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http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/dancingboys/view/

A documentary exposing the Afghani practice of “bacha bazi” where peasant children are sold and exposed into the illicit sex trade of the elite and powerful.

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So, I have a book review published in the Religious Education Journal this season, October-December 2012.  For those of you who may not know, this is the oldest educational research association in the United States (it is now world wide); and, it was originally founded by John Dewey (so, please do not let the word “religion” scare you away from learning about it).  Though I realize that this is not exactly a major academic achievement, nor relevant to most people living in the world, I thought I should share it anyway because it is my first journal publication.  I am as surprised as anyone that my review made their cut, especially because it provides my honest insight into religious education.  And, since this journal is only known to a small, select in-group, I will post my humble contribution here for anyone who may kindly take the time to read it.  And, thank you for caring!

Here it is:

Spirit and Trauma; A Theology of Remaining by Shelly Rambo. Louisville, Kentucky, 2010. 186 pp., $ 25.00 (softcover).

In Shelly Rambo’s book, Spirit and Trauma; A Theology of Remaining, she extends the ultimate Christian metaphor of Pascha – death and decent in Holy Saturday – to some therapeutic theories of trauma.  She accepts that humans understand their lives through story and story telling, and therefore they need a beginning, middle and end to participate in the “practice of attention” (150) or to be “witnesses” (42) of trauma.   Furthermore, traumatic experiences, like Holy Saturday, provide a dark climatic event from which the protagonist (victim or survivor) must recover and rise through, and for Rambo find “redemption” (156).   Her book is broken down in five chapters: 1. Witnessing Trauma, 2. Witnessing Holy Saturday, 3. Biblical Witness in the Gospel of John, 4. Middle Spirit, 5. Remaining in Love.

The act of “witnessing trauma”, or living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is explicitly, theologically romanticized into repetitive exploitation.  “The lens of trauma” for which she never affords a solid neurological, physiological or psychological explanation, is woven into literary deconstructive theory as well as theological investigations of time, which open the door for her long, detailed commentary of Holy Saturday.  Trauma, for Rambo, is the “place of remaining”.  It is the decent into Hades that awaits the force of spirit to persist through, on and into the next event, or toward the resolution – one’s redemption.   And, to drive this narrative, she applies the theological commentary from Mysterum Paschale, by the much-revered Hans Urs von Balthasar.  Here trauma becomes the bodily symbol – a physical mark of impact upon the body, mind and brain – that fragments and shatters.  It denotes a lack of meaning, dissolution of bodily integrity, and dintegration of purpose. “Meaning is dead.  Hope is dead. Love is dead” (73).  The imaginative bridges that may cast and link one into the future have been absolved in the black hole of time, taken down by trauma.  “’On this day the world’s meaning dies and was buried without any hope of the resulting hiatus ever being bridges: there was no hope of ever closing the rift opened up by this death’” (73).  The interruption of time within the mind of the trauma victim serves Rambo’s purposes of interrupted story telling, because the triggers of the past traumatic memory-event, often prevails over the present chronology of ordinary life events.  The capacity to bridge, or to push time forward, through the present and into the future is damaged, and this leaves a void in time and space, in the mind of the trauma victim, that is like black religious poetry, The Dark Night of the Soul.

Rambo fails to explain that the brain pathways connected to traumatic experiences often disconnect from the neurological web network of the comprehensive brain.  Trauma victims detach from the physical positing of the traumatic experience in their brain as an adaptive strategy, because the anxiety from the event(s) is too painful and stressful to integrate neurologically and physiologically into ordinary daily life, and within their entire body.  However, these neurological routes may be “triggered”, captured or fired in unsuspecting ways.  Various circumstances embedded within conscious everyday experience, as well as within unconscious circulating mind may be wired to these alternative pathways, and thus set them off.  This often leaves the victims to feel powerless over their own mind and body; they may suffer depression, and remain open to various psychiatric disorders such as bi-polar and/or schizophrenia.  Furthermore, in the case of early-childhood trauma, difficultly with language and language acquisition is common and can relate to reading and cognitive disorders.  Trauma victims may have mistrust within their present environment and present relationships, which may stifle their imaginative and physical journey into the future.  The emotion of the traumatic event is bound into the alternative neurological pathways, and this disintegration of matter may prevent the victim from building hope in future events, and thus a future.  Therefore, the victim’s may become broken, fall into a void, and lose their sense of time passing.

The interval of the theological commentary that attempts to poetically unpack the fall out of trauma is long and laborious to walk through.  This book may be helpful to ministers or educators looking for a Biblical metaphor and extended discourse on trauma, waiting, transformation and so on, to extend to their congregations.  However, if you are interested in a expert’s medical, neurological or physiological understanding of trauma, Dante Cicchetti’s work (University of Minnesota) might be much more suitable.

Melissa Lynch

Fordham University

 

The second major teaching of Freire explains the elite perspective of the peasantry, as ignorant, devoid of value and dependent on the wealthy for “truth” and “authority”.  Freire exposes this elitist perception as intentionally arrogant, assuming ownership not only of bodies, but minds and hearts as well.  The elite situate themselves as the heavenly vessels bestowed with divine rights to dispose to their favored; therefore, the elite are empowered to bank the thoughts and beliefs of the poor through ideology — this is both their divine right and their concept of “humanitarism.”  This elitist practice is clearly articulated by the famous, modernist Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis who said, “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.”  His presumption of situational and personal entitlement over the minds and eyes of others was not, not even for a moment, considered to be beyond the bounds of his personal authority (narcissism).  Freire provides practical educational methods for the poor, to counter such elitist impositions. 

He created teaching techniques that encourage experiential recollection of personal and collective history, critical thinking and acting (praxis) so the oppressed come to be conscience of their own personal experience in dialog, and therefore work to develop their collective transformation.  Freire wrote,

The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the students’ creative power stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed.  The oppressors use their ‘humanitarianism’ to preserve a profitable situation.  Thus they react almost instinctively against any experiment in education which stimulates the critical faculties and is not content with a partial view of reality but always seeks out the ties which link one point to another and one problem to another.  Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in ‘changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them’; for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to that situate, the more easily they can be dominated.  To achieve this end, this oppressors use banking concept of education in conjunction with a paternalistic social action apparatus, within which the oppressed receive the euphemistic title of ‘welfare recipients’ (73-74).  

This elitist objectification assumes the dehumanization of the poor; it bets and banks on their ignorance, lack of knowledge and experience.  It teaches that people are empty containers to be filled and constructed with the teaching and ideology of the elite and self-actualized, rather than trust their personal experiences in concrete reality, which provide meaning and enrichment through their everyday observation and activity.  Freire developed a curriculum of consciousness where “the oppressed” begin by expressing their observations and experiences of reality by constructing new words from word roots.  From these words, they collectively developed generative themes of their reality, existence and history.  The students then begin the process of critically questioning and thinking about their reality in conversation with each other.  Freire states, “Authentic liberation — the process of humanization — is not another deposit to be made in men.  Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it” (79).

            I replicated Freire’s curriculum plan for language and literacy development for adolescence in my own work, Parables of the Kingdom; A Literature Unit for Language Arts on the New Testament Parables, by aligning his format with Greek and Latin word roots.  Greek and Latin word roots are a state standard that must be covered in language arts courses.  Therefore, I applied the mandatory principles to a creative lesson that accommodates the everyday life of the teenagers who are required to learn this objective.  In the lessons, the students create new words with the prefixes, suffixes and root words of Greek and Latin.   They also use their created words in a sentence of a realistic context that corresponds to their daily life.  The students are able to connect the root words to their own life, and contribute imaginatively and resourcefully in this exercise.  Not only are they more engaged, because of their active, creative participation, but also their memory retains the information because it is judged to be more personally beneficial.  And, this helps their vocabulary comprehension and acquisition, especially during testing (when their knowledge is being measured). 

