I’m currently taking the class Frameworks in American Education with Mike Taber (who is incredible, by the way). Today we brought up the idea of the new paradigm. That is, we discussed in class possible paper ideas where we propose a shift or change in the American educational system. One of the ideas that came up is inspiring adulthood and responsibility at an earlier age. Having done research already on a variety of domestic and international educational models in combination with being a public school student K-12, I feel this to be a pressing issue.
Education in America is compulsory, which means that children are required to begin school at a certain age and continue that schooling until their graduation from high school. As we progress through this experience, we’re told to do this and that. You should get good grades. You should ace all your tests. You should place well on the ACT or SAT. You should go to college. You should graduate. You should get a high-paying job. But is all this for the sake of what? Our educational system here in America manufactures students. It produces mass quantities of students who have no idea what they truly want to do with there life. Where along the line did our system forget that education is for the individual? Is my education for the sake of the boss who will be hiring me upon graduation, or is it for me as a responsible, adult human being?
My high school was a magnet school. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this idea, students choose a track within their high school either upon entering or within the end of the first year. For example, my high school was an Arts/Science Magnet. We offered tracks such as instrumental music, vocal music, graphic art, traditional art and science. Once you have chosen a track, you are assigned an adviser and you work with that adviser in order to construct a four-year project within your magnet that will eventually be presented or completed just before graduation. Sound familiar? This process definitely prepared me for my experience here at CC. Declaring a major? Well, done that before. Worked with an adviser? Check. Worked towards completion of an intensive major or project? Mmhm.
The magnet experience provided for me. I know how to manage time. I know how to undertake a massive responsibility with intimidation. I know how to be a leader and how to also work in cooperation with others. High school experiences vary greatly from place to place and school to school, as I have observed in meeting many different people in my three years here. But what if an adult level of maturity, of preparation, of responsibility, became the face of American education? What if the emphasis in education shifted from getting a job to something more derivative of a capable worker–being a good, functioning adult? This is not to say that we should eliminate World History classes, Algebra classes or Chemistry. But in a fast-paced world where you’re expected to hit the ground sprinting and expected to survive on your own, shouldn’t we be given the tools to do so?
The future in education is in building human beings. The future lies in building capable adults. This is derivative of everything. Dreams, aspirations and goals stem from the tree that is intrinsic motivation; how can we possibly find our own calling without being given the opportunity? We should be inspired by something other than money in our educational experience, realizing that more than just a job comes from years of sitting at a desk, writing assignments and reading textbooks. How are we expected to change this issue in education? I’m not exactly sure. Maybe there should be more magnet schools available. I intend to find out more in the writing of my paper. I am continually impressed and thankful for the wonderful thought and dialogue that comes from CC courses.
The Shumei International Institute is a spiritual center founded on the philosophy of Mokichi Okada that people are world citizens able to act for the common good. Although simplified, the way I understood the institute is a celebration of beauty to make the world a better place.
The architecture is amazing. Clean, simple lines enhance the natural beauty of the San Luis Valley. The buildings have large glass windows allowing a flow of natural light. The building materials are all natural. The colors are neutral and blend with the surrounding tones of the mountains.
We were able to participate in one of their spiritual events. Before entering the building, we rinsed our mouths with water from the spring fountain outside. We then removed our shoes and entered the main room of the building. Here, we participated in a call and answer chant. After this, we were invited to participate in Jyorei. Jyorei is a healing art that uses light to heal. One at a time, we sat across from a Shumei member. They led us through the practice of healing and purification. After, I felt a sense of tranquility. Some people saw lights, but I did not.
After the spiritual ceremony, we toured the farm. Natural farming is a major component of Shumei. Natural farming is more than just a horticultural technique. It is a connection to the land. It is an understanding that there is a relationship between the elements involved in the consumption of food. Those who practice natural faming see that agriculture is guided by nature, and do not try to control it. Weeds are allowed to grow and nutrients are not added to the soil.
I was amazed at the sophistication of the farm. The greenhouse was immense. I felt like they could grow food for the entire town, not just the institute. The greenhouse was also beautiful. It was just as much art as it was a practical growing facility. The clean lines and the upkeep of the land demonstrated the philosophy of beauty. The institute is located on the side of the mountains overlooking the entire San Luis Valley.
