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Do Pigs Have Udders?

Part of educating for hope is “reading the world” in hopeful while living “in dynamic interrelationships” with others (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 102). This means opening the world to eloquent questions without presupposed answers and without the threat of violence of any form. I used the quote in a recent book chapter I co-authored with a colleague from North Carolina. The book is to be published in late 2020 or early 2021. What does it mean to live in a world full of hope; a hope(ful) world.

My first day back from the retreat I posted about in Welcoming Differences and Gentle Rain I noticed the students were subdued. In the afternoon, I was alone, which was unusual. Without an adult and teaching three grades, it could be demanding. Other times, it provided interesting moments, and this turned into one of those moments.

I had contacted a substitute teacher I had used several years before and who was available again after completing a long term assignment for an ill teacher. As we talked about what was bothering me, the students told me they had not enjoyed the teacher. I was surprised, as he had seemed a good fit before. I asked for an example and they told me he had told them their conversation was inappropriate. This was unusual, as the students in this group were well-behaved and respectful. I asked them what the conversation was about and they told me, while completing some Science, one student asked “Do pigs have udders?” Apparently, this became a hotly debated topic and it was brought up again today.

I laughed. For me, it was funny and pointed to an irrevocable human truth: curiosity about the world we live in and eloquent questions leading to exploring the world and learning about it. We had serious fun as we talked about what udders were and their role in feeding offspring. I even phone Kathy, who was raised on a farm, and asked he. She was not sure, but thought it was a structural thing and pigs probably did not have it. We left it as an open question.

Simple question,

Emerging eloquently,

Not presupposing answers;

Fueling curiousity–

Energizing learning.

What does this mean?

Is it true?

Querying and questing;

Seeking to fill gaps;

Not with certitude;

New questions emerging.

With passing years,

Recalling that moment,

Smiling, chuckling;

Appreciating simple, provocative question–

Do pigs have udders?

As best as we can learn, they do and it was fun trying to figure it out. Adolescent children ask the darnedest things. Laughter is an antidote for difficult moments. Something I learned as a student teacher was a safe classroom allows children, youth, and probably adults to ask provocative questions with no preconceived answers. In the polarized world we live in, we have lost that assurance of safety and are reluctant to ask questions needing answers.

I will save you looking up the answer on the Internet. Pigs do not have udders. Udders are a reference to mammary glands on certain mammals and it has to do with their structure. I read a version of this poem for a group at a retreat in Wisconsin. As I finished, adults wanted to know the answer. I said I didn’t know and someone looked it up on the spot.

I don’t have a picture of a pig. Here is one of a bear I took in Waterton Lakes National Park. Bear and pigs are related, so it was as close as I could get.


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.

13 responses »

  1. How else would the little piglets get their milk? Children are indeed curious and also get upset when they are challenged about something they know is wrong. When my son was in first grade, his teacher said that strawberries grow on trees. It just happened that we owned a five-acre strawberry farm so he told her that they grew on plants on the ground. He was kept after school as punishment…with an upset mother arriving shortly as he missed his bus home.

  2. This is surprising to me. How could pigs not have udders? How else could brand new piglets eat?

  3. I came to THIS post just to see what kind of poem you would have regarding pigs’ udders. Your poem is wonderful but I am leaving DISsatisfied for the first time without a pig udder poem.

    I have come to believe that a person being and feeling safe is so extremely important. Perhaps more so than even being fed. Necessary in the classroom and essential in the home but unfortunately becoming more rare. Essential not just so that we are free to ask questions, but free to answer them wrong. Being discovered a liar seems no big deal to people but being discovered to be wrong is something they will do anything to avoid. That is such a huge shame because being wrong leads us to being right. AND demonstrates who around us loves us in spite of all our massive imperfections. And what a great blessing unconditional love is!
    So I thank you for making T as T a SAFE place for us to make comments, right or wrong and for being “udderly” wonderful. (You knew I had to say it at some point, right?) πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

    P.S. I look forward to reading your pig udder poem in the future, Ivon. 🧐

    • I agree Laura-Lee. Safety is essential and seems to be becoming rarer. At the heart of it all is love in the agape form, love for one another sight unseen.

      Thank you for your humour. Sometimes, we need to just say something funny and corny. It makes life gooder.

  4. Let me add my two cents (if it’s even worth that much) to the whole pig udder issue because I know you’re all longing to hear it.
    Obviously piglets take milk from their mama pigs. If you haven’t seen a whole “flock” of them doing it in real life you’ve probably seen a video of a dozen hungry and greedy baby pigs drinking away. But it’s simply that unlike animals like cows and people, that have a sack that hangs OUTSIDE the body, they store their milk inside where it is harder to see. So it’s just a misunderstanding based on a terminology thing.
    However, if we REALLY want something to discuss and debate let us reexamine the issue of “why do men have nipples” because I’m sure that hasn’t been hacked at nearly long enough.

  5. Hmmm. “Bears and pigs are related”. Why do I have the feeling there is a joke in there somewhere? Or a profound truth. Or both. Let me work on it and get back to you. (I know you’ll eagerly awaiting that one!)
    Okay. This is my last comment for this post. LL

  6. Honestly. The last one. LL


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