Think of this: there exists a land where five people live. They cannot move off the land, but must share it. Say four of those five people grow wheat, because it is comfortable for them to do so. But the fifth person is deathly allergic to wheat. The four who grow wheat flourish while their neighbour dies–although corn or barley fields could have replaced wheat. Remember this, because we will jump back to it.
Ellsworth’s article puts forth the idea that knowledge is not made, but in the making. If knowledge were made and the mind’s activity ceased, all would be dead. So she proposes knowledge as reflective and active pedagogy as well as learning of self. Another locus of her article examines the binaries of such things as “self/other, real/virtual, reason/emotion” which have been “so strategic to social, political, and educational thought” (Ellsworth, 3). It is true that through simple beliefs, the morass of life can be made more comfortable (sometimes this is not always a bad thing). But often when life is made comfortable for us, we stop allowing there to be any space for others who do not conform to the rules of our place. Much like the four wheat farmers and their allergic friend.
The urgency that compels Ellsworth is the belief that our world’s knowledge has grown ripe and rotting. She writes that we are stale and dead in our knowledge (Ellsworth, 1). Unless we can re-learn. Unless we can re-contextualize previous banalities and assumptions, oppression has its way. This ties well with Loutzenheiser’s article, which addresses the current pandemic of high suicide rates (roughly thirty percent in the U.S.A.) amongst lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth (59). People of the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Ally) continually meet oppression because the rest of society does not wish to re-contextualize their knowledge of sexual identity to make space for “different people.” The people in the power circle (white bourgeois heterosexuals) are comfortable and want to stay that way.
But “hath a Jew not eyes?”
People are people nonetheless. And all of us need society. We desperately need connection. Instead of abandonment and punishment for our self.
How can a teacher begin to change this? Can it be done in any school? When and where should the change start? In the boardroom? In the hallway? In our own dark hearts, full of pride and smugness?
I would like to hear your thoughts.
Loutzenheiser says “when you list categories of comments (racist,sexist) that are not acceptable in the classroom, add “homophobic” and define homophobia” (62).
Ellsworth, E. (2005). Places of Learning: Media, Architecture, Pedagogy. Routledge: New York.
Loutzenheiser, L. (1996). How schools play smear the queer. Feminist Teacher, 10(2). pp. 59-64
Featured Image: The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet