How to Grow a God

For this month's blog, Rehearsing Change student from our Fall 2016 semester, offers a thought-provoking Journal-style entry, written in Spanglish. We leave it in this original format because A) the multi-lingual approach mirrors the reality of much of our work, and B) with the advent of on-line services like Google Translate, it is very easy to copy-paste the items we do not understand and get a pretty clear translation of the phrases. We hope you enjoy this passionate take on Education as much as we do.

Voy a escribir menos como un deber para la escuela y más como los diarios que he estado escribiendo desde que tenía quince años (I hope you will try to follow me):

Alice at Quilotoa Lake (during Rehearsing Change's Highlands Educational Excursion)

I am stuck on the ethics of pedagogy. Who am I to tell you what to learn? Who am I to decide what should be known? Solamente yo sé lo que conozco, y solamente yo puedo juzgar la relevancia de la información con relación a mi propia vida, no la tuya.

To me school has been an act of patronizing self-indulgence coupled with absurdity and violence. Not true learning but intake and regurgitation. No wonder so many of my graduating class had eating disorders—we were being taught to binge and purge information itself. I have come into contact with terrible teachers and wonderful ones, life-changing classmates and entirely forgettable assignments. I have been compelled to think and I have been compelled to commit the most dangerous of actions: when I was sixteen, I burned a book. It was on standardized testing, but still: I ripped it apart and I burned it, piece by bloody piece. I didn’t know there was that kind of violence inside me. Books hold a place of honor in my family, in my home, in my life. They pile up on every available surface. We read at breakfast and after dinner. We read as an act of love.

Here my host family does not read much; we spend time together on the couches, talking while la tele chatters in the background. At first I felt like a thief in the night, stealing below decks to turn sacred pages. Is it culturally-intolerant and elitist to condemn the television? Or can I just accept that la tele doesn’t mean anything to me, and that’s okay?

Alice at Association Nina Shunku (our community counterpart organization in Quito)

Los libros tienen otro tipo del teatro. Otra manera de vivir afuera de su cuerpo y ver a sí mismo con otros ojos, como hemos intentado hacer en nuestras clases. “In our daily lives we are the centre of our universe and we look at the facts and people from a single perspective, our own. On stage, we continue to see the world as a we have always seen it, but now we also see it as others see it: we see ourselves as we see ourselves, and we see ourselves as we are seen” (1). Lo mismo se aplica a los libros. Podemos ver el mundo como siempre lo hemos visto, pero también como lo queremos cambiar. Vemos a nosotros mismos en la narrativa. Libros, como el teatro, son herramientas mágicas, porque contienen un dios pequeño y poderoso: Story… Narrative… Drama. Llámala con cualquier nombre que tú quieres: lo que contiene un cuento son las semillas de la vida que dan significado a nuestra existencia.

La escuela coge ese pequeño dios… y lo vapulea. No one’s walking out of here alive.

It has not done this with theater because school has not claimed theater as its own, as its main method of teaching. But it has done so with books. It turns them from expressions of the sacred to tools of fear. “Open your books.” This should be an exultation but it has the knell of a funeral march.

¿Quién soy yo para decidir lo que tú debes leer? Quiero— no, necesito —reclamar la narrativa sagrada de las escuelas, pero no sé cómo hacerlo.

Alice presenting a group project in Pintag (our community partner for our Identity class)

En las clases aquí (2) leemos Freire (3) pero todavía hay una separación entre estudiante y maestro. O, quizás, si creamos el maestro-estudiante y los estudiantes-maestros, pero no decimos lo que estamos haciendo podemos trascender esta separación. For a thing to stick it must be named, in feeling if not in words (I understand now, I think—this is the deeper reason why we have readings. To see what other people have named what we do. To give us the vocabulary to create our own names). Naming has power. Narrative is just another kind of naming. Boal and Friere expressed the truth of a thousand fairytales. When you know something’s name, you can call it to you.

Veo una semilla en esta pedagogía. Quiero leerla, actuarla, sentirla. Quiero escribirla. Es cierto, los libros contienen los nombres pero no solamente se encuentran en los libros. En clase y después: la posibilidad de aprender una narrativa distinta a la que he aprendido antes. Estoy aprendiendo los nombres de todas partes, y de todos. La gente de Nina Shunku (4) practica seis tipos diferentes de aprendizaje en un día. Son tan aprendices hasta que son capaces de aprender algo de mí. ¿Quiénes somos nosotros para decidir que debe ser conocido? Let’s stop telling and start sharing. There is a seed in this kind of pedagogy. The seed of a god. How do you grow a god?

Call out its name.

Alice on a class excursion in Pintag (the mountain Antisana in the background)

  1. From the book Rainbow of Desire by Brazilian artist and activist, Augusto Boal

  2. En el programa Rehearsing Change de Pachaysana.

  3. Paulo Freire, Brazilian educational philosopher who is most famous for his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

  4. Asociación Nina Shunku es un colectivo de jóvenes artistas y educadores, ubicado en el Centro Histórico de Quito. Pachaysana está trabajando con Nina Shunku durante los últimos 2 años.

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