Antioch is very big on diversity. There are 2 classes you MUST take and I refer to them as the ‘Antioch Indoctrination’. They are required because about a third of the class is spent on how AUS (Antioch University Seattle) works, how the degree process is, how to get an advisor, etc… The other two thirds is spent on diversity issues, education theory and Antioch’s beliefs about … what ‘good’ culture is. Lots of feminist theory, lots of preaching. This was first 'reading response' paper, which was supposed to be a response to 3 of the readings we were assigned. It was originally called "Men are Bad". Hope you like it.
Art Of Learning
1st Reading response paper (rewrite)
June 20, 2005
Reading Paulo Freiere’s “Banking Education and Problem Solving Education”, Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is not a Luxury” and “Women’s Ways of Knowing” by Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger & Tarule, I heard a lesson beyond the larger lesson of how people learn. I learned that men are bad. Men’s thinking is fundamentally different from women’s, and is less valuable. I learned that nearly all men are like this.
How did this happen? It happened because these readings cast women as oppressed victims of violent men, who have dominated and even beat them to maintain their status. The men in these readings only rarely encourage or support women, and frequently suppress women. At best, the men in these stories are absent, allowing women to overcome their oppression.
In Audre Lorde’s Poetry is Not a Luxury, Lorde speaks specifically to women, to the exclusion of men. She says “for women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence.” (p.37, Lorde, 1984). Poetry is not only a luxury, but exclusive to women, she argues, specifically discounting “the sterile wordplay that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean” (p. 37, Lorde, 1984). According to Lorde, men can’t even write poetry. As a man and a poet, this is powerfully insulting.
Lorde talks about poetry because she sees women’s power as lying in their feelings, a “hidden source of power” (p 37, Lorde, 1984). Ideas, according to Lorde, are “what our white fathers told us were precious” and feelings are the domain of women. Men’s power lies in their rational ideas, she says, and feelings were “expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men.” (p39, Lorde, 1984).
If men cannot write poetry, cannot let go of their need for ideas, then where is the male student at Antioch to look for ways of learning? The course is called “The Art of Learning”, but this ‘art’ does not include ideas. Art, like poetry, is apparently the domain of women, as the main text of the class makes this clear. We are here not to learn of ‘learning’, but rather “Women’s Ways of Learning” (Italics mine).
In “Women’s Ways of Learning” oppression of women is further described, but this time it is clearly labeled as the result of men savagely holding women back from knowledge.
There are countless stories of men humiliating and outright beating women who seek, or show any signs of knowledge. The very first chapter begins with this quote; “Where language and naming are power, silence is oppression, is violence (Adrienne Rich)”(p 22, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger & Tarule, 1997). Throughout the book, stories of physical and sexual abuse abound. Men are consistently described as jealous, rage-filled ogres, using their positions as males only to further their own power and desires. Women believed they would be punished - physically - by men for speaking out, for using words. One woman’s husband, used as an example, is described as “a brutal, violent husband” (p 29, Belenky et al., 1997), another’s is described as a violent brute who steals their “meager resources” to support his drinking (p 29,Belenky et al., 1997).
Finally, in Freiere’s piece, a pedagogy is articulated that has been adopted by the rest of our reading as the ideal. In his article, Freire refers to the dominant culture as “the oppressors”, describing a culture that endeavors to “turn men into automatons - the very negation of their ontological vocation to become more fully human” (Freiere, 1987). He does not explicitly describe this culture as male, but in the context of our other readings, leads me to feel that we are again talking about men, particularly ‘elite white’ men. Freiere used exclusively male pronouns in his article and seems to describe a system of one kind of male teaching another kind. Women as students and men as teachers is assumed, as nearly all of our other readings describe this environment.
“One does not liberate men by alienating them,” (p 66, Freiere, 1987) Freiere says, yet much of the language used in these readings is, indeed, alienating. There are inherent value judgments made about men, and they are illustrated in these stories of abuse. These men are not usually described as any particular kind of male, and so the inference is that this is how all men act. By taking this as a starting point, we are then led to believe that things must change, that we must change our dominant culture, that we must adopt “Women’s ways of Knowing”.
There is little doubt in my mind that women have been oppressed, beaten and restricted by men. That women come to ‘truth’ differently than men seems obvious to me, and is bared out in research and in our texts. I do not take issue with most of the conclusions set forth in our readings, and I truly value the various ways of learning that exist. Having grown up in a female dominated environment, I value the perspectives I have gained, and work hard to balance ‘reason’ and ‘feeling’ in my thinking. The point of this paper is not that women haven’t been oppressed, but that by ignoring the valid and useful ways of Men’s thinking, men are told, indirectly, that they have nothing to contribute, that their ways are the ways of evil, oppressive automatons who seek their own power over ‘truth’. Hearing these stories of abusive men, I felt weakened by each successive story. Individually they were small drops, but without even one male voice I could look to for inspiration, the effect was of being awash in despair. This culminated in the receipt of a handout about debate versus dialog. Primed by the discussions and the readings, the handout read like an indictment against the very form of knowing that had served me so well for so long. I, like the women before me, had my voice taken away, because I was one of them; I was a man, and I was at fault.
I have come to see that many people at Antioch are lost souls who have finally found a place where they can be free. Many of our students and faculty have seen oppression up close and have found sanctuary here, and I am grateful for that, as it is my sanctuary as well. But that sanctuary is based on respect for all cultures, not all cultures except white male culture. There is value in white men, despite the many things we have done there were not right.
This class is not really about the “Art of Learning”, it is really about feminist theory and empowering women. This is a valid area of study, but as this is a required class it should be labeled for what it is. To be a class about “learning” it needs to include more than just one way of learning. Otherwise, the oppressive methods used by men for so long will emerge in Antioch’s culture, only it will be women who will be the dominate class. Having been a member of the oppressive class, I would not wish that role on anyone.
Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R & Tarule, J. M. (1997). Women’s Ways of Knowing. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Freire, Paulo. Banking Education and Problem Solving Education. Pedagogy of the Oppressed Continuum of Publishing Company, 1987, 18
Lourde, Audre. Poetry is Not a Luxury. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches Crossing Press, 1984, 4.