General Education Committee meeting minutes of September 9, 2009.
A reading Dara Wegman-Geedey thought you'd enjoy:
RANDOM THOUGHT: FOG
The dark, pre-dawn air hung heavy. It was damp, clammy, warm. Everything was blurred by a slight, enveloping fog. As I longed for the calming effect of the starry sky, I thought how in academic certainty can be so fog our senses. And, I thought of another word for Kenny to add to our DICTIONARY OF WORDS FOR GOOD TEACHING. Fog. Now, when we think of fog, words like "uncertain," "lost," "adrift," and "blurry" probably jump into our minds. But, when you're in a fog, when you realize you're in a fog, you are forced you to lose your complacency, to heighten your senses, to put your antennae on full blast, to squint your eyes and look more intensely, to perk up your ears and listen more closely, to become acutely aware of your surroundings, to focus your awareness, and to concentrate your otherness. In a fog, if it's not heads up, it'll be bump into or fall down. So, I've found that when it comes to students it is only in a fog that you can hope to see, listen, feel, and think crystal clear. Let me tell you what I mean as I turn the relationship of fog and certainty upside down.
So, I ask, "How many of us academics live in a house constructed of the often deafening, blinding, distant, numbing, and clinical bricks of certainty, and objectivity? How many of us allow those bricks to create a barrier between us and each student, as well as between us and ourselves? How many of us are swept along by such currents of presumptuous certainty as "in my day" and "students today are?" How many of us so often pretend that the personal context and individual circumstance don't exist, that they exert no effect on either us or the students, and consequently are of no concern to us? It's what I call a fog of certainty that can only be dissipated by the breezes of uncertainty.
I recently told someone, "As I read each student's daily journal entry, as I read each single word the students write on the whiteboard each day at the beginning of class about how they feel, when I face each student, I am faced with the acknowledged knowledge of not knowing enough about the individual life of a student that is impacting on her or his performance. I can clearly see that I don't have a complete and certain picture that a preconception, generalization, presumption, or stereotype suggests I have. When I see each student, I see difference. I see a different perspective. I see a different life. No one is without heritage; no one is bereft of experience; no one is devoid of conscious and subconscious memory. Every person is an alternative life to my own. Every one has a unique personal history. It is the basic American principle of diversity: every person is a unique, noble, sacred individual. Each person has different alloys of strengths and weaknesses. Each person lives differently, walks different roads, has different experiences, calls on different memories, has different approaches to life, gets sick differently, has different needs, has different ailments, has different senses of the future, carries different amounts of baggage, has different opinions, totes different types of baggage, and heals differently. Each person dreams differently, copes differently, risks differently, fears differently, believes differently, manages differently, remembers differently, experiences differently, enjoys differently, pains differently, and suffers differently. Each person looks and sees, hears and listens, and thinks and feels differently. To think that none of this comes into play each day, to deny the fact of individual identity, to ignore the truth of individual experience makes us vulnerable to the most pernicious dehumanizing effects of opinion, presumption, assumption, perception, and stereotype."
Only when we realize we are groping through a fog of certainty, can we hope find our way out into that clear air of uncertainty. Only then, will we make the Herculean effort to see and listen to and get a feel for each student. In the end, if you don't love the true mystery and diversity--and challenge--of it all, you'll miss the humanity of it all. And, I'm not sure we can really get the real education job done if we don't care about, deal with, and take into account this very human equation.
Department of History
Valdosta State University
Please send suggested readings to Mary Koski.