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.

 

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.

Freedom Writers (The 2016 Version)

freedom-writersI don’t know how many of you have seen the movie in the title (with Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey). The premise according to Google: “A dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable of learning. Instead of giving up, she inspires her students to take an interest in their education and planning their future. She assigns reading material that relates to their lives and encourages them all to keep journals.”

There is a scene in the movie in which Hilary discovers a very racially biased drawing (an African American child with big lips) and says “This is how a holocaust happens.” The kids didn’t know what the Holocaust was and that leads to the real meat of the movie.
That moment happened to me in real life Sept 27. And I need to talk about it.

I’m gonna link to the videos of the portion I’m talking about. I’m sorry it’s not one video. The first one is the intro (poor quality) the second one sounds reminiscent of my class discussion today (better quality), the third one is where healing begins (but also is heart breaking-because they are high school kids) (has subtitles). And this video plays into what I need to say.

I walk by thousands of posters every week. They hang on bulletin boards in buildings, outside, on sign posts, everywhere. Flyers, ads, everything. I pay attention to them a little because I hang up some of them (academic ones, on my floor at the department). But most of them I miss because I’m very busy.

My first class this morning, the professor (who I find delightful) burst through and was quite visibly shaken. She mentioned that we were not going to be taking class the direction she’d originally planned and held up these two posters (I’ll explain why I have them when we come to that point in the story).

bs1bs2

These posters didn’t immediately mean anything to me, as I am used to seeing Greco-Roman sculpture (I’ve taken a fair few Art History classes, and Archaeology courses). I thought it was advertising a study abroad or something. DO NOT MAKE MY MISTAKES. The professor was shaking, as she asked if we knew what they meant, who “Identity Europa” was. No one did. And she pulled up the links she’d found this morning to the Twitter feed of the group. I’m going to post the pictures here, because you need to be informed.

I’m posting screenshots because I don’t want to give them any more traffic than is necessary. If I gave you links to these tweets, they would get more views. More views=more validation and that is something I cannot get behind.

This group’s mission, essentially, is to deport anyone from America who isn’t white (read: European). Their targets are obviously people of color, people of Muslim heritage. Less obviously, their targets are members of the SAGA (LGBT) community and other religious minorities. Does this sound familiar? And as if this could be any more shocking, they don’t appear to be Donald Trump supporters.

We spent the entire class period discussing this information, these images and groups. I came away with the following pieces of information. (I’m only going to bring up some highlights-this conversation lasted almost two hours.)

The triangle thing (Twitter profile picture): This is actually coded messaging. The triangle is actually a three armed swastika (used by the Neo-Nazi movement) as a way to identify other fascist/racists without calling it what it is. It is also tied back to the original Nazi movement-because triangles were how prisoners were identified (they were color coded).

Response One: There’s a self-identified Japanese-African-American girl in that class who was also disturbed by this news-and shared that it is things like this that made her mother give her an 8PM curfew (the girl is 20) and she said that her time living in Okinawa was spent being racially profiled, but she feels unsafe in America now. She moved here last year from Japan. Her contribution to this conversation (one of many she had) was that the oppression of the minorities does not need to be a source of shame-it needs to be acknowledged, fixed and then left in the past, where it belongs.

Response Two: There’s a self-identified Mexican-American in that class. He was actually the most insightful person I heard all day. He spoke of how he wanted to sit down and talk with these people-to find out what it was that motivated them to feel this way. His contribution (amongst many) was that if all sides of the argument come to the table with respect, perhaps we will all walk away with a better understanding of the motivations of others.

Response Three: There’s a military man (of 20 years of service) who spoke up as well-about how he fought to defend the ability to speak out, even when others do not agree. (Which I can respect.) But he then compared this movement to BLM (Black Lives Matter) and my respect for him was markedly diminished. His “white male” privilege was mentioned by someone I didn’t see. He also chuckled at these posters-but perhaps it was out of the fact that they are absurd. I don’t find them funny.

Response Four: There’s a blonde girl who sits on the far other side of the room who brought up how “white” isn’t something that belonged to the Greeks or Romans-who were Mediterranean and therefore more olive skinned than the marble they carved. I appreciated this. As the lines between skin colors are muddled more than ever.

Response (Mine): Where is the line? I asked the professor, because I needed to know. I needed to know if I needed to be scared. I brought up that skin color is a very poor indicator of heritage and ethnicity-about how my grandfather was an immigrant from Russia, my grandmother from Poland, I was told as a child that I have native blood, I did a DNA test and I have African blood as well. I’m not Christian. I know multiple languages. I enjoy other cultures deeply. I’m part of the SAGA community. I’m mentally ill. I’m a woman. (I could go on.) Should I be afraid? My brain felt like screaming it. And that is how we learned that not only Muslims and people of color are targeted by this group, but several labels I use to self-identify. Apparently quite a few people in that classroom (my professor included) have things to worry about. We spent a few minutes talking about heritage pride as something that’s acceptable and to be enjoyed. We talked about how identity is something we make for ourselves. We talked about how differing opinions are beautiful-until they disrespect someone else. We discussed fear. But we can’t let fear win. And I’m going to keep on keeping on. Because fear will never win.

This is how a holocaust happens.

Not loudly and with much gusto-but quietly, with covert symbols and language choices. With seemingly harmless posters and images. With hidden meanings, hidden identities and hidden agendas.
This is how a holocaust is prevented. Not with apathy and fear-but with knowledge and openness. With communication and collaboration. With respect and understanding.

So I ripped down the posters I saw hung up, just as my professor had done this morning. I will continue to do so for every single IE poster I see. But I kept two. And I want to tell you why.

I’m not racist. I don’t agree with ANYTHING this movement stands for. I loathe it entirely. I felt like a shitty person carrying around racist, borderline-terrorist propaganda in my bag today.

I have the posters for the same reason that World War II holocaust propaganda is in museums: because people need to be warned, so that history is not repeated. When my children (if I have children) grow up, I need them to know that this is what the dregs of society look like-welcoming and filled with deceit. I need them to know that they need to break apart the messages that they interpret and see the truth. I need them to know the same lesson in the videos I shared up top: what may seem innocent on the surface can be filled with hatred. And hatred will fill a person up with poison until they become lethal to everyone they come in contact with.

So yes, I kept these posters. I will bury them in the back of my closet, away from the light of day until one day in the future I open that box and look back, thankful that these people did not succeed in their endeavors. I will look at these disgraceful posters and remind myself that there are good people in the world, and the darkness will not win. I will keep these pieces of history and one day place them in a museum-right next to other relics of domestic terrorism, racism, bigotry and fear mongering so that generations long after my own will see them and know that if they do not learn from the past, they are doomed to repeat it.

Lo tengo.

Hola, todos! I’ve been stretching my Spanglish legs, trying to get back in the bilingual groove. So I look forward to sharing some poetry and such with you that I’ve been working on. In the meantime though, I have thoughts I need to dispell. It may very well be a little coherent, as I have the campus sickness (Fourth Week Flu) and I’m doing my best to stay on top of my responsibilities all while sleeping and medicating and well, living.

In catch-up news, I made excellent headway on my future. I’ve got a list of law schools I’m applying to, I’ve tracked down all of my recommenders and given them the required stuffs and am working on that (which is fantastic). I’m also in the revision stage of my project (the one to combat rape culture on college campuses) and I’ve even managed to secure an advisor! It is that singular piece of information which is my post today.

No one can doubt my dedication to ending rape culture. In fact, it’s what wakes me up in the morning and keeps me up at night. I want to protect survivors, seek justice, the whole gambit. And the advisor that I met with last week does research on sexual assault-but on the perps not the survivors. And while I was reading her research to prepare for our meeting, I realized I have a large bias in this topic. I don’t understand what makes someone turn to sexual violence. I only know the other side-the victim side. And how is it that I could possibly prevent something when I don’t even have all of the tools to do so? So I’ll be working with her closely to prepare for this project’s inception (should it be chosen) and I will be reducing my bias-which will help me in the future, to be sure.

Being an anthropology major has prepared me for this life in so many ways. The most obvious of those is my understanding of social norms, and my realization of biases. I have an internal battle quite often about wanting to change the world and feeling too insignificant to matter. I know I’m not the first to feel that way, and most definitely not the last. I think it’s very similar to the struggle many people face with depression and mental illnesses as a whole. I try to keep my head afloat, and there’s this one quote that’s been popping up all over my life this past week, which I will post here for you.

the cure.jpg

 

Perks of Poverty?

appropriation.pngI came across this article today: The Troubling Trendiness of Poverty Appropriation and while I was reading it, I felt a familiar rant coming up. I actually agree with the level of disdain this author shows. I don’t know how familiar ya’ll are with a book written about 15 years ago called Nickel and Dimed. The cover looked like this (there was also a 10th anniversary edition which looked similar, but different):
Nickel_and_Dimed_cover

The premise of the book is a reporter/journalist attempts to live a life of poverty for her job. Sounds great right? I mean, a woman(!) digging into the roots of poverty, trying to find out why it’s so hard to live at the lower end of the money spectrum. Which sounds like an awesome case study.
Except she did it wrong and then wrote as though she understood.
Ms. Ehrenreich made three rules for her experiment. (1)
1. she can not fall back on any skills derived from her education or usual work
2. she has to take the highest-paying job she is offered and do her best to keep it;
3. she has to take the cheapest accommodations she can find, with a reasonable consideration for safety and privacy.
She also has some additional considerations. (1)
1. she will always have a car
2. she will never allow herself to be homeless
3. she will never go hungry.
Now, before I get into my thoughts, the author makes note that she understands she will never know what poverty is. The tone of her writing suggests otherwise.

It’s not okay to take something which is a source of great discomfort and shame, put a spin on it and use it as something to glorify (if it is a choice-not a lifestyle). That’s the problem with cultural appropriation. It’s great if there’s something which was founded by one group then shared and used for the benefit of all. It’s another thing entirely to glorify something like poverty. It’s not right.

Issues I have with the author’s take on the book are numerous. Of my issues, at the top of the list are the fact that this book was marketed as a woman exploring poverty by experiencing it. She didn’t. Not even close. Let me explain to you how she should have done her experiment: She shouldn’t have.
Poverty isn’t an experiment. It’s a tragedy.

The issues I have with her rules (by rule):
1. her experiences included being an adult with a job. She knew how to get an interview.
2. she should have taken the FIRST job she was offered-high pay or no.
3. poor people will often sacrifice safety, privacy and comfort for what can be afforded.
The issues I have with her additional considerations (in order):
1. being poor means taking the bus, or walking. Having a running car is a luxury.
2. this one, while reasonable is still a heavy assumption.
3. poverty means hunger. Trust me, I know.

Now, some additional things to consider. She kept her car from her old job. So it wasn’t a beater. She also had an emergency fund. There is no such thing as an emergency fund in poverty because literally every purchase is necessary and money is spent before it comes in. Also, she had health insurance. Now, I know that it’s 15 years later and insurance is required. But at the same time, you and I know that that means, if anything, money doesn’t go as far at all. And I remember a time when health insurance was a luxury-and if you didn’t have it, you went to work sick. Because I have insurance, and I can’t afford to go to the doctor. So I don’t.

Let me tell you a story, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from. It would be sixth grade, history. It was the week of my birthday and I knew my parents were strapped for money, so I hadn’t asked for anything extravagant. I just wanted Chinese food from the store in town and some frog toys (I loved frogs). I walked into class that day and the principle was in class as well, which was odd. We were told that there was a shortage of money in the school district, that we would now have to pay 10 cents for each page of our tests, our work sheets and everything which needed printed, and that in order to have access to the homework that day, we were going to have to give up two dollars right then.

I was 11 years old. Two dollars was all the lunch money I had. I was a straight-A student, never missed an assignment, all my teachers liked me. It was the week of my birthday and I was being told that I was going to have to pay a LOT of money in order to go to school. My parents were a little broke and I hadn’t had lunch yet.

As an 11 year old with a wild imagination, the only thoughts I could entertain as I put my money on the table and the principle checked my name off, was about how I was going to cause my family to lose our home, we were going to be on the street eating from trash cans. And, because my birthday is in December, I naturally assumed that I and my family were going to freeze to death. All because I wanted to go to school.

That is the reality of poverty. Little children being afraid that their existence is going to cost too much. That they are going to die because they cannot afford to live.

And for those of you who are curious, I did get my lunch money back. And no, we didn’t have to pay money for paper. It was an exercise to demonstrate how the colonists felt about the unfair taxes imposed by Britain. The principle had been there to reinforce the lesson (make it seem realistic and believable), and as a precaution, I’m sure. About a third of the class was crying as they left for their next class that day. I remember that the kid I sat by went to the bathroom and called his mother who came in to school and cursed out the teacher. A woman teacher (math) later told me that she wished she could bring her subject to students in such a relevant way. I remain appalled.

For the record, I never forgave that teacher. I know I should, but I consider him a monster. He ruined my birthday and taught me that the people who are often trusted to lead children aren’t necessarily the ones you want doing just that. “Derision for disappointed hopes” is a good quote to use here.

Nickel and Dimed was touted to me as an examination of the inner workings of poverty by the professor who required it for one of my classes. I ripped it to shreds in my review because the author knew nothing about the realities. As far as I know, she never required the book again. And that’s why the things the article’s author pointed out are also valid.

There is nothing chic about surviving on dollar menus, discount carts and living in trailer parks. People look down on you, it’s constantly worrying about money, about safety and you feel like the scum of the earth. People who “choose” to experience that don’t even understand the realities of the situation they flagrantly mock. All it does is damage the value of human beings who are fighting to get by. And that simply won’t do.

And if you’d like to hear some excellent words on millennials in 2016, here’s a video. But I will say, there’s some “adult” words. It doesn’t matter to me, but there are people who have concerns like that, so be aware. Snooze by Snow Tha Product (It’ll be featured in other stuff-because I REALLY like it.)

Citations

  1. Staff, TheBestNotes. “TheBestNotes on Nickel and Dimed“. TheBestNotes.com. 19 August 2016. 19 February 2015
    <http://thebestnotes.com/booknotes/Nickel_And_Dimed/Nickel_And_Dimed05.html&gt;.

IMADTTO

I’ve mentioned a couple times (I think!) about the project proposal I was working on. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to introduce my project to ya’ll: IMADTTO!

My husband pronounces it “ah-muh-ditto” which makes me chuckle, but I pronounce it “I matter”. (If you say it with a southern accent it’s “I matt-uh” which is how I reached I matter.) Anyway, it’s based off of the story The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared the story before, but just in case, here’s a picture:

I Made A Difference To That One

I chose the acronym IMADTTO from the very last line. I Made A Difference To That One. This story is one of the ones I’d heard as a child, but the true value didn’t become apparent until I was older, but once I understood, it stuck with me always.

 

IMADTTO is my response to campus sexual assault. It is broken down into four parts: research, outreach, advocacy and education. And in order to execute all of those things, I have submitted my proposal to a newly founded President’s Prize through The Ohio State University. There are two rounds of applications. The first, I have completed-requiring a proposal, resume and application. The second will occur in October and will be the in-person presentation. And then I find out in December what the official verdict is. There will be two winners, who will be employed for 12 months by the university to actually *do* their project. So now that you know why I’ve been working on it, let’s talk about the actual project.

I said there were four parts, and that’s the truth. I’m going to break down those parts, and we can hopefully have some discussions about how they sound to ya’ll! I’m using pretty much quotes from my actual proposal, I’m just condensing it.

Research: A survey will be drafted to determine what students feel have been acceptable measure to prevent and address sexual violence at Ohio State. A portion will address which roads, areas and places students feel that they must exercise extra caution when utilizing. This step will also include data collection by means of determining a comprehensive list of resources available to sexual violence victims both on and off campus.

Outreach:This will encompass both a newsletter and a line of age-appropriate resources which cover body positivity and bodily safety for a broader age range of students.

Advocacy: Small groups of individuals (who wish to participate) come together on a monthly basis to maintain morale and to offer support to the other members of their groups. The members of these groups may offer support in many ways, be it conversational or in more tangible ways such as providing escorts for each other to and from work, making meals for one another on “trigger” days (times in which the well-being of an individual may be compromised because of associated trauma) or even going to a court date with one of the members, if a case was made of their attack.

Education: There are three sub-sections here: high school, collegiate and technological. The high school level involves guest speaking at high schools about body positivity in a question and answer format specifically focused on prevention of sexual violence as well as how to rise above body shaming. The college level will see the addition of an educational module in the required freshman course, using the information gathered from the survey. The technological level will involve a mobile application, as well as an accompanying website with the information from the survey, as well as plans for the outreach section, information about basic self-defense, the list of resources available and other invaluable information.

 

So that’s the basis for my proposal. I’ve been working on some of the specifics, and I have to say, although I’m very excited to have turned in that piece of work, I’m very ready to be able to present it in person, so the review board will see just how much passion I have for this project, and for my future.

So if anyone has any thoughts on my project, or what you think would be an excellent addition, I’m more than willing to consider ideas. I even made my own logo (with the help of a free logo creator!) I know it’s not the catchiest thing in the world, but it’s unique, and it means a lot to me. This logo might just end up on some shirts and stuff. I may do a fundraiser with it, in order to fund some of the untested rape kits in our state.

IMADTTO Logo

(This is my logo. I’m really proud of it.)

White Girl Goes to Iftar (Ramadan)

happy-Ramadan-2012-1-1024x640
(This picture is a wish of a happy Ramadan. I didn’t make it, but I like it.)

I’d been working on blogs to post, trying to manage how much frustration I have and how much stress when my roommate asked if I wanted to go with her to iftar. I thought, sure why not and agreed. She responded for both of us and last night we left. I now get to do something I absolutely LOVE doing: I get to break some assumptions and stereotypes and tell you all about my time at iftar.

So some vocab first. Ramadan is the Islamic holy month where you fast during the day hours and eat during the night. You can’t even drink water! Iftar is the name of the meal that you eat after the day is concluded. The fasting is done for two reasons: the first being to honor the gifts of God and to be closer to him. The second is to remember that there are people for whom fasting is not a choice, but rather is their way of life. And so for the month, you honor the struggle that they face in poverty.

I also learned two Arabic words last night: mashallah and inshallah. Mashallah is a kind of protective prayer, said especially over babies which roughly translates to “May God protect you (from the evil eyes)” and inshallah means “God willing”. So if you are traveling or what have you, you say inshallah as a way of wishing them safe travels and the hope that you will be seeing each other again if God wills it.

So now that we’ve got the vocab down, it’s time to get the stigmas and stereotypes broken.

  1. It snows in Turkey. And it isn’t just a desert. They have greenery and whatnot too. (I asked, just because we were talking about silly Ohio weather. Turns out Turkey has regular seasons of 3 months each: Spring, Summer, Autumn Winter. Ohio has maybe two seasons: winter and fiery death by humidity. I just thought this was cool.)
  2. I didn’t have to remain silent when Muslim men were speaking. They usually spoke right to me. And made eye contact. Everyone was EXTREMELY polite and made sure that everyone else around them was doing well. (In fact, the fact that I was getting an education was a source of celebration for everyone. So that debunks the women as inferior bit, I think.)
  3. The prayers that are spoken (we were invited to watch) are prayers of thanks for health, food and opportunity. There is a reverence for being able to live life and for being safe. (We sat through one, and one of our acquaintances was kind enough to translate it for us.)
  4. The hijab (head scarf) is optional. You can choose to wear it if you want, and most women do because it is a way to further their faith. (Which debunks the oppression myth, I think.)

I asked a new acquaintance what the one thing she wanted others to know about her and her religion and she said:

Even if I say nothing, I am still saying something. I have hopes and goals and a family. I am shy and don’t make friends quickly but I love practicing my English. I have a very open mind, and I want to learn all about other people. I wish more people saw that my actions speak louder than my words. I just want to be respected for being myself.

We continued to talk about her story and about how she was so thankful to be in America, where people didn’t hate her for who she was and for what she believed. Reread that. She was thankful to be in a country of acceptance. I met a family who was from Istanbul-whose family was still in Istanbul. They were appalled by the violence there, and by everyone who falsely represented their religion.

In fact, the theme of the night was that education would defeat ignorance if we invested in it. I’ve been to around a dozen or so Christian churches, known people from all of the different factions (Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc) and I’ve met Catholics, I’ve met atheists and I could continue on. But never once have I ever felt so welcomed as an outsider than this gathering of the Turkish-Muslim community.

Allow me to reflect on that for a moment.

This group of people who were mostly immigrants or the children thereof welcomed two strangers into their holiday observation as though we were family. They celebrated our education, our career goals and our ideas and opinions without judgment. I looked nothing like the people in attendance, nor did we sound similar but that didn’t hinder their regard of me. In fact, I heard more about how we should find ways to include things like humor in our teachings, about how we should find community in art and food instead of fear and hatred. These people who didn’t know me made me coffee, gave me food and showed a sincere interest in what I had to say-even if I just ranted about how much I didn’t know.

Do you want to know how I get treated at Christian churches? Like a sinner not worthy of their time. And I want you to know that I told the people last night that I was pagan. That I practice a polytheistic religion. I’ve said that to Christians before (who are strangers) and I get the “devil” treatment or I get the shove-the-bible-down-my-throat treatment. Do you know what the Muslim women and men told me last night? That they were glad I came with an open mind and took the time to get to know them even though we believed different things. I left with invitations to return for women’s nights, cooking classes and art sessions, as well as many hugs.

Last night was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I may not have all the information I need in order to fight the bigotry and hatred shown by others, but I have my own experience and it’s a great start. Before I wrap everything up though, let me talk about one last thing.

COFFEE.

cups

Let me tell you. This wasn’t our specific cup, but the decoration is gorgeous on all cups. And the thing is, I’m 23 and I felt like I was holding the crown jewels when I picked up my cup. It’s all so beautiful. And they’re traditional espresso sized, so I also felt like a giant.

cup2.jpg (This is closer to the color-the decoration was roses though.)

As an American, a white girl, a college kid, a twenty-something, you all should not be surprised when I say that I am a regular at Starbucks, I drink coffee until I float in it and anyone who has been to my house knows that there’s always creamer in my fridge and coffee in my percolator. But when I woke up this morning, I couldn’t drink the cup I made myself. It tasted like dirty water in comparison to the coffee I was graciously made last night.

The woman who invited us made us fresh Turkish coffee last night. If I had the ability to make it everyday and it would taste like that, I would never buy creamer again. Let me be very clear, I hate black coffee. It has to have at least creamer in it, if not something else. And the coffee she made us last night was the very first time I have ever drank coffee black and enjoyed it. I didn’t even add sugar.

Apparently, if there’s bubbles and foam at the top, that’s how you know it’s a good cup. And when you are all done, if you turn your cup upside down, swirl it three times and let it set, you can tell your future. (I so tried it, but no one knew how to read it, nor did anyone believe so we made up stuff and got a bunch of laughs.)

coffee reading.jpg(Again, not my cup, but this is basically what it looks like when you’re ready to read it.)

I’ll leave you with a custom.

When a man is inquiring after a wife, he will bring his family to the woman’s house and the woman will serve them all coffee. She will hold out the suitor’s coffee and put in it salt, spices or other items which would not be for coffee (tomato paste, oil, etc). If the man drinks the entire coffee, it shows his devotion to the woman and his desire to marry her is deemed genuine. Apparently it’s very good for comedic relief, as oftentimes the man will make faces to get through the taste of the coffee. It’s meant as a joke, but also as a way to prove your love.

I rather like that. Apparently there are some really funny stories-so I’m going to go around asking people about their coffee ceremony stories from now on.

Thanks for reading. I had a lot I wanted to say, and it was just so wonderful. (I have plenty more to say as well, but another day perhaps.) For the first time, I wasn’t afraid of strangers, I felt accepted. And it wasn’t at all like how the news reports. All I saw were a bunch of people happy to eat food and pray, happy to share their stories with strangers, happy to be listened to and respected. I can’t say I’d want for anything else.