The institute was amazing and it was such a privilege to be able to visit. I highly recommend a visit.
There is not a problem with the idea of nonviolence; there is a problem with the word “nonviolence.” The definition is flat and does not encompass what nonviolence truly is. Let’s break down the word. The prefix “non” means “no” or “not doing.” The word “violence” is defined by Webster dictionary as “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Therefore, nonviolence is not being violent. Hmm, well not quite. The Webster dictionary defines nonviolence as “use of peaceful means, not force, to bring about political or social change.” Certainly, that’s part of it, but this course has shown there is so much more to this unassuming word.
I think the prefix “non” has a power to discredit whatever word follows it. Noncommittal. Nonbeliever. Nonabsorbent. These words describe an inability. Nonviolence is not an inability to be violent. It is a conscientious choice to not use violence.
There is a large difference between pacifism and passivism. Sure, reading this, the difference is clear. However, say the words aloud or try mixing them up in casual conversation. They become interchangeable. The first is a belief that any violence is unjustifiable. The second is allowing things to happen without trying to change anything. There could not be a larger difference, and yet these words are often mistaken for synonyms.
Nonviolence does not use force, but that does not mean it is not strong. There is the idea that nonviolence is not doing anything, but that is far from the truth. Nonviolent social and political movements are not the easy way out. In fact, they often take more creativity. Nonviolence also is a type of warfare. It takes organizing, planning, commitment, and execution. The difference is the means to obtain an end. Nonviolent warfare uses boycotts rather than bullets; protests rather than paratroopers.
Three weeks into the course, I cannot offer an alternative word, but only highlight a deficiency in language in the word nonviolence.
As we rapidly enter into fourth week, brains full of newly learned information and minds looking forward to break, I would like to take a moment to reflect upon what I believe to be the largest discovery our class has realized thus far. Although I mentioned in my last blog it seemed an unspoken understanding of relation to the material was present among the class, it was this past week when these unspoken sentiments became shared. Bringing these previously unsaid connections to the table created a sort of ‘relatablility’ to the text we simply have not yet encountered within our discussions. All of the sudden these highfalutin, distant ideas became graspable. Every single one of us could pin down exactly what the theorists meant, which was evidenced by our ability to provide countless personal anecdotes.
On Monday, we came into class having read Winnicott’s theory on the transitional object. However, it was not by lecture that we all came to solidify this theory in our minds –it was through the heartfelt descriptions of each and every one of our classmates’ own transitional objects. The transitional object is comprised of many elements, however, in short it is an object the child possesses that paves a smoother path from one stage of their development into another. More specifically, it transitions them from a deeply subjective point of view, into a more objective one. That Monday we heard the tales of blankies, and teddies, and doggies galore. We even had the privilege of meeting some of these objects in person. Countless times Marcia asked the question, “Would anyone else like to share”? And, as she looked around there was always another eager hand in the air waiting to tell of their own beloved object that had aided them through their childhood. Marcia asked this question until, I believe, every last one of us in the class had shared their personal story of their transitional object with the rest of us.
Through the sharing of these intimate experiences, so close to home, we collectively began to realize the theories we are reading about do not simply pertain to ill people seeking out intensive therapy. Rather, these theories illuminate aspects of our selves that have, for years, remained unnamed, or perhaps just unperceived. After learning these ideas, however, we can now begin to identify them within our own selves. What happened this past week began the process of piecing together who we are on a more profound level by looking at our selves through a truly psychoanalytic lens. While this may seem like a terrifying process, the class never once seemed to approach a space of fright –we never backed away from what the theorists were beginning to reveal within ourselves. As this class is coming to an abrupt end, we are finally beginning to see how we, as individuals, might be changed for the better by learning this information.
One afternoon I make it my mission to explore Oxford’s libraries. This is easily imagined but less easily done because there are no fewer than one hundred libraries in the city. They range from the massive and historical Bodleian–which is legally entitled to a copy of every book published in England–to private libraries in each residential college. Walking through Oxford, it doesn’t look from the outside like books are behind every door. But an empirical test of that prediction would reveal positive results more often than not.
I set out from St. Catherine’s (my home college) on a ice-coated morning and stop first at the Social Science Library, a sleek construction at odds visually with the castle-like decor of the traditional reading rooms. Inside I sit at a long table and happily type away for a few minutes before I notice a little sign right in front of me: “This is a quiet study area. No laptops allowed.” Chagrined, I sneak back outside, hoping that I haven’t already been blacklisted as one of those students who just can’t keep perfectly silent while studying.
Next on my tour is the English Faculty Library, next to the peaceful University Parks and meandering River Cherwell. Inside I discover JRR Tolkien’s application for a special professorship of Anglo-Saxon literature, and some drawings by Philip Pullman with the fictional Jordan College in place of the real one where I live. Did you know that in England, the novel that we know as The Golden Compass is called Northern Lights?
The highlight of my tour is of course The Bodleian. In fact “the Bod” is not just one large building but rather a network of libraries around the city which shares books stored off-site. Rather than borrowing books as I would at home, I instead request that they be sent to a specific reading room and then make notes there. (That is how one afternoon I find myself browsing stories about New York drug gangs in the Rhodes House, but that’s another story.) The most iconic Bodleian buildings look like Hogwarts, with towering spires and a central dome from which one can survey the city’s walls and towers. Walking in, I feel like my tiny homework assignment is taking on historical importance. “I’m going to write an essay!” I feel like shouting. “About theater!” But I don’t. Because Quietness is Rule Number One.
Finally, I feel it is my duty to check out the library of another college, even though such places are technically out-of-bounds to anyone who does not live in that college. My target is small and cozy, with stained glass windows and dark wooden tables that students have covered with scary-looking notes. I act casual and follow someone in easily. Once inside, however, seeming like I belong there is more challenging. I walk back and forth down the isles until it feels redundant, and then try to browse a massive, red tome that is handwritten in Latin. Ancient paint from the cover flakes off and stains my fingers. People are starting to look at me so I make a dash for the exit…which is locked. I rattle the doorknob but it just won’t open. I turn and head back into the depths of the bookshelves. Just act casual, I command myself. Just act casual. Finally, a girl taps me on the shoulder and lets me out with a swipe of her University card and a knowing smile.
Exhausted, I return home to St. Catz to ponder the lessons of the day. They are, in ascending order of importance:
1) Order books from the Bodleian well ahead so that you do not experience the rite of passage known as an “essay crisis.”
2) Know the difference between quiet, and Quiet.
3) There’s a reason they’re called the Closed Stacks, and emergency rations are not provided down there. Make sure you know how to get out.
We cram into cars and head to Peter’s Bicycle Clinic. The directions head down Cascade. Turn right. Turn right again. Little did I know we were heading to another world.
Walking into Peter’s bike shop, the first thing I notice are the walls of positivity. Handmade signs remind me to smile. The décor of optimism is transformative.
I am intrigued. How is a bicycle clinic a living example of non-violence? I sit in awe as Peter humbly explains his mission.
He opened his bike shop to fill a void in the community. Colorado Springs is an expansive city with poor public transportation. He provides bikes to people with a need for transportation who would otherwise not be able to attain a bike.
He does not pay rent for his bike shop. Instead, Criterium Bicycles pays the rent for Peter’s shop. I cannot help but smile. A bike shop that sells $7,000 bikes pays for a bike shop pays it forward by supporting a community that does not have means to purchase a bike. This simple gesture is incredibly humbling. Not all businesses are hungry for maximized profit.
We then ask Peter if why he doesn’t he require people to work off their bike instead of providing free bikes. For example why doesn’t he require people work at the soup kitchen in exchange for a bike? His answer is beautifully simple. Providing bikes is the way he lifts spirits. A person who receives a bike is in a better position to help the community. He states that people who pick up glass of trails or those who dumpster dive for parts are just as essential to the success of the bike shop. He puts good into the word knowing that those who receive it will do good in exchange.
Peter sees the world in a way in which I have never thought to look. He states that he may never know the fruits of his labor in his lifetime. I hope I can take this experience with Peter and see progress instead of results.
I am writing to you from the end of the second week of ‘Discovering the Unconscious’. I think I may be able to anticipate your first question – have we delved deep into that mysterious thing locked within our selves and emerged alive gripping the slippery key which unlocks the rusty doors into the untapped regions of our rawest beings? Absolutely not. Even if that feat is possible, it would take one’s lifetime, not a matter of weeks, to pioneer into those recesses of our minds. We are, however, making strides in understanding how this impossible presence within us reveals itself in our conscious lives. Or rather, proves its existence through our inexplicable feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Some neuroscientists may take issue with the idea of an unconscious, as it cannot be physically proven. There is no space in our brains we can point to and say, “There it is”! Perhaps, it is this elusive quality that magnetized so many students towards this class.
Regardless of the reasons that brought us all together, we are now aboard this ship and land is a far cry away. For the past two weeks we have been floating upon the words of W.R. Bion, Thomas Ogden, Hanna Segal, Melanie Klein, and of course Sigmund Freud. We have strained our brains over extraordinarily technical theories, clutched our knees against our chests while watching the multiple personalities of Sybil emerge, and relaxed into the dreamspace of our classmates as they recounted the details of their fantastic worlds while we furiously scribbled down their words in hopes of illuminating some kind of truth for them. However, the discussions, the readings, the films – they are not what have been of utmost significance for me.
This past week our class read an article by Thomas Ogden which discusses the presence of an “analytic third”in the room between an analyst and the patient. The “analytic third” is the idea that an interplay between the two individuals’ subjectivities begins to occur during the therapy session. They, the subjectivities, occupy the space between the patient and the analyst creating an intersubjectivity within the room. By tapping into this intersubjectivity, the analyst, and even the patient, is able to see and understand things that were previously inaccessible. While this may sound like it is some sort of sorcery that should stay within the realms of Hogwarts, Ogden assures us it is simply tuning one’s self into, “the most mundane, everyday aspects of the background workings of the mind…” (4).
I brought up Ogden, and the “analytic third,” because I believe it sheds light on what has been of utmost significance in this class. Every morning, as I sit down within the circle of chairs and look around at my classmates I feel as if an understanding is occurring. Each of us, having read the intensive material the night before, cannot seem to help but connect to it on a personal level. I know, for me, much of the material from this week has been quite close to home. Carrying with us these personal connections into the discussion, even if they remain unshared, create a space in which valuable class time is constantly occurring. There are a multitude of unspoken, yet felt, “Amens!” Fervent nodding is a common sight. Attentive eyes watch the speaker as they delineate a specific theory from Freud. It is a time of engagement supported by the understanding that we all have maybe ‘been there’. While it has already been a long two weeks aboard this psychoanalytic ship, I feel that none of us believe it is quite yet time to dock.
Ogden, T.H. (1994). The Analytic Third: Working with Intersubjective Clinical Facts. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:3-19
An amazing class cannot always be lighthearted, and today it took a turn. It was not a bad turn, but one that challenged us mentally and emotionally. Yesterday, we read about restorative justice, a series of additive or alternative strategies to the current judicial system. It involved looking into the hurt that was felt rather than on what laws were broken, and on the victim rather than the state. One of the many possible restorative justice techniques involves the offender and victim or victims meeting. In response to last night’s readings, today our professor showed us a documentary titled Meeting With a Killer. The movie centered around a daughter and grandmother whose mother/daughter had been raped and murdered by two fifteen year old boys, fifteen years before the documentary was filmed. The grandmother had begun to work as a teacher in prisons and eventually decided to seek out a restorative justice program. A mediator began writing to the grandmother and doctor as well as the offender, and then met with them both. When she understood that all three wanted to and were ready to meet, she arranged it. The offender had been sexually abused as a child and had never had a real family. When the crime was committed he and his friend had been heavily intoxicated. The family had a civil and understanding discussion with him and in the end took a picture with him. What must be understood is that this ending is not something that always happens, nor is it necessary. Every victim has their own needs. What struck me, was the fact that they were all victims. Gary, the offender had been abused as a child, and in turn became an abuser. The abused do often become the abusers, and so I was left to wonder how a legal system can be effective when it is allowing this cycle to happen. It is fighting people, when it should in fact be fighting an idea. By the end of the class, many people were almost in tears. We felt stressed together, but in a good sense. For the first time we are understanding that nonviolence is not easy. It is hard, but it may in fact be the best way of going through life.
