Monthly Archives: October 2015

w9/ The Virtue of Tolerance

 

This week’s readings are my best so far. I am glad to be introduced to Paulo Freire’s work and his approach to teaching/learning -or life. His criticism against the tabula rasa view of (student) mind is truly r-evolutionary. His circular shaped understanding of teaching and learning as well as his focus on curiosity as the motor force of education (and life?) are truly inspiring. As an advocate of character education, I liked his focus on (growth of) the person, rather than the content of teaching. I absolutely agree with him that the best way to deal with oppression is to learn the tools (aka language) of the oppressor well.

His overall approach to “life” seems pretty Hegelian to me, from his assumption of the inevitably curious/striving-for-growth “nature” of the student/person (aka Spirit), to his focus on the synthesis as opposed to be stuck in the thesis (master-oppressor) and anti-thesis (slave-oppressed) dichotomy. I am kinda surprised to see that a seemingly-Hegelian approach created such an impact on the higher-education tradition here that is primarily “dominated” by the analytic school of thought.

Yet, after (and beyond) all these solid, realistic and idealistic conceptualizations, I believe Freire’s most important contribution to the theory (and practice) of idealism (in educational settings) is the “virtue of tolerance” that he defines as the ultimate duty of the humankind as a means of communicating which in turn leads to new possibilities (aka learning).

We used to taught that it is the “conflict” per se that is the necessary and sufficient condition for growth. We used to think appearance of anti-theses, as opposed to theses are necessary and sufficient conditions for the syntheses to occur. We used to believe, if the Conflict is real enough, then the magic (i.e. synthesis) happens. May be that’s why, for centuries, we keep deepening, widening, highlighting the theses and anti-theses, making the differences deeper, wider and brighter by the (un)conscious wish for the magic to happen: If we can make the differences salient enough, if the black would be the blackest while white is the whitest, then gray magically happens!

Developmentally, makes sense. At the stage of narcissism, all babies have this egocentric and magical mode of thinking. Many developmental psychologists agree that, the thinking/feeling processes of humankind seem to stuck at the stage of narcissism.

Freire’s incredibly elegant and singular contribution that growth happens only by the means of acceptance, is a ground-breaking shift of perspective, in my opinion. We have already started to experience this phenomenon thanks to rise of the person-centered approaches, yet Freire seems to nail it. That is, tolerance is the magic key opening the door of the magical synthesis: tolerance to oneself, tolerance to other, tolerance as a virtue. Tolerance to us in them, and tolerance to them in us. Tolerance to the oppressor in the oppressed, and tolerance to the oppressed in the oppressor. Tolerance, since the positions change, life goes on, and it is never the same river again. Tolerance, since without the condition of light, white or black are just the colorless-same.

I believe, introjecting this perspective, accepting the acceptance, will help us more to figure out the nature of change, so that as humankind, we can more realistically walk through our idealistic goal -of reaching best versions of ourselves.

w7/ Inclusiveness in Academia

 

I really appreciate the movement of including the issue of inclusiveness in the Academia, by the means of publications, courses, departments, campaigns, activities, and events. I do think that these actions help the elephants visible in the field, that reduce the (un-)conscious blindness of all sorts of diversity. With all that, I also think that that there is a need for continuous evaluation on whether these actions are effectively creating a change among the students, and for research practices aiming to increase the effectiveness of inclusiveness education.

In my experience, the common way of inclusiveness education in undergraduate studies is including one chapter (equivalent to approximately one week [two classes])named sth like “Diverse Populations” divided with subsections like blacks, yellows, purples, blues, hazels etc. and basically providing some strange stereotypical signages, as if we are reading through a visual zoo. For instance, a random sentence from a diversity chapter of a book I am currently teaching says: “Many African Americans drink almost exclusively on the weekends, traditionally on a time for relaxation, visitation, and celebration” (Fisher & Harrison, 2013, p.64), as if a “person” who is a “normal” alcohol drinker can not be like that. One another sentence says: “Another critical issue for counselors is to understand a racial/ethnic client’s story” (Fisher & Harrison, 2013, p.79), as if understanding the person’s story is different than understanding the racial/ethnic client. By the way, is there anybody who knows what the term of “racial/ethnic client” means? Anyways.

I truly, really, deeply understand the well intentions of the authors of this book (or the other educators —since these kind of sentences are common in the textbooks I saw until now). They seem to work really hard: they cite various research published in well established journals, various projects funded by well established foundations, yet my overall impression after reading signages like that is that I am basically asked to develop an educated-blindness. That is, based on reading those signages, I am being asked to deepen and widen my stereotypes about the certain “species” involved in this virtual zoo, without actually developing an inclusive attitude.

This educated-blindness reflects itself in a variety of forms, like having/showing knowledge about diversity, being able to talk about diversity, claiming of an advocacy of inclusiveness but at the times of real interaction, failing to do/be inclusive, or rationalizing the actually non-inclusive attitudes with other reasons. For instance, most of the experiences of the international students that we have a chance to listen two weeks ago, can be interpreted from the lens of non-inclusiveness, yet I am pretty sure that if the “perpetrators” are asked to explain their actions, almost all of them would provide rationales that have absolutely no relation with non-inclusiveness. And I do think that by behaving so they are not just being hypocrites or just being  inherently bad. I do think that the current education/living system promotes these behaviors and attitudes.

I think most of the non-inclusiveness comes from just lack of experience and fear. Fear of all sorts, but basically fear of unfamiliar. Difference is just anxiety provoking and it is innate. And all we are just experiencing this uncanny feeling when we confront with an unfamiliarity. Many research also support this hypothesis, including the well known harvard implicit racism test that can be found here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ , which reflects that racism (and other non-inclusive attitudes) are strongly correlated with unfamiliarity and fear.

Freud describes the fear of unfamiliar with the term “unheimlich” that can be translated as uncanny, and Lacan sets the uncanniness, the anxiety at the core of human existence. As does the various philosophers including Heidegger, Husserl, and Sartre. So, I think, before heating the discussions with divisions, we need to sit and listen the other being (whether s/he is inclusive or not, or familiar to us or not). Since we are all humans, eventually the familiarity will reveal itself, that will soothe the anxiety.

In this regard, I do think that the strongest tool to promote inclusiveness as a mean to reach the best versions of ourselves and help people do/be their best is to work on the principle of familiarity. Neurologically speaking, without including limbic system (aka emotions), and just focusing the prefrontal cortex (aka thoughts), we can not create effective learning. Learning happens when the brain is involved in the process as a whole. Thus, rather than setting signages for human zoos, we can invite and welcome the personal stories and highlight the similarities, rather than getting lost in the rabbit holes of differences. Here is an amazingly wonderful speech by Chimamanda Ngozi, named The Danger of Single Story, showing how the prefrontal cortex focused training induced educated-blindness effects the relationships and providing some delicate insights on how similar we humans actually are, enjoy if you did not before <3


yesim

Oct 10, 2015