Friday, November 8, 2013

Gender in Education talk with Jennifer Bryan

Went to a talk, had some thoughts.  The talk was fantastic.  While I wasn't necessarily blown away by anything she spoke of (which probably speaks more to only having an hour than to her expertise or my advanced understanding of the content), it was yet another in a long line of discussions that I think refer back to a larger paradigmatic issue.  More on that later.

The atmosphere was receptive, although there was some hesitance on the part of the audience (myself included) to engage with Dr. Bryan.  I feel as though she wanted a little more from us, and I'm not sure what made it that folks weren't more forward with thoughts.  I certainly was more interested in thinking than blabbing.  "Are gender and sexuality topics that should be discussed in school?" Some comments.  Bryan's answer - yes, because schools are sites of development (identity, sexual, cognitive, etc...), because reality will find its way into schools, and because we all have genders, sexualities, and other facets of identity.

She presented us a series of questions from children at different ages, starting at Kindergarten.  "Can I be a boy if I don't have a penis?"  Moving through second, third, eighth, high school, we explored what seem like reasonable developmental questions, thinking about the role of the teacher (rights and responsibilities) in addressing them.

The most poignant part of the talk was the discussion of destroying the binary present in many pieces of identity.  Male/Female, Gay/Straight, and so on.  Again, nothing is surprising here (modernism is very present in my mind).  What I really appreciated, however, was the visual of the continuum of all of these aspects of gender and sexuality.  Not only were they anchored by various benchmarks, such as the aforementioned polar positions, but typically there was a midpoint (bisexual, androgynous, etc...).  She had a series of letters show up on the various continuums, sometimes once, sometimes multiple times, to show that people's identities can be so incredibly complicated.  This speaks to my thinking about CRT, personal epistemologies, Freire, T440, and so on.  I think underlying this idea is post-modernism, which shatters the binary.

She introduced the metaphor of the finch, which varies greatly from species to species and whose gender can only be determined by hearing them sing.  The metaphor, obviously, speaks to the variation present in human beings.

Her book is all about starting and continuing these conversations in the school context, with any age student, based on the postmodern vision of identity explored above.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dream 11-5-13

A bit of set up:  I've been in Somerville for a few months now.  I've been sleeping on a gourmet air mattress, about 4 feet tall (thick), and really quite comfortable (though sometimes a bit squealy).  It had small circular lumps in it, that traveled down the length of the bed, from head to toe.  Each one was probably about 6 inches when flat, and I'd say about 1.5 inches tall when fully inflated.  One night, the seam that created the middle between two little lumps tore, and it became a 12 inch hump.  The next night, another seam tore, creating an 18 inch hump(ón).  This disastrous form took up a good bit of prime real estate on the bed, and I've since ordered another cheap bed to replace it.  Here was the dream on the last night sleeping with the hump.

I'm inside a wooden fence.  There's a huge dude (dude cause his cap's on backwards), wearing jean shorts and a dark (probably black) t-shirt.  Shortsleeved.  I'm wielding my Wusthof 9" chef knife, and I'm doing my best to slit his throat.  Unfortunately, my darned knife is not nearly sharp enough for the job.  I keep moving in, slicing, doing some sort of damage (as evidenced by the blood), but not sufficient to debilitate the dude, who seems to want to fight back.  His method is simply grabbing my arm to which belongs the hand wielding the Wusthof.  I wriggle it away like a little prick, and proceed to slice again.  Again and again (I'd say 4 times), we repeat this deadly dance.

Dream 11-3-13

I relayed the following dream to a friend, Eric, which included a man named Chester, which may or may not be a pseudonym.  Don't worry, you don't know him.

I had a dream about Chester last night.  He was the headmaster of my (British) grammar school, and he had plans to beat me for something or other.  He took me away from my room, and walked me into a large hall.  At this point, the left sleeve of my blue cardigan extended well beyond my left hand, and Chester was carrying it.  I swung it back and forth as I followed behind him in the large auditorium, which was filled with my prepubescent classmates.  They giggled at my antics, and I knew their affection for me diffused the situation.  The performance started (think the midpoint between music, film, and theater), and my genuine affinity to the content further rendered his abuse unlikely.  Seems there's a heart deep down in that massive barrel chest after all.

Writing About Thinking About Writing

In recent weeks, I've been thinking quite extensively about writing.  Specifically, I've been ruminating on my writing style - or lack thereof.  I'm concerned, as I get deeper into my graduate school education, that I've so long written in a style that was self-determined (and sometimes unconsciously so), that my ability to write academic papers is dormant.  To make matters worse, the writing that I've done thus far, excepting two papers, has been very, very open - taking the form of journal entries; reactions to readings and classes and what not.

To make matters still worse, nothing I've read (fun reading, that is) lately is likely to do anything but destroy my ability to succinctly and directly announce anything.  Rather, I'm possessed by a tautology, a circumlocution that isn't necessarily welcome in many circles.

I hereby pledge to myself that I, Cameron Allen, will refocus myself on writing often, in hopes that I'll be able to create engaging, meaningful text.  At the very least, this will allow me to flex the muscle, which ideally will translate into better writing experiences, as well as increasingly useful and worthy experiences for my readers (most of whom are obligated to read my drivel, as they're my profs and teaching fellows).