            The Greek and Latin exercises, from the Parable unit, may be the most necessarily helpful in the classroom.  I say this still strongly believing in the entire comprehensive unit, because the educators who have already taught from the unit indicated to me, again and again, how supportive, useful and effective these particular lessons were.

Freire also emphasized the virtue of humility for true and loving educational and human transformation.  Humility, for Freire, is a requirement of love; and true love can transform the world through words and actions of naming; “The naming of the world, which is an act of creation and re-creation, is not possible if it is not infused with love.  Love is at the same time the foundation of dialogue and dialogue itself (89).”  Therefore, humility is a necessary and constant virtue, which gives space for others, because “dialogue cannot exist without humility” (90).  However, elitism assumes completion onto itself, and devalues the contributions of the other – of the oppressed.  Indeed, more often we see the genius contributions of the poor being assumed by the elite, who are hungry for peer-respect in their ever-consuming conquest of self-actualization.  Freire writes,

How can I dialogue if I start from the premise that naming the world is the task of an elite and that the presence of the people in history is a sign of deterioration, thus to be avoided?  How can I dialogue if I am closed to – and even offended by – the contribution of others?  How can I dialogue if I am afraid of being displaced, the mere possibility causing me torment and weakness?  Self-sufficiency is incompatible with dialogue.  Men and women who lack humility (or have lost it) cannot come to the people cannot be their partners in naming the world.  Someone who cannot acknowledge himself to be as mortal as everyone else still has a long way to go before he can reach the point of encounter.  At the point of encounter there are neither utter ignoramuses nor perfect sages; there are only people who are attempting, together, to learn more than they now know (90). 

Humility is necessary for listening; and this interchange of speech and listening creates communion for transformation.  Humility in words, deeds and actions is the most powerful form of activism for good transformation, and it is rooted in the pure silence of asceticism.  Naming is the process of experience and observation as it concludes through synthesis and judgment.  Naming can evoke both positive and negative emotions from the contextual experience, and these emotions may become intrinsically embedded in the identity or denotation of the person or thing described.   Therefore, humility is life giving because it makes room for the other, for encounter, even for prayer.  And, through this dialog and encounter trust may grow among all people and creation, and between the person and God.  Humility and trust require consciousness, moral maturity, self-control, moderation and a premise of goodness.

The initial learning concerning the “historic struggle of humanization,” integrates the human person in mind, body and spirit, with the family, community, social order and the world, economically, intellectually and mystically is a comprehensive vision that must always be kept in unity; this unity is the dialog that creates integration, communion and transformation.  Gabriel Moran develops the ideological schism of internal and external transformation in Religious Education as a Second Language.  Moran wrote,

The liberal wing of educational discourse tends to slide over this issue by concentrating on attitudes as opposed to behavior, or by saying that education should be available to everyone but imposed on no one.  In practice, this wing of education seems to be based on trying to change people’s thoughts while hoping that there will be a connection between thinking and behavior.  On the conservative or behaviorist wing of educational discussion, the issue is directly confronted.  Education is thought to be the practical business of changing the world… Education has been and continues to be concerned with changing the world, that is, changing physical organisms in their relation to the whole environment.  I think this conviction is present in most people’s thinking about education; they think it should make a practical difference…While the behaviorists take the outside (“behavior”) liberals take the inside with thoughts, values, feelings, attitudes, and so forth. (37-38) 

Freire states that when one ideology exists without the other, one has suffocated the other to death, and therefore there is no true development of humanization.  Praxis, critical thought and action is the integration, which leads to a true transformation.  Liberalism, in this context, may be simply known as deception; it becomes a bullying imposition of elitism, hypocrisy, lies, incompetence and tyranny.  Such ideology emphasizes that elitism exists above dialog, dependency and reality.  However, to emphasize “behavior” alone has severe dangers.  It can take away creativity and free will; it appears to control human reason and liberty for a regimented human identity.  “Behaviorism” can be interpreted as authoritarianism if it is isolated from internal, cognitive and moral development of the person.  Jesus of Nazareth perfected the balance between the mind and the body in his person and his teaching techniques, most notably the parables.  The parables present a problem to the listener, and then they ask for the listener/readers free and authentic response.  These stories do not provide the answer; rather they require the listener to apply all of their human experiences and observations as they resolve the story with ethical reasoning and being.  As John Dominic Crossan explains, to resolve a parable is to become a parable; therefore the parable is an act of the heart, mind and body.  In my own unit on the parable, I draw on the teaching techniques and creative stories of Jesus of Nazareth that respect the fullness of humanity, the human mind, body and spirit, as well as human experience and history.  His teaching united the internal and external, and he is indeed the primary model of love for all.

Freire’s precept of humility is essential in all dialogue and academic conversation; it is a necessary virtue for the person, the classroom and in all social interactions.  Without humility, people cannot listen or encounter each other, and when and where there is no listening, there is no learning.  Humility, as a virtue that vitalizes a room, can be very difficult to achieve in classroom of students, young and old, at various stages of ego and academic development, who may or may not be socially aware of the complexity of integration in the academic environment.  Therefore, well-managed dialog techniques, such as Socratic circles or debate formats, should be applied to ensure that the conversation is respectful and all-inclusive.  During my experience as a 7th grade teacher, I practiced these formats with my students so they could apply solid social interaction skills, participate, learn to listen to one another, as well as think and respond in a safe and friendly environment.  I confess, I still have a long way to go before practice is made perfect in myself and in my classroom; however, I do understand the vital importance of trying and working toward this end of dialog and integration which Freire lucidly examines and creates a curriculum framework for in his powerful book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

 

My books!

My proofs arrived on Friday, and were sent to the press on Monday!.

Ok it looks like, as of today, my curricular books are officially available to buy through my publisher:

http://bookstore.authorhouse.com/AdvancedSearch/Default.aspx?SearchTerm=melissa lynch

as well as other sources like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please check it out, and if you do purchase them, please write a online review for Amazon and the like!  I am very interested in knowing what you think about it. I have also stared a facebook page and blog for my educational work.

The facebook page is: Milk and Honey Education:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Milk-and-Honey-Education/275575292512659

and my blog is at wordpress, and it is also called Milk and Honey Education:

https://milkandhoneyeducation.wordpress.com/

I will be posting a blog later today. Thank you all! ~Melissa Lynch

 

The brilliant educational philosopher Paulo Freire has burned his influence into my heart and mind, and I would like to take time to tell why he has inspired my work so deeply.  When Freire is being honestly represented, I identify the heart of the most authentic liberation theology and completion of educational theory.  Furthermore, his influence is profound within circles of scholars I trust and respect, in both public and private institutions.

Unlike the obvious modernist spin on liberation theology toward revolution and abandonment the family (degradation of women and children), which leads to the fragmentation of the human body and the condemnation of human history to heighten authoritarianism and hierarchal and patriarchal political power, Freire is careful and comprehensive to include dialog, the history of humanity and the integrity of the body in his entire discourse.  For Freire, the liberation of a person refers in part to the labor of the person, which should be the property of the person laboring.  Humans have the natural right not to be owned, used, manipulated and degraded; they have the right to own and profit from their own labor, from their own bodily energies.  However, this idea extends not only to labor (Marx), but to all forms of body conduct and integrity, and of course, it applies to women, children, babies, the unborn, the elderly and the most vulnerable; therefore, a person cannot oppress another person with demands that harm the integrity of the human person including the: body, mind and spirit.  A human body cannot be sold for market exploitation, intentionally building an expendable class for consumption feeding the nature of violence of the carnal human appetite.  Every person’s biology should be protected from exploitation, including the unborn.  Freire’s observations and thoughts are clear and well defined in this treaty for liberation, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, via the education of the peasants, which would awaken their consciousness from the bondage, and manipulation of the elite.

Freire explains how the poor — the peasantry of Brazil — have had their perspective on their existence “banked”; they were taught that their life and opportunities were static, that their station was ordained by God, and that they have no place in human history.   The peasants are expected to accept that they are only objects within human history, which the elite have been ordained to manipulate.  So, Freire created a literacy program for the poor of Brazil, which encouraged them to develop and then acquire language and literacy that described their own experience from and with their own words, rather than apply the banked ideology or “talking points” of the rich.  Freire begins to identify steps in his literacy program that break through this “banked education” and instill “problem-posing” and “critical thinking” where the peasants are asked how to resolve their everyday problems ethically.  By resolving a problem, a person is engaging in life and history and is therefore treated as an ethical human being, or as Freire says, “more fully human,” as they sense their true liberation which is inter-dependent.  The peasants are taught to identify “generative themes” or basic and general themes in their everyday life, so that they might critically investigate them.  By identifying these themes through problem-posing and critical evaluation in dialog with others (including the elite) the peasants sense their own freedom and the integrity of being more fully human, in equal relation to others.  And at last, effective and ineffective motivations and strategies for liberation are analyzed.  Freire emphasizes that liberation is completely dependent on dialog with the oppressed; without dialog liberation does not exist, rather it is a front for another form of authoritarianism.  Finally, Freire exposes the positive and negative tactics applied to help create or destroy humanity all in the name of liberation.

1. Freire opens with strong negations against modernist and neo-liberal theories which often reduce meaningful human experience to philosophical inquiry or metaphor, transcendence and manipulated ontological foundations which bank a fragmented concept of human person, particularly through disembodiment (a person’s body is worthless; and therefore the body can be owned and maneuvered by others in such espousing).  Consumed with symbolic-thinking, modernist theory often neglects to acknowledge the corporal reality it seeks to consume.  Freire states that this ideology is not only fallacious; it is harmful and deceptive, with the intention to exploit and dehumanize others.  Freire argues that each human being has a right to be a full participant in an interdependent human history, which we do through free reflective action, or praxis, through our own mind and body.   Freire states, “Within history, in concrete, objective contexts, both humanization and dehumanization are possibilities for a person as an uncompleted being conscious of their incompletion” (43).  Indeed, history is the story of human bodies and human lives; it tells us who was able to exploit who and the concepts of humanity that would prevail in various regions, through distinct religions.  History cannot be separated from the reality of the human body and concrete, physical experience.  Freire states,

Dehumanization, which marks not only those whose humanity has been stolen, but also (though in a different way) those who have stolen it, is a distortion of the vocation of becoming more fully human.  This distortion occurs within history; but it is not a historical struggle for humanization, for the emancipation of labor, for the overcoming of alienation, for the affirmation of men and women, as persons would be meaningless.  This struggle is possible only because of dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed” (44).

Freire directly connects the economic theory of Karl Marx with Christian theology of the body and community — The Body of Christ; Freire names this correspondence the “historical struggle for humanization.”  Indeed, Freire’s sacramental vision is complete, it integrates ours mind, hearts and bodies to our families, communities and countries; however, his emphasis in on the great story of human life is focused on social strata which divide people from one another through class distinction and then banks grand assumptions of superiority and rights to own from the elite.  This ideology not only divides people from one another, it divides the human person (body, mind and spirit).  Therefore, Freire explains that dialog (integration) is always necessary for human freedom because the oppressor’s exploitation entraps his or her own humanity in self-conceit, narcissism and deception.  Therefore, liberation for humanity in history comes from the peasantry because only the oppressed can “liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.  The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressors or themselves.  Only the power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both” (44).

part one of two

Paulo Freire on his primary influence: