as looking for its authentic self. I see the people wandering in their wildernesses. I see our leaders struggling with their roles. I pray for guidance, for clarity, for understanding.
I am taking on this journey if you wish to travel with me.
I hope that you will.
From the opening paragraphs of bell hooks’ Understanding Patriarchy: Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation. Yet most men do not use the word “patriarchy” in everyday life. Most men never think about patriarchy—what it means, how it is created and sustained. Many men in […]
On the Media – from WNYC Radio today!! FACE THE RACIST NATION
I would like you to listen to this podcast in its entirety. But I want you to then look at Nell Irvin Painter’s book, The History of White People, here’s a review from the NY Times. After you have absorbed the podcast and the book review, then look at Jody M. Roy’s book Love to Hate, America’s Obsession with Hatred and Violence. I couldn’t find a decent review of this book but Roy looks at how hatred is prevalent and idolized in our society. It was published in 2002.
I would love if everyone would read the books but I understand that’s not realistic for some of you.
Then think about what has been happening in our society for the past 18-20 years. Please respond if you like. I would like each of you to be honest in your viewpoints, and if you choose to respond to each other, I would like you to be civil and measured in your responses. Think of it as a looking at information for a research paper (I know, it sounds like work!). BUT this research paper will hopefully add to your body of knowledge about how you view the world. It’s important. Vitally important.
All of us lead complicated lives. We juggle multiple priorities everyday. Even in our “down” time, we are constantly pulled into what we have done, what we should be doing and what we will be doing in the future. I know I am guilty of it.
We hear the platitudes, “it’s called the present for a reason. We only get it once and it’s gone.” For some, this causes anxiety, for others, total shutdown. Some see so much too be done and others are overwhelmed at trying to find the “great” thing to do.
We live in the present but do not think about that very often. We are too busy to notice the present. The present is 86,400 seconds. (yes, I looked that up.) We are told to “live in the present” which is a tall order. And I bet we don’t even know what it means.
I’ve thought about it. A lot lately. I love history, just so you know. I constantly read everything. I even try to get into the heads of those discussed in the books I read. What were they thinking? Why were they thinking that? Didn’t they know better? Or are we on the inappropriate track now? Intellectually, I understand that if you weren’t there, it’s hard to understand why certain decisions were made but I believe we have to try so we can “live in the present.”
It is hard to slow your thinking when you are in the present. As a teacher, I try to be “in the present” with my students. To listen, to hear, to understand where they are and how to reach them. Sometimes it works, sometimes its doesn’t. I keep trying.
Since I teach the same thing to all my classes (15 of them by the end of a semester), I have a tendency to get bored with the curriculum. So I constantly look for different ways to present it. The students do not always understand that part of my teaching. But I try to keep things relevant and interesting.
It’s all I can do. BE PRESENT for everyone I encounter.
Still a work in progress.
I must go now and grade stuff.
Thanks for reading this!!