One of the many exciting classes offered by Colorado College is called the Foundations of Nonviolence, taught by Evan Weissman as well as many extraordinary speakers. It began as a gentle introduction, an explanation to what violence and nonviolence both were, and their effects. By the end of the first day Evan had almost the whole class at an understanding of the importance of the information. The readings provide us with a plethora of support for ideas that we as students may have already had but could not articulate as well as deepening our understanding of the issues. It is also provided in a more academic format with statistics and studies than we as students may not have seen elsewhere.
Classes are primarily discussion based, centered around the various speakers, movies, and books that we read for class. Assignments, are also very open. There is only one a week in the form of a reflection that can be done through art or through a short essay. It is an absolutely freeing experience, letting students approach it in any way that they would like. So far the two speakers that we have had are Dr. Vincent Harding and Jamie Laurie from the Flobots. Dr. Vincent Harding was a friend of Martin Luther King as well as the writer of Martin Luther King’s infamous Vietnam Speech. While it is a speech that is well accepted today, at the time it spiraled MLK into controversy.
The most influential thing about the presentation by Dr. Vincent Harding, was that there was no lecture. The presentation was in the form of modeling his interactions with us and his responses to our questions and comments. He began with little introduction, but instead asked who we were, and then proceeded to give statements which he wished us to respond to. Dr. Vincent Harding had such great composure and answered all questions with a great touch of humor. I left the class feeling such a great sense of peace.
In today’s class, we opened with a discussion and then moved to a presentation by our assistant teacher, Mary. She sang songs and taught us how music could be used in activism. She used parodies as an easy way to attract other people to the songs. Halfway through the class, rapper and activist, Jamie Laurie came in to talk to us. He is from the band Flobots, most know for their hit “Handlebars.” His presentation contrasted to the others, in his explanation of his own path to nonviolence. He used questions, to make us think, and shared some of his raps. He is and has been an activist since college and believes that music is important for effective protest. It is unifying, calming and creates a sense of greater purpose.
Next week we are going to Baca. It will be a spiritual journey, and I can’t wait!
In Foundations of Nonviolence, we are studying the Civil Rights Movement and taking a more in depth look into Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We listened to his speech Independence of the Vietnam War. I get chills listening to this speech, as his poetic voice undulates throughout the church. Like most, I am captivated by his calm Southern draw and powerful words. Although he spoke these words over fifty years ago, I feel as if I am sitting in a pew in Riverside Church in New York in 1967 rather than a classroom in Colorado Springs in 2013.
In this speech, Dr. King declares the war in Vietnam to be morally wrong. This outraged many as it undermined President Johnson who had been in support of the Civil Rights movement. The New York Times condemned Dr. King for the speech and black leaders of the Civil Rights movement viewed Dr. King as a traitor. Many credit this speech to the assassination of Dr. King.
When our professor announces the author of this speech will attend class we are all star-struck. First, I had no idea that Dr. King did not write this speech. I am entranced that someone so powerful whose words impacted so many will attend our class. His words transcended through Dr. King to touch thousands and alter history.
The next morning when Dr. Vincent Harding enters the classroom, the mood changes immediately. A veil of silent respect transcends a usually chatty classroom. All of us can sense the powerful energy of the man who has just entered. History sits before us.
He takes his time to settle in. He straightens his tie, removes his watch, and sips water in no rush to begin. I realize I have been holding my breath in nervous excitement, watching in eager anticipation what he will do next.
Unexpectedly, he begins by asking us questions. Through the juxtaposition of student questions and his answers, I notice the difference of cadence. We hurriedly blurt out questions inserting like and um at will. In response, he takes a slow and methodical moment before replying with words that seemed to be rehearsed, even though unscripted.
In my opinion, Dr. Harding coming to our class is one of the coolest things to ever happen. Rather than go on drooling about every detail, here are his words that stuck with me the most:
- “Whenever we are in dialogue we are most human.”
- “Do not give up on goodness.”
- “The benefit of living to age 82 is seeing the number of impossible things become possible things.”
- “Do not do what I did but find out what you must do.”
- If you do not know something talk to Colorado College about that but more importantly talk to yourself about that.”