Monster Trucks and Big Guns

There is nothing like the having a child that teaches you more what a woman goes through, and reminds you what you don’t.  I’ve spent most of my adult life becoming aware of the position of privilege I enjoy as a man in a patriarchal society.  The hardships that women face when it comes to unwanted advances, objectification and legislation of their bodies, being judged by appearances over the content of what’s inside, and of course the even harsher realities of domestic abuse and sexual violence.  But having journeyed with my wife through pregnancy, birth, and caring for a baby the world couldn’t seem more upside down.

In my new favorite book series, The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss he describes a culture called the Ademre.  In this culture they are not very sexually conservative.  Sex and love are separate and so sleeping around is no big deal.  As a result of this lifestyle they have not made the connection that a man is associated with making children.  Women think they just sort of “get pregnant”, because there is no monogamy.  As a result they think other cultures who think there is such thing as “fatherhood” are silly.  I know this doesn’t sound very convincing to you, but the book takes place in a non-modern society so you can’t do any DNA tests or anything, and you just have to read it to know that it’s very hard to find a  hole in the reasoning.  The main character of the book who is male cannot either and feels extremely frustrated that he can’t convince the woman that men play a role in making a child.  Both my wife and I feel even uncomfortable reading that section, because men feel so diminished that you actually start to feel bad for men.  That’s some good writing Rothfuss!  And I know that is his intent.  To make you feel uncomfortable. (as an aside, I think finally figured out the hole in how a culture could not develop in such a way, but that’s for another time).  My point in this preamble is that through pregnancy up until now it is pretty clear, how little I have to do with creating life.  One microscopic sperm out of millions, and my part was over.  Life grows in a woman and then after its out she feeds it!  Amazing!

Her body changes.  She feels the motion of the baby inside.  She feels the baby leave her body.  Her hormones are jacked up the whole time and even now.  Her need for attachment through breastfeeding.  There is just a very clear biological change every step of the way, that my body does not go through.  Watching even just how amazing she is right now, and how in control she is in taking care of this child, for something she has never done before is just phenomenal to see.  The hormones get strong sometimes, and she cries sometimes because she feels the slightest failure in breastfeeding, or if she accidentally scratches him or something, but she is amazing.  And then their is the pain in giving birth.  A pain unlike I’ve never seen her go through before.  She tried to be brave and go without the epidural to begin with.  Neither of us are believers that natural childbirth is necessary or anything, but I knew she would want to test the waters.  Had she been able to go into labor naturally and do the things that are supposed to help in dealing with the pain of contractions I believe she could have done it, but regardless women have been doing this for a couple hundred thousand years and here we are today.

She has been the star of the show, and I a supporting actor.  Now before men reading this get up and arms, let me say that, there is no question that this child will do better the more adults it has in his life, and that two people can better care for the child than one.  And an equal partnership will be not only be a great advantage to the child in raising, but give him an excellent example to look up to when he forms his own relationships with others.  Whether they be friendships or romantic relationships, regardless of his sexual orientation.

What inspired me to write this post is, how is it that we live in a patriarchal society?  Why am I am not the one fighting to assert myself as an important gender?  How can any man not come to realize that women are absolutely amazing?  Is it just because of our physical strength?  This seems like a poor answer, but possibly.  One biological aspect that I know men feel in regards to birthing is fear.  Fear that their offspring are not their own and are less likely to care for the offspring as a result.  Is this fear so strong that it has led to the control of women and their bodies just to make sure that we can guarantee that the offspring she has belongs to us?    Given that we evolved in social groups, that had community support to help raise children, even this seems like not a very good answer, but possibly.

But then I wondered if it isn’t all just overcompensation.  The fear that we might not be really that important after all and thus we assert ourselves the most.  We joke all the time when we see a guy drive down the street in his loud and chrome fitted truck with giant wheels …”What’s he compensating for?”  What if it all this is just men trying to make themselves seem more in control than they really are?  More powerful than they really are?

Some questions to think about.  This man has to go feed his child some breast milk his wife made and stored in a bottle while she catches up on some much needed sleep. 🙂

I’ve Got a Feeling

A few years back my wife and I had some trouble in our marriage.  I remember it being rather a shock to me that all of a sudden what seemed like a happy marriage seemed to be falling apart so quickly and was full of such heartache and pain.

But I am not here to talk about that.  It is in the past, and we have rebuilt and things are wonderful with our first child on the way.  What I would like to reflect on though is how feelings translate into actions.  The shock I felt was because I had this incredible amount of love in my heart.  But these feelings did not translate into a behavior that would have qualified me as a great husband.

I am sitting in on a wonderful class right now taught by a colleague in the Psychology Department on campus called Love, Lust and Attachment.  We were discussing in class how we go about measuring relationships.  Ultimately emotions cannot be measured, but behavior can and let me to thinking about why those two things are so often in a disconnect.

A must see documentary that will break your heart. From en.wikipedia.org

All of us have intense emotional experiences.  They can be intense sadness at a story on the news or a documentary; intense feelings of joy as a baby is born; intense anger at a betrayal, intense love for a partner and/or friend, intense fear when frightened by something.  It struck me that these intense emotional experiences have a real physical impact on us, and I began to wonder if this physical impact deludes into believing that it has more of an impact on our actions or behavior than it actually does.  Many people are often moved to tears by a sad story, but few act on that feeling to do something about it.   We may love someone deeply, but does that feeling of love translate into actions that make the other person feel loved?  Does our outrage over a defunct government move all of us to write our representatives?

The motivational speaker finds success in not so much giving us new things to think about, but rather tries to get people to direct their emotions, ideas, and thoughts into actions.  Few emotions in of themselves lead to immediate action without conscious thought.  Things like fear or disgust may be good examples of ones that do, for these emotions from an evolutionary standpoint impact our very survival.   But for the most part it seems that emotions are what motivate us, and yet only a small fraction of the emotions we feel actually lead us to a behavior that is the consequence of that emotion.   Furthermore we may simply lack the understanding of how to effectively behave to show how that emotion is affecting us.  I remember William H. Macy’s character in Magnolia’s words “I really do

From catdangle.com

have love to give, I just don’t know where to put it”.  I think many of us can identify with this character.  Acting on our emotions is often like wandering around in the dark, especially when we haven’t had positive examples in our lives.

Perhaps the only relevant answer in the end is that we live in a world with limits.  While I might be able to feel love for many different women, I only have the time, energy, and resources for a finite amount.  While I may feel deeply passionate about numerous social causes, once again those feelings cannot translate into an equal amount of actions.  There are only so many hours in the day.  We must rest and recharge to function adequately in our daily lives.  Of the many emotions we feel throughout the day we must pick and choose the actions we take.  And sometimes certain tasks are more important in the moment and we must let put intense emotions aside.

When I was young I felt like I was full all this emotion that was going to make me a great person, but I felt that none of it was coming out.  Emotions can be overwhelming and sometimes even paralyzing.  I felt like the real me was buried deep within myself.  I am proud to say that each day I’ve felt like that person was getting closer to the surface.  I am not sure if I’m the person I want to be yet, but I believe it is important to:

1) Let yourself feel what you feel.  Embrace the ones that make you feel good, and forgive yourself for the ones that frighten you or make you feel weak.  All emotions have value.  They teach you about yourself and raise awareness in your conscious mind about things you deem important in your environment.

2) Reflect on those emotions and choose a course of action that is according to your morality.  One that hopefully benefits you and the world around you.

3) Then reflect on the translation of emotion into action so that you can make adjustments if necessary.

Remember, no one is a natural, but we can all try to do more, and become better people.  We are changeable.  Accept it and don’t fight it, because then your emotions will never weigh you down and you will realize that you are learning and not making mistakes.

Agrajag: Learning in Theory and Practice

I continue to learn from my newest teacher as I respond to her wonderfully provocative post. I am hoping if I give her an apple she will let me erase the boards. 🙂

I also agree that being defenseless is not the goal.  I see it as rather as a side effect of our intelligence.  Evolutionarily we are attracted to “defenseless”, which is why we go gooey over babies in general for many animal species.  Part of our success as a species also has to do with our longevity in age.  Having multiple generations alive at one time to possible pass on knowledge indicates how important learning is to us.  A defenseless baby is sort of a captive audience as well.  Even once it can walk it is still very dependent on adults and this gives it more time to learn from them in addition to the learning it does through during it’s own individual exploration.

From http://www.thecampuscompanion.com

Ultimately you hit on a very important point and that is the value of learning in of itself.  I think there are a number of people who are fascinated by this topic and who do very good research on this, but ultimately little of it is implemented.  There are a lot of reasons for this and sadly many of them have to do with the values of the society.  In societies where education is valued, they are much more likely to spend resources on best teaching practices.  Ultimately many of the best teaching practices require smaller class sizes so the teacher has the opportunity for more individualized instruction.  Classrooms also require ample resources so there is equity amongst schools in terms of equipment and teacher quality.  Finally when schools do not have to compete for funding they can be much more collaborative when it comes to sharing best practices instead of being competitive.  Often in the U.S. it is not a benefit to share these best practices with other schools because it means less funding for your school. Here in the U.S  education is not valued.  Class sizes increase, schools constantly compete for an ever shrinking amount of funding, and there is great disparity amongst schools in terms of resources and quality of teacher.  Investigation and creativity are sacrificed for standardized testing and rote memorization.

In my experience, it seems like, part of the reasons many students find school boring is that it simply isn’t stimulating to them intellectually because young minds are so adept at learning that the rate in which information is taught simply doesn’t challenge them.  One of the great things that Dr. Mitra’s hole in the wall experiment shows is that young children can learn at incredible rates when given the opportunity.  Children really, really want to learn.  But we dole out the information incrementally and slowly, and Dr.  Mitra demonstrates that this is not necessary.  In the U.S. parents often rail against students having hours of a homework at night, even though very often those assignments allow students to do more investigative type assignments outside of the classroom.  With class sizes increasing, teachers often hold back on assignments too as their workload increases dramatically or they fear they will not be able to give adequate feedback to the students for improvement.

From http://www.excelsiorlearningcenter.com

The type of learning that I connect with most is Mastery Learning.  I think if we accepted that children can learn at an accelerated rate and set the bar high for children from the very start of their education, then as we incorporate Dr. Mitra’s exploratory learning concept in with quality teachers who can work with students under this format we’d have the start of something great.  I agree though that learning in of itself is not necessarily something we should treat as static and yet it very much has in a lot of ways.  We should be constantly evaluating our strategies and adapting to knew technologies and the greater understanding we have gained about how we learn.  In an ideal world I would love to see everyone learn a second language so that by the time they are about 12 they are fluent in another language.

So I shall end as I began in a word about evolution.  From an evolutionary perspective we only really need to learn enough to survive.  Reading, writing, math and science, these are all things that for 99% of our evolution we did not need to do.  We are meant to learn though.  And that wonderful emergent property of consciousness makes us aware of how much we love it, and I think this is evidenced by civilization itself.  Civilization is not required for the survival of our species, but we have it.  It gives us the time to ponder, question, and learn about things we never could before.  The saddest thing I see as an educator here in the U.S. is that as a society with so much access to information and time enough to learn and absorb it, learning and education is rejected instead of valued.  Maybe it’s because education is run as a business model instead of a learning model.  Those who would make educational policy are rarely teachers and while they say they care about the outcomes rarely listen to teachers and only care about the bottom line in terms of dollars and cents.