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Do Pigs Have Udders?

The last year I taught I was away for a week in the fall. When I returned, the students told me they had not enjoyed the substitute teacher. They felt he did not let them chat and told them their conversations were inappropriate. As those students rarely crossed the line between appropriate and inappropriate, I was surprise and asked for an example of a conversation topic.

As they did their Science one day a student asked another if pigs had udders. They felt the conversation was proper and it fit with biology and animal husbandry. One girl, who lived on a farm, insisted they did and the other, who lived in town, said they did not. They asked me if I knew. I laughed and told them I did not know.

Initially, I phoned Kathy who was raised on a farm. She said pigs might have udders, but, if they did, it was a result of a biologic need to nurse offspring. Over the years, the topic came up. A farmer told me farmers don’t ask questions like that, because they don’t really care. Last summer, I read this poem at a retreat and described what had happened. A colleague did a search and informed us pigs do not have udders.

The experience informed me in two ways as a teacher. First, it pointed out an irrevocable truth: human curiosity and questions without absolute answers are essential in living and learning. Second, humans require safe spaces to ask questions like this.

A simple question

Eloquently posed,

It lacks a ready answer

Our curiosity is engaged;

Fueling our learning and conversations.

What does something mean?

Is it true?

Many queries;

We seek to fill gaps–

Certitude is elusive;

Uncertainty prevails.

Years later

I smile and chuckle;

I (re)member–

I appreciate–

A simple, provocative question–

Do pigs have udders?

People can ask the darnedest things. Humour is a cure for even the most challenging moments. It opens up safe spaces for questions to emerge.



About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

18 responses »

  1. The colleague who did the search worries me a little. If by udders you would mean the means by which an animal might feed it’s young, then I’d say the pig does have udders only they’re generally called teats. Only by meaning the method through which milk is extracted by humans for use would I agree they don’t have udders.
    Have a nice weekend Ivon.

    • My first response was similar as I suggested pigs, as mammals, by definition would have udders. Apparently, udders and teats are not the same things. Have a wonderful weekend and hugs back David.

  2. Is this a safe space so I can ask,

    Can Pigs Fly?

  3. If pigs are mammals, I would think by definition they would have udders.

    • That was my thinking, too, but according to the Google search apparently not.

      • This is what I found on Google – “According to, pigs are one of about 225 species belonging to the even-toed hoofed mammal classification, a category known scientifically as Artiodactyla. Other key characteristics that are required of all mammals include the presence of a diaphragm, mammary glands, hair and an endothermic metabolic system.” I do remember pigs suckling on my grandfather’s farm.

      • Thank you Leslie. I have seen them doing the same on various farms over the years.

  4. Now I shan’t sleep tonight. Until now I’d never given it a thought, and now I can’t not give it a thought; pigs, udders—but that’s not really the issue, is it?

    “Safe spaces” … ye gods.

    • It was one of those moments. When I was student teaching, my mentor teacher told that adolescents needed safe spaces to ask questions that might not make sense to adults.

      • My ol’ Dad brought me up with a simple philosophy—

        “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”

        —only stupid people.

        I still hold it true. Given the above what need is there for ‘safe places’?
        Safe from or for whom?
        Demented professors frightened of their charges, and of losing their salaried positions?
        Frightened innocent children, because without fail every adult male is a salivating slobbering sexual predator?
        Frightened everybody because any stranger is a demented rabid terrorist?

        I say again that starting with the youngest all people should be provided—equally—with the Tools of Thought*. And taught how to think. For themselves. To cut through all the contradictions.

        Kids are not (r) NOT adults and shouldn’t be treated as such, or given adult power.

        I think your ‘mentor’ was a bit fearful …

        * I can see where this may cause a few problems with (say) the Islamics.

      • I agree with your comment about children not being adults. Hannah Arendt wrote in the 1960’s thinking of children as adults leads to a crisis in teaching them.

  5. Another wonderful post Ivon! How lucky those students are to have you as their teacher. I can only imagine how happy and relieved they were to have you back. Yes, let’s keep pondering and asking odd questions. Why not? Let’s hear it for human curiosity!

  6. At which…a substitute teacher…shudders! :0


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