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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.

Tomorrow’s Child

I will change my routine week and post less often. I need to work on my dissertation topic. I want to enroll in the proposal seminar in June. If not, it will be next fall. I need to begin to set the table for the next part of life’s journey.

Today, I commented in an online forum about the state of public education. Another commentator asked, “Is there no hope for real change in the schools of America?” I am not American and cannot answer that specific question from where I sit. Instead, I answered, “I do have hope and, more importantly, I have faith that we can make the necessary changes despite the obstacles. What do we want for our children and grandchildren? This seems like the question we need to ask. Does change offer a sustainable future, not for me, but for future generations in an unimaginable, complex, and chaotic world? This need for real, flexible, and sustainable change reminded me of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I found this beautiful poem by Brazilian poet Rubin Alves. He spoke of hope, but not hope as a soft and gentle aspect of life, but hope matched with suffering and resiliency which gives rise change and the hoped. I particularly enjoyed: “So let us plant dates/even though we who plant them will never eat them./We must live by the love of what we will never see.”

What is hope?
It is the pre-sentiment that imagination
is more real and reality is less real than it looks.
It is the hunch that the overwhelming brutality
of facts that oppress and repress us
is not the last word.
It is the suspicion that reality is more complex
than the realists want us to believe.
That the frontiers of the possible are not
determined by the limits of the actual;
and in a miraculous and unexplained way
life is opening up creative events
which will open the way to freedom and resurrection –
but the two – suffering and hope
must live from each other.
Suffering without hope produces resentment and despair.
But, hope without suffering creates illusions, naïveté
and drunkenness.
So let us plant dates
even though we who plant them will never eat them.
We must live by the love of what we will never see.
That is the secret discipline.
It is the refusal to let our creative act
be dissolved away by our need for immediate sense experience
and is a struggled commitment to the future of our grandchildren.
Such disciplined hope is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints,
the courage to die for the future they envisage.
They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hopes.

Why School by Mike Rose

Why School: Reclaiming Education for All of Us by Mike Rose was a follow-up read to his earlier book Lives on the Boundaries. The latter book explored, in an autobiographical way, Mike Rose’s ascent from growing up in a working class neighbourhood with little support for education at home. He found support from educators along the way and became an educator himself. Professor Rose used a similar biographical method in the current book and explored the purpose of education, different views of intelligence, learning, and knowledge, and the humbling, yet hopeful work, that results from learning.

The general thesis examined a need for a new conversation about the role of public education, one “not dominated by a language of test scores and competitiveness” (p. 4). Professor Rose presented a case for a good education being designed to help us make sense of the world. He argued that parents historically “sent their kids to school for many reasons: intellectual, social, civic, ethical, and aesthetic. Historically, these justifications for schooling have held more importance. Not today” (p. 4). If these reasons no longer