Posted by: minnow | January 10, 2014

Foundational Shifts

Can it really be  six years since I wrote my first Minnowspeaks blog?  Wow.  Just for nostalgia’s sake, here’s a link to the first one (1/9/08).  I’ve written a little over a post a week since. As I review my blog several themes emerge: social justice, education, religion (specifically Christianity), politics, and my personal journey–primarily through education, religion, and politics.

Education, Religion, and Politics are foundational for most people even if they aren’t aware of the ways they play into their lives.  While I grew up thinking and believing one way about each of these areas after gaining some life experiences–a college education, marriage, children, multiple religious fellowships, 30 years of increasingly more conservative politics–I have a radically different perspective now from the perspective I had as a young adult finishing college.

What were the most influential factors for change? And, where have I landed?  I’m glad you asked…

For Education: Home schooling my children probably ranks highest on my list of why my perspectives on education changed.  Or perhaps it’s better said putting them in public school after I home schooled some of them and fighting with the system to try to get them educated only to remove two of them (the jury is still out on the youngest) to finish their K-12 education at home ranks highest on my list of why my perceptions on education have changed. Three of the oldest four have “officially” been diagnosed as dyslexic.  (If you’re interested I’ve written about their stories in the past: here, here, here, here, and here).  Suffice it to say, fighting the system to educate my children, to see them as intelligent, to quit dumbing down assignments, and to avoid sticking them in classes with children who continuously misbehaved taxed my patience and depleted my mental and physical resources.  Additionally, it exposed the fact that our traditional public schools never intended to educate individual students.  Instead they focus on indoctrinating the masses.

My awareness of how traditional education is broken came about because my children had to fight the voices from this system which told them in a variety of ways that they were unintelligent, deficient, and not valuable.  The actual people behind these voices were often surprised by how kind, respectful, alive, and engage my children were.   The fact they were kind, respectful, alive and engaged is because their spirits had not been completely demoralized or defeated by the system.

If I had the resources I would start a K-12 school built on the foundations of multiple Intelligence; natural curiosity; integrated and overlapping curriculum/content; teacher as coach and mentor; and goal, process, and product, written and oral feedback on progress instead of arbitrary, meaningless letter grades.  Such an environment with such a focus wouldn’t solve all the problems within education but it would be a healthy start.

For Religion: As a child I experienced Christian fellowship like a trusted, loving family.  I don’t have a dramatic conversion experience.  I simply always believed God loved me and Jesus was His son.  It’s what I was taught and I had no reason to disbelieve.  In high school I attended Young Life, a non-denominational Christian para-organization.  The weekly meetings gave me something non-curricular to do and my parents didn’t object.  My choice of college–Hope College in Holland, Michigan–surrounded me with other college age Christians who became my friends.  And, as an adult I settled in to a pattern of behavior that fit most of the “a good Christian wife/mother/woman should” tapes I kept playing in my head.

I’ve shared my story of emerging from religious oppression here, here, here, and here, and in numerous other posts.  The short version goes something like this:  After twenty-plus years of a dysfunctional marriage, five children and five miscarriages, continuous financial instability, and little to no sense of a personal purpose I snapped.  I woke up.  I did a 180.  I quit listening to the tapes which held me in a submitted silent position in my marriage and in my fellowships.  I chose instead to find out for myself what the Bible said about marriage, women in leadership, hell, sin, salvation, homosexuality, God’s will, the “other”, and I left Building-based Christianity forever.  I did not however abandon my faith.

For Politics: I grew up in a conservative family.  Public service, hard work, a good education, traditional family values–these principles were foundational.  And somehow, they all added up to being a Republican.  I honestly believed in American as the land of opportunity where working hard guaranteed you success, where everyone had an equal chance at a good education and a good job.  Until I came face to face with it myself as a collage sophomore I honestly thought sexism (and therefore all prejudices) were attitudes of the past.  Even after my personal experience biases based on race, gender, economic status, etc. were rare realities I still believed could be overcome by hard work and good behavior.  I lived in a political fog, not that switching parties would have made much difference.  Sadly, I’m realizing both Republicans and Democrats (especially at the federal level) are often puppeted by people with money.

Still, I was seriously late to the party.

At a Personal Level: Emerging from religious oppression led quickly to a political and social justice wake up call.  Blogging and meeting people via Facebook and through other blogs has opened windows and doors I won’t ever shut again.  My politics have become irreversibly integrated with my faith.  The world has shrunk as my awareness of the ways my actions impact people in places like Australia, Uganda, Cambodia, or Brazil.  And while I do not buy into the two party stereotypes I am increasingly political.  I want to do it all–fight GMOs, transform education, take money out of politics, stop federal subsidies for corporations, champion alternative energy options, put an end to child abuse/neglect, feed the world…love my family…and make art.

Feeling guilty doesn’t motivate me to better action it causes me to remain stuck in a swamp of helplessness and defeat.  So, I am slowly learning to turn down the volume of the negative tapes in my head and take sustainable steps toward healthy change.  Basically, that’s what the past six years has taught me.

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