I used to think…but now I think…

dvd_jacket_206How can we help students reflect on their own thinking? How can we make their thinking — and their learning — visible to them? These questions are at the heart of engaged teaching, and I’ve been using some resources from Harvard’s Visible Thinking Routines in an effort to help students do this work.

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Alternate Ways of Being in the World

Into-the-wildDuring a weekly faculty mindfulness group I’ve been participating in this year, a colleague mentioned that he showed the film “Into the Wild” to his students. Usually he shows this film to his 12th grade students in a class on identity, but he also showed it to his 9th graders this spring. The results, he said, were quite positive. After learning about Christopher McCandless’s story — donating his trust fund to Oxfam, cutting up his credit cards, heading to Alaska — several students wrote him inspiring emails late at night, clearly moved by this example.

Things do not end well for McCandless, of course. And while there are some parts of his life to value, it’s also an important cautionary tale. But my colleague’s comments came as I was teaching a unit on Marx, gender, and advertising and resonated with some of my experiences there.

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Rita Gross, Buddhism After Patriarchy

Buddhism After PatriarchyI’ve begun to make my way through Rita Gross’s powerful Buddhism After Patriarchy. Here’s one compelling passage:

“In traditional Buddhism, except for the teachings about karma, no major teaching has been used to explain or justify male dominance. As is the case for most major religions most of the time, the core texts present the major teachings in a sex-neutral manner. One would easily form the impression that they describe the human condition and prescribe ways of dealing with it that apply equally to women and men. Many Buddhist teachers reinforce that impression emplicitly or explicitly in their teaching style. Nevertheless, Buddhist institutions, both lay and monastic, are riddled with male dominance. As is so common, we find gender-neutral teachings appropriate to all human beings linked with male dominance of the religious life and institutions.

“Therefore, something more is needed. It is necessary explicitly and directly to tease out the implications about gender issues implicit in the major doctrines of Buddhism and apply those findings both to current Buddhist practices and to contemporary gender questions. The primary theses of this part of this book are that no major Buddhist teaching provides any basis for gender privilege or gender hierarchy and that these doctrines, in fact, mandate gender equality at the same time as they undercut the relevance of gender. Furthermore, it is also my thesis that these major teachings are much more compatible with feminist than with patriarchial manifestations of Buddhism. In other words, to be true to its own vision, Buddhism needs to transcend its androcentrism and patriarchy” (153).

One more time, just because it’s such a beautiful sentence: “In other words, to be true to its own vision, Buddhism needs to transcend its androcentrism and patriarchy.”

“Nailed,” by Meena Kandasamy

I’ve been getting ready for the Educators for Teaching India conference tomorrow, and I continue to be in awe of the power of Meena Kandasamy’s poetry. She is a contemporary poet-activist (b. 1984) who writes about feminism and caste annihilation (among many other things). Here is one of her many remarkable poems.


Men are afraid of any woman who makes poetry and dangerous
portents. Unable to predict when, for what, and for whom she
will open her mouth, unable to stitch up her lips, they silence her.

Her pet parrot developed an atrocious fetish for the flesh of
sacrificial goats, so Kulamaayi was bolted within a box and
dropped in the Kaveri.

She teased and tormented his celibacy, so Miss Success-Village
was thrown into a well by a wandering socialite-godman.

She was inaccessible and unattainable, so Durga was put in an iron
trunk that settled on a riverbed and even the men and women
who tried to approach her were informed in a prerecorded voice
that she was out of reach and network range and coverage area.

She was an outcaste who had all the marks of a fiery orator who
would someday run for parliament, so a nail was driven into her head
on the instructions of her brahmin fiancée and her coffin was
set adrift in a wailing river.

She was black and bloodthirsty, so even Kali found herself shut
inside her shrine.

They were relatively low-risk, so most other women were locked up
at home.