Educators for education-not regurgitation.

Although by now the political climate of America is very forcibly divided, there remains one spark of hope-one area which has been passed down as sacred from generation to generation: the future. The children, it is said, are that future, and it is with them that humanity rests. But are we giving the future the skills it needs to survive?

In a time of information overload, young people are hard pressed to find a single skill set which enables them to navigate not only the political arena, but those which hit closer-to-home, such as healthcare, finances and the ever important education. As many of you well know, student loans are something I rant about rather frequently, the dangers of which remain quite unknown for many people from my parent’s generation. But I digress. The skill set most vital to each upcoming individual, in every generation is one that is in a recession all its own: critical thinking.

As a human being, in a much broader, globalized culture, critical thinking means the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information (being able to determine fact from crap, essentially).

But Michelle-that sounds like you just criticized your own age group. What are you doing?

Pointing out a concern of mine in regards to the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. I’ve included a little context, but put the point of focus in bold. In a recent statement at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mrs. DeVos said:

“How many of you are college students? The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

Link to the video: C-Span of Mrs. DeVos’ Speech

job-education

What is concerning, therefore, is not the fact that Secretary DeVos is of the opinion that the “fight” extends to college students (because she’s right-we’re at the front lines of a fight which extends far beyond education) but that she believes educators are not educating, but force-feeding their opinions to their students. What’s further troubling is her fixation with othering. Her statement is incredibly biased, in the way it undermines anyone who does not support Donald Trump. That in-and-of-itself is refutes her claim of anti-First Amendment work. You do not have to support the person who fills the role of President of the United States in order to be an American, with all of the associated rights. To have someone in an educational leadership position not be entirely educated on the core values of the country is terrifying. And it is for these reasons that colleges (students and educators) MUST be at the front of the fight.

While I am quite capable of passing along my opinion, I thought that perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the thoughtful discourse of a professor. In an email (which I have attained permission to reproduce), Professor Michael Phelan, Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University gave the following statement:

I have been teaching in public schools of various levels [for 14 years]. In all of that time I have never heard comments such as these from someone in a position of educational leadership; I am aghast and astounded.

Education is about two things: Getting you to ask deep, meaningful, interesting questions about yourselves, your neighbors, and the world around you, and training you to answer those questions. Good educators do not let you rest with *any* set of answers. Good educators probe deeper, asking you to consider how you know what you think you know, if there are special cases or more general formulations of your answers, if it is reasonable that other people in other circumstances may find different sets of answers to be more useful. The hallmark of really answering any scientific question is that your answer leads to more good questions, not fewer. Good educators force you to strongly consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that your teachers might be wrong too. I firmly believe that if you somehow get through four years of university education without having had your deepest beliefs challenged you should ask for your money back.

Good education is not a systematic indoctrination to try to force you to think the way your teachers think. There are systems of thought and custom where that is the case, but education is not one of them. If you believe everything I believe, and your generation believes everything my generation believes, then we as a species have wasted all the years between because we haven’t learned anything new. But if either of us cannot back up our beliefs with rigorous argument and objective evidence, we are only fooling ourselves.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss issues related to language ideology, bilingualism, and the way that attitudes about people affect our attitudes about their language. We will discuss how the way we talk about political issues can strongly influence our beliefs about those issues, and we will use concrete examples including controversial topics like marriage equality, abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I have strong political beliefs, as doubtless many of you do too. We will keep the debate focused around the language used to talk about these issues because language processing is the point of the course, but it is important to know that we can have that debate respectfully, regardless of where we each come from politically.

Secretary DeVos said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” I think she got her question words wrong. The faculty and staff at OSU and at any university worth the name don’t teach you what to do, say, or think. We teach you how to do things, how to say things, and more importantly, how to think clearly, deeply, and critically.

It is with this email that I leave you with the following quote.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Albert Einstein

As always,

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are enough.

 

LGBT+ (SAGA) Representation in Norse Mythology

NERD ALERT 😄

Hi all! I wrote a term paper (very short-only 5 pages) for my Norse Mythology class, over gender roles and orientation. I focused specifically on a couple instances, but also mainly on intersex/two-spirit representation. I’d loved to have done more with it, but there was a page limit-so it’s all pretty vague. However, I’m going to copy/paste it here because I’d love to spark a conversation. Now, I know, the citation method is vague-we were only allowed to use sources we broke down for the class, so we didn’t need to be ultra specific. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting.

I kept the Scandinavian words, so I thought perhaps a little “translation” would be useful. Some words I used I explain in the paper, so I’ll leave those out.

Njörðr=Njord, Oðin=Odin, Þórr=Thor, jötun=”giants”, Æsir=gods, Vanir=other gods, Skaði=Skadi the “giantess”, Balðr=Baldr/Balder

Gender roles have been prescribed ubiquitously throughout time and space, as a cultural norm. Gender, being the ascribed and associated expectations, previously linked with biological sex, for many cultures remained a bilateral (masculine and feminine) issue. Norse culture is a prime example of this two gender focus, however, within the mythology which predates the Christian conversion, there are also examples of individuals (Njörðr and Loki) who cross the divide and end up somewhere in the middle. These individuals are not necessarily ostracized from their communities, but they are not regarded as favorably either (as opposed to Oðin and Þórr, for example).

Þórr, as an archetypical thunder god (Gylfaginning), displays the masculine qualities of strength, courage and his status as a male in society is reinforced by several choices seen in the mythology. Married to a woman whose name means “kinship” (Hárbarðsljóð), Þórr raises several children and is frequently traveling to contests of strength in the land of the giants (Hárbarðsljóð). When Freyja comes into danger of being taken by the jötun, it is Þórr who is called to save her (Þrymskviða). Although the method used calls into question his masculinity, the actions done to fix the situation-using his hammer to kill the groom (Þrymskviða) remain, on the whole, masculine.

Oðin on the other hand, regularly engages in seiðr, a type of magic reserved for specifically women, and is regarded as a wise, older man (Hárbarðsljóð). When accused of ergi (extreme unmanliness), rather than defending himself, Oðin acknowledges the charges and uses his wit to remove the focus from himself, as shown in Hárbarðsljóð. Oðin is held in high regard wherever he goes, causing havoc and mayhem as he travels to ascertain wisdom (Völuspá). His choices of behavior are, albeit destructive, things which cause his children to claim relationship to him and other people respect the lineage (Þórsdrápa) and use relation to him to gain access to things previously unavailable, such as entry into a house from which he’d previously been banished (Lokasenna).

Njörðr enters Norse mythology as a member of the Vanir, a separate lineage of beings who, post-war, join the Æsir (Skáldskaparmál).Njörðr’s name itself presents the earliest evidence that perhaps he belonged to the select group of individuals who crossed the boundary (liminals) between masculine and feminine-but were not able to escape it. Njörðr seems to have been an individual who, at one point either had a sister or a wife with a similar name (lecture) who was also worshipped-as a mother goddess (Germania). This divided name is seen in Njörðr’s children: Freyja and Freyr as well (Skáldskaparmál). Although there are no records stating the existence of a female version of Njörðr, there is evidence that someone of similar name received cult in a female form (lecture).

Njörðr sustains his role in the mythology as being the hostage in treaty events (Skáldskaparmál). When Skaði, a jötun woman came to avenge her father’s death, she was offered a husband and entertainment (Skáldskaparmál). By visual trickery (having to pick out her intended by looking for his feet), Skaði ended up picking Njörðr (who had nice feet) (Skáldskaparmál). This marriage was not one which mirrored that of Þórr and “Kinship”, but was rather dysfunctional. Half of the year was spent living in Njörðr’s home and the other half was spent living in Skaði’s deceased father’s home (Gylfaginning). This shows the incompatibility and lessened masculinity because this was a patrilocal society (lecture), meaning the married couple would live exclusively with the male half, in his home. Skaði being the mother of Freyja and Freyr is also debatable, as the Vanir were known to practice incestuous relationships (lecture). This further lends the way for a feminine Njörðr.

Njörðr is mentioned one more time in the remains of the mythology. As Loki enters a feast after being thrown out, he insults everyone who takes the time to speak-including Njörðr (Lokasenna). Njörðr is called the “pisspot of giantesses” (Lokasenna). While this act in-and-of itself is not masculine, the interpretation varies as well. Þórr once dams up a giantess who is making a river swell-either by urinating in the river or menstruating in it (Skáldskaparmál). If the giantesses were not urinating so much as menstruating into Njörðr, this would demonstrate something which he cannot do being a man, but also de-masculinizes him by being a receptacle for such.

Loki is often seen as a liminal of gender as well. Loki aids Þórr in saving Freyja, by dressing up as Þórr’s handmaiden (Þrymskviða). As their journey starts out, Loki makes a comment about traveling as women, although he leaves out the subject (giving him a way to remove ergi from Þórr) (lecture). Loki is also clean-shaven, something which would not have happened in that culture at that time, as evidenced by the story of two sons who grew beards when their father could not and were accused of smearing their faces with feces (lecture).

Loki too was married, although his marriage seemed to have been much more functional than Njörðr’s. Loki’s wife, Sigyn, had children by him and was beside him each time he was tied up with a poisonous snake over top of him (Gylfaginning). What is important to mention about Loki, however, is not that his marriage was functional, but that he was capable of birthing children as well-and did so. Loki turned into a mare and became the mother of Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of Oðin (Hyndluljóð). This pregnancy comes up again when Loki insults the other beings, as Oðin claims Loki spent eight winters milking cows under the earth (Lokasenna). Since milking cows was considered women’s work by that culture, this further illustrates the crossover from masculine to feminine behavior.

Throughout the insults of Loki, those which were returned to him were accusations of ergi (unrivaled unmanliness). It is Oðin that mentions milking cows (Lokasenna) but Njörðr also speaks up, and so does Þórr (Lokasenna). This does not stop Loki from continuing his insults, but forces him to direct his words to the sins of the others, such as Þórr hiding in a glove from a giant (Lokasenna). The names used to refer to Loki by others include “womanish god”, “unmanly one” and names which are directly linked to his children, such as “wolf’s father” (Lokasenna). This is in sharp contrast with Þórr, who self-refers by his kinship ties (Hárbarðsljóð) and is not thought of an unmanly in the slightest.

In the marriage arrangement of Skaði and Njörðr, Loki is part of the arrangement. Skaði, in exchange for blood vengeance, is promised a husband (making her part of the Æsir potentially) and entertainment (Skáldskaparmál). Although Njörðr supplies the husband aspect, it is up to Loki to fill in the rest. Loki ties his testicles to the beard of a nanny goat and they have a tug-of-war until Loki falls over (Skáldskaparmál). This story is important when the goat is examined. A nanny goat is a female goat, but it possesses two very male traits: a beard and horns (lecture). The act of tying a very male part of his anatomy to a male part of a female goat’s anatomy is representative of Loki’s identity. Although male by biology, Loki makes behavioral choices which are not always indicative of his masculinity, up to and including becoming pregnant.

Members of Norse culture would have heard these tales before the conversion, and perhaps even after Snorri recorded them. As a euhemeristic version of a pagan religion, the core group of individuals (Þórr, Oðin, Freyja and the like) were linked to Troy (Gylfaginning) as being the key figures, the ancestral line which led to the Norse peoples and therefore represented the ideal gender roles: men being strong, witty, fit for battle and women being mothers, dealing with cows and marriageable. Although flawed, members of this core group (the Æsir) could “toe the line” between gender roles without suffering socially. Members of outside groups, such as the Vanir-like Njörðr or the jötun-like Loki, were looked at differently from the get go.

Members of the outside groups like the Vanir and the jötun were not seen as equal in the hierarchy of gods, unless they married one of the Æsir. This hierarchy extended further to rank the individuals by how closely they fit the socially acceptable gender roles. Individuals like Njörðr and Loki crossed the boundary in ways which were necessary and beneficial to the entire group and were therefore allowed to do so, but were not able to reach their hierarchical potential-even with blood-brother status.

The usefulness of liminals like Njörðr came down to protecting the “purity” of the Æsir. Njörðr took the place of Balðr in the marriage of Skaði, a jötun. This marriage allowed for the Æsir to avoid bloodshed, but also did not allow a pureblood jötun individual to reach a rank equal to a member of the Æsir. Njörðr also played the role of hostage, a way to get the Æsir-Vanir war to end. His transfer from Vanir to Æsir allowed him to move up in rank from his people, but never allowed him to fully integrate into Æsir status. Loki proved useful in situations which required diplomacy and wit. When Freyja was demanded as a bride (and thereby an attack on the hierarchy) it was Loki who came up with a solution-one which relied on his unmanliness. Loki’s horse-child Sleipnir became the greatest horse, which then belonged to Oðin, increasing the prestige of the Æsir.

While Loki and Njörðr were not specifically described as being gender fluid, intersex (formerly hermaphrodite) or two-spirit, there is evidence to suggest that their behavior was not only an aversion to the gender roles of the time, but useful. Their usefulness was dependent on them being able to use ascribed feminine traits (crossdressing, hairless face, marriageability, and children) to influence masculine behaviors.

****This is what I live for-it’s what I love doing. Seriously. Looking at mythologies and picking out the bits of it which apply to today, which explain how people thought. I could have written so much more about this. Because there is nothing in this great wide world that makes me more intrigued than spirituality and the occult and mythologies. This is my very favorite thing to discuss. Honestly. I can’t stress enough how much I love this.

And as a side note, if anyone is interested, I can absolutely post more things like this, including but not limited to other papers/essays I’ve written. I can also post the “actual” bibliography for this, if anyone would like it as well!

Why Education Matters

This week has seen some really bizarre things happen in my neck of the woods. (Or maybe they’re only bizarre to me.) Most specifically, is the news from my own university, coming at a time when their decisions (or rather, proposed-and-now-withdrawn decisions) make less sense than they might’ve otherwise.

I have a single “article” for you this time, it’s not particularly triggering, but more just informative.

The Lantern (This is but one of the sources reporting, but I think they did a decent job.)
I’ve already passed all my required English courses, and my entire degree is just about finished-so why does it matter to me?

Because not everyone will need to use quantum physics in their workplace-but EVERYONE will need to use English. The 1100 and 2367 courses (first and second semester English lit/lang courses) are required for EVERY student, and almost all of the upper level courses rely on you having taken them before you can move forward. The thing is, these courses teach you how to communicate at a collegiate level, but also at a professional level. I learned how to do in depth analysis of pop culture, of classic literature and more from these courses.

There are (as I understand it) 28 lecturers in the English department. Removing 18 from the equation means removing each of their sections (usually 3) from the schedule. Each of those classes would have had at least 24 people in them, meaning that AT LEAST 1300 students would not have been able to take prerequisite courses (and therefore would have to delay their anticipated graduation times).

More than that though, is the outrage that comes from this idea in and of itself. the lecturers had contracts through Summer 17. And, in an effort to “save” half a million dollars (roughly 10% of the deficit), the university was going to breach contracts of almost 20 people (all of whom have PhD’s). First, I must express outrage as a self-proclaimed academic. These people deserve the same respect as all the other people (both as human beings on a general level and as PhDs on an academic level). Under Ohio law, higher education educators are not able to unionize (and therefore combat this sort of behavior). But I must also express exceptional amounts of derision for the action itself. I pay my student tuition each semester. I have been part of a movement to get more transparency with how money is spent at our university. I’m going into incredible debt-and I have the right to know what I am gaining because of it. I’m gonna put some math in here.

This is all information I gathered from OSU Statistics. But I’m rounding a bit.

Total Number of Students Enrolled: 65,000

Total Students Out of State: 17,000 (Making in-staters: 48, 000) (roughly 13,000 Grad/Law/Med Students/52k Undergrad)

Tuition Out of State Undergrad: $27K (In-State $10K)

Tuition Out of State Grad: $31K (In-State $13K)

**These numbers do not include mandatory fees like lab fees, participation fees and the like)

The university claims that the total amount of tuition brought in EACH YEAR is almost $900 million. (And we’ll come back to that-trust me.)

The 2016 budget claims that it costs $5.5 BILLION to keep the university running (hospital, university and other connections included) and it brings IN $6.1 BILLION (meaning six hundred million is gained).  Of that $5.5 Billion, $1.4 Billion is spent on salaries. This includes everyone from Janitors to landscapers to professors to the President of our university.

So in total, there are 44,000 (rounded) employees of Ohio State. And if you divide $1.4 billion across them equally, you get almost $32k per year per person-so, not an extreme amount of money, but more than minimum wage, certainly. Obviously though, that’s not how that happens.

A non tenure track professor at OSU makes $5000 per class taught. If we take the three classes per semester from above, that’s roughly $30K per year (yay, math!). But, for it to all balance out, there will obviously be people who make much less and people who make much more. For example, a quick Google search will tell you that the president of the university makes $1Million every year. The Vice President makes a little shy of $400 thousand yearly (and no, neither of them teach). The chair of my department makes a quarter of a million dollars yearly, and that is $50K shy of the Political Science chair, but $50K more than the Psychology chair.

There are 105 Deand/Chairs/Interim Chairs/Vice-People. And if they all made $200K, that’s $21 Million (add in the Pres. and VP to get (rounded) $23 Million). But, as we’ve seen not all of them make that, so the number is obviously off. But anyway, that leaves us with $1.2 Billion to split between everyone. When you take out 13k Student workers (who get Federal funding), 25K staff (who make $10 an hour), there’s a growing disconnect. (And did I mention, Coaches also make multiple millions of dollars at my university??)

 

My point is simple. The Ohio State University is first and foremost a place of education. It would be incumbent, then, for this place of education to RETAIN educators. It is vital to the university to maintain custodial and maintenance people (many of whom I have gotten to know). But I’m questioning the necessity to have so much overhead weight. I didn’t even mention the governing body at the university-or the various councils. If we trimmed off just ONE unnecessary administration position, the money saved would be enough to supply ALL of the English 18 with year long contracts.

I know I’m just a student-and my voice doesn’t ring far-but this is unacceptable. Lecturers have the same degrees, and often times work harder than their tenure track coworkers.

All I’m asking is that instead of running a university like a business (with extremely unnecessary amounts of overhead), maybe we should all be demanding to have the university run as a university.

Just a thought though.

Here Be Dragons

Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to remind yourself that it’s okay, that you’re only suffering a minor setback and that life will continue on, as it indeed always does. You may not want life to change, or approve of it, you may desire it more than you desire anything else in the world. But at some point, change comes for us all and the only thing you have to do is be ready.I wrote a piece about driving a while ago, about how I just couldn’t seem to, and about how it was a source of great shame for me. I finished the piece by saying that my New Year Resolution was to drive more, to be free of the bonds that strapped me into the passenger seat. It has been a week since the year started and what have I done to accomplish that goal?

 

 A bit actually.

The second or third I drove to the store. I can’t say that I drove back from said store, but I darn sure drove there. And my husband and I talked about it and I realized that if I just kept to the quick and simple stuff, I would never succeed in my goal at all.

But I’m not going to lie to you. This is not easy for me.

Yesterday, I had work and I usually have my husband take me in, so that I can just focus on work and he can hang out at the school and get stuff done. We’re on break, which makes that sentence completely illogical, but we’re an active sort of people who quite like the academic scene. He hadn’t slept well and asked if I could take myself in. I immediately burst into tears, the panic having surged through me faster than a tornado. I felt woozy, nauseous and above all, I felt ashamed. Why couldn’t I just get over it? What was wrong with me? So on our way home yesterday, after he graciously picked me up, I asked him timidly if he wouldn’t mind coming with me either today or Friday as my passenger. He agreed, saying he wanted to start working out anyway and this would force him to do so. Last night, I went to bed nervous, exhausted and wondering what I’d done.

This morning, he again told me he hadn’t slept well and I let him sleep a little longer. I prepared my stuff, got my coffee and took the dog out. I looked over the parking lot and once again got the panicked sort of emotions and sensations. I knew that I would have a difficult time talking myself into it and an even worse time if I talked myself out of it. So I hauled myself up to our apartment and grabbed a few more things (let’s be real here- I grabbed a bunch of good luck charms), waited for my husband to finish getting ready and then marched myself down to the car. My hands were shaking, I felt sick and I started the car.

Wouldn’t you know it, rush hour was waiting for me.

I can’ tell you the curse words that streamed in my head. How dare other people be on the road when I was trying to get over my fears? I mean, didn’t they know that I was going to be driving?

And I realized that there was no other place, no other time, that could possibly make my journey more ideal. It was rush hour that gave me a headache, made me a nervous passenger. It was the highway that made my heart race. And that sounds like the settings for the battleground to me. 

I made it to the school, having managed to drive on two separate highways and through campus traffic. I didn’t throw up, pass out, or any of the terrible things that I assumed would happen. I didn’t crash, didn’t die and didn’t break down. I didn’t even say that chant from the previous post. I marched myself up to work with a smile on my face, saying hello to everyone I met. I know that I’m not done for the day-my shift has only really just begun and I’m still nervous about the drive home, but when I grabbed one of my good luck pieces from my pocket, I had to smile pretty fiercely. I mean, just look at how fitting it is.

  

One week down, fifty one more to go.