Archive for the ‘education’ Tag

CRITICAL RACE THEORY: ACADEMIC OBFUSCATED VERBIAGE TOXICITY   2 comments

In case it isn’t obvious, I’m making fun of the way academics talk. I think it’s OK for me to do this because I’m one of them. In plain English, what I mean is, “Academic words can cause trouble because they have a special meaning not clear to most of us.”  In case it’s not obvious, this post is a rant about the confusing and therefore toxic words “Critical Race Theory.” I’m driven to do this because the wide-ranging, angry, hysterical, downright mean, responses to those words are producing in me an awful stomach-curdling, heart-shattering, sleep-disrupting, stress reaction. And just when I was becoming hopeful that we might broaden the scope of study of American History to include all of it.

I’m sure Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a highly respected law professor at the U.C.L.A. School of Law and Columbia Law School and her group thought they were making perfectly good sense when they coined that term to describe their work. And they were! — if you realize they were talking to people with years of training in talking their jargon, “special words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for those outside their group to understand.” Almost any profession has its jargon. Listen to a group of lawyers, or medical people, or architects, or electricians or plumbers , or even artists or writers …. I’m quite sure you will hear jargon. The problem is that academic jargon often derives from English words that sound enough like “real” English words so folks think they know what they mean. You know, the words that have people fighting – sometimes literally coming to blows – at schoolboard meetings and other places.

Jargon is a handy shortcut when you’re communicating with others who use the same language but obfuscating for others. (To obfuscate: render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.)

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of “Critical Race Theory,” please join me in playing a bit with what I have experienced in my former life as a psychology professor.

Decades ago, when I was about to begin my career as a college instructor teaching “Introduction to Psychology,” a more experienced friend of mine said, “You’ll be surprised how long it takes for your class to understand what it took you only five years to learn.” So true!

Way back when my children were small. my big sister explained to her husband, “Mona’s a psychologist. They talk funny.” It was funny when she said it, but true.

I want to believe, for example, that my students came to know and understand the specialized meaning of words like:

Reinforcement: In plain English it means “strengthening the rickety steps to the back porch.” In psychological jargon it means “strengthening the connection between stimulus and response.”

and

Rationalization: In plain English it means “applying rational thinking to a problem.” In jargon it refers to the action of attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate. –  a defense mechanism.

One last example, Denial: In plain English it means “I didn’t do it.”  In jargon it’s “refusing to admit to oneself the truth or reality of something unpleasant.”

And, beyond jargon, I learned something else that’s important. Words evoke emotions, or interpretations one may not have predicted.

So what’s this got to do with “Critical Race Theory?”

Commonly when people hear the word “critical” they hear “You are being criticized because you did something wrong.” That presumed attack creates a defensive, often angry, sometimes screaming reaction.  In academic jargon, on the other hand, “Critical” refers to “an effort to see a thing clearly and truly in order to judge it fairly.” (Go ahead. Check me out. Google it.)

And the word “race?” Holy smokes, what does “race” mean? That’s what’s in need of study “in an effort to see it clearly and truly in order to judge it fairly.”

And that final word, “theory.” I confess I can only guess at what the theory is that the “Critical Race Theory” folks intend. What I do know is I’m upset that people haven’t stopped to ask before they began screaming and passing laws. And I’m bothered any time I hear someone say, “It’s only a theory,” apparently thinking it’s just some idea that popped new-born out of someone’s head. For scientists, “theory” has nearly the opposite meaning. It’s honored with the word “theory” only after a long history of study, experimenting, and fact checking.

So, the best plain English translation I can offer is, “Critical Race Theory” means “Let’s examine race through careful research and study in an effort to see it clearly and truly in order to judge it fairly.”

 Now can we get down to the business of whether we are willing as a nation to examine race through careful research and study in an effort to see it clearly and truly in order to judge it fairly? And how should we do part of that through our educational system? Can we just take an honest look at our history, being prepared to incorporate both the good and the bad? Or are we too scared or set in our ways to take a careful look?

End of rant for now….

 

I’M HAPPY FOR THE ATTENTION PAID TO MENTAL HEALTH, BUT…   2 comments

The latest thing in “explaining” mass shootings is to focus on the shooter’s mental health. All good and well. Why wouldn’t this Psychologist be happy to know people’s mental health is gaining in focus and purpose?

But this Social Psychologist doesn’t like the way it’s being used to avoid the more basic horror – the cultural grounding in which poor mental health is being fostered. What sensible, alive, and aware person doesn’t carry a substratum ache of empathy, concern, and fear in this world of cruelty, killing, and destruction. It almost seems like a mark of emotional health to be disturbed. No, I don’t like the implication that the cause lies in an individual’s deviation from the norm. On the contrary, the cause lies in the culture that fosters the human potential for evil.

Will we ever get around to looking at the painful, destructive inequities in childcare, education, financial status, health care, gender acceptance, respect, and expectations for individual accomplishment (not necessarily measured by financial wealth)? What did I leave out?

It could be done. We could create a culture based on encouraging personal growth, self-confidence, gratitude, appreciation, cognitive competence, kindness, personal value – dare I say love?  But that would require reducing the “blame the other” emphasis implied in the focus on individual mental health and looking instead at our own responsibility as part of a culture. As it is, I’m afraid we have adopted “mental health” as a way to avoid looking at our own selves.

Please notice, I haven’t used the words “mental illness.” That’s a related but different story.

A DEMOCRAT? AND A CHRISTIAN? REALLY?   15 comments

My friend was outed the other day as a Democrat. “Really?” a man nearby reacted, “But I thought you were a Christian.” Yes. He really believes that Democrats are not Christians. Wow! Is my reaction.

And I’m a Democrat BECAUSE I strive to be a follower of Jesus (who, remember, was a practicing Jew.) Unlike that man, I don’t assume that all members of any political party think alike. I know many Republicans who choose that party because they feel they have a home there for their Christian beliefs, just as I feel the Democratic Party supports more of mine. So why am I a Democrat? (except when I vote for a Reublican.)

I think that with the Democrats I have a better chance for freedom to follow my beliefs without government interference. I do understand that there are those who see things differently – who are sure that a true believer would want to impose the “right” religion by way of government action. You know what? I think they have their right to believe that. That’s why we have discussions, debates, and even elections.

I choose the side of the Democrats, though, because I believe I have a moral/ religious home there. I’ll vote for life every time. That’s right: I’m pro-life; therefore I’m pro-choice. I believe all life is valuable – not just the life of the newly implanted fertilized ovum. In fact, I have a hard time understanding the belief that God somehow loves that embryo so much that it would be worth it to sacrifice the life of the woman He once thought so valuable when she was in the form of an embryo. And have no doubt. A woman’s body is not an inactive box. Pregnancy is a hazard. I’ll stop myself from the rant I want to start about the complexities of pregnancies and choices.

By the way, pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. I prefer the Democratic position of supporting options for women to gain access to reproductive information and pregnancy prevention. For poor women, that means I’m in favor of supporting Planned Parenthood whose function is to promote the life of both mother and child through prenatal care and health maintenance.

I’m in favor of life for physicians who practice perfectly legal abortions.

Oh, and even if they were illegal, because I am opposed to the death penalty, I’m still in favor of life. I could rant about that too.

I’m opposed to locking people away in privately owned prisons where each inmate represents a profit. I’m in favor of doing all possible to encourage the productive life of those who are or have been inmates.

I believe in an education that encourages creativity, not only for those who can afford it, but for those in poverty whose schools and families need help.

I believe in recognizing the humanity and value of all immigrants.

I’m opposed to war as anything but a very last resort for solving problems.

I believe in maintaining the life of the earth – even the universe — and the scientists who study its health.

I favor an atmosphere that encourages forgiveness and help with forgiveness. Oh, not making excuses for wrongdoing. I said I try to be a follower of Jesus. I don’t believe he ever said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Just do what feels right to you.” I think he was more likely to say “Go and sin no more.” He was big, I believe, on promoting justice for all, rich or poor, even Samaritans.

OK, there’s more. It seems to me his list of what to do to attain the Kingdom was not to follow a whole bunch of rules. Wasn’t it more like “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself?” See the lessons of Job

Well, anyway. That’s why I feel more at home as a Democrat. And I get it. Not all Republicans identify as Christian and not all Democrats are non-Christians. I like it that way (These days I rarely use the word Christian, now that it’s been so politicized.). There’s room for all of us under the big umbrella that is the United States that brought my parents here as immigrants. That includes Sikhs, Muslims, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, atheists, agnostics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists … I know, the list isn’t complete. That’s the point. That’s the America I love.

 

%d bloggers like this: