Quit Screwing Around with Our Minds

Recently, I sat down with our “foreign exchange student,” Annika.

Believe me, having a seventeen-year-old in the house when I am almost eighty-one is sooo much fun, a challenge, and an opportunity for so much remembering and learning.

This week, she came home with two poems that she was supposed to analyze and compare and contrast.

I love poetry and I eagerly approached both. The first one was easier and lovely. The second was eye-crossing for me. And, I “took it on,” struggling with my teeth gnashing.

“What a terrible thing to do to poetry,” I thought. I love poetry. My mother was a published poet and elected to the National Poetry Society. She always hated it when, as a child, I recited poetry in a sing-song manner. I remembered that. I also remembered how her poetry always elicited “feelings” and I liked that.

The second poem was curious, a bit confusing and intriguing.

Then came the “analysis” and “comparing and contrasting” which I liked not at all. And, we all discussed and added our bits.

And, I sat with being disturbed with the process.

And here is what I learned about myself.

I realized that I clearly do not like analyzing and comparing and contrasting with White Male System (WMS)/Technologically, Mechanistically, Materialistically (TMM) trained brains.

I flashed on a time years ago when I was talking with a friend (a white male) who was moonlighting from his fulltime job as a college professor and teaching writing to black kids in the ghetto in Detroit. It was in the 1980’s and I had twenty years of being active in the Human Rights Movement and ten years (actually a lifetime in my family) in the Women’s Movement under my belt.

So, at one point, we were talking about “his” young black students and their learning how to write. I was a great fan of Zora Neale Hurston and most intrigued and enthralled with her insistence of writing in the black paradigm. To me, her work was so powerful and spoke to me in a way that “whitewashed” thinking, writing and experience did not.

With several years of reading non-traditional (i.e. non-WMS) black writers, I was curious and excited to learn about his experience of “teaching” black, inner-city Detroit youth writing – what had come out of it and what he had learned. Who knows? There may have been a budding Zora Neale Hurston in his class.

“What are they writing?” I asked with enthusiasm.

He was stunned.

“Are you kidding?” he said.

“They aren’t writing anything,” he continued. “My job is to teach them how to THINK!”

“Surely they know how to THINK,” I retorted.

“Just because they are black doesn’t mean they don’t know how to think. The way they think and learning how to put that down and tell their stories could be very exciting and a learning for us all,” I persisted.

“Not until I teach them how to think,” he retorted.

This example is beyond racism. It is imposed culturalism and suffocating the soul.

Why is contrasting and comparing, which leads to very limited dualistic thinking that is suffocating our brain capacity, essential for the norm of how our brains can work?

We should never have to girdle our minds into our cultural form of using them. At that point in the development of my explorations about the limitations of dualistic thinking, I was only at the beginning of this awareness. And, my gut knew that there was something very wrong here as these perhaps open-minded, open-cultured young people were having their minds “formed” by a very narrow cultural conditioning.

What if the teacher had asked the students to compare, contrast, see how they felt while reading the poem, see what associations came to mind, close their eyes and imagine the scene and write about it? Or any number of options.

Not just compare and contrast.

No wonder teenagers have headaches as their minds are being molded into processes that girdle their possibilities.

I probably will have a lot more to say about this experience in the future.

What if the teacher had even said, “This is just one way of looking at poetry,” instead of implying that it was the only and right way?

What if our science teachers said this is only one way to approach science, there are many others?

What if our math teachers said that there are many approaches to mathematics, and higher math recognized that calculations are one approach used best with the material plane?

What might our youth bring to the table that goes well beyond a TMM society?

3 thoughts on “Quit Screwing Around with Our Minds

  1. Anne, This post stimulated an avalanche of thoughts, considerations & questions. Themes have to do with the writing I’m struggling with (to be the most authentic I can be), & with the college courses I’ve been hired to teach in Spring term at Montana State University-Northern in Havre (2 general ed courses, both new to me, & one being “the dreaded public speaking” course.) It seems at the moment, that I need to reread your post & then just write whatever comes. I very much want to share with you some of the “avalanche;” on the other hand, being somewhat OCD and a writer, I want it to be somewhat organized rather than total chaos. Thank you for this post. It is one of the two most stimulating articles I’ve read since the writing retreat in June. Blessings, Margaret Meggs, Havre, MT

  2. This touches on one of my great concerns sending our six year old boy to public school. He has been such a source of learning and wonder to all of us. And I relates to knowing and resisting the type of Drilling I got from school and well meaning relatives on thinking. Drilling to think and view in a certain way, over and over again. Thank you for the reminder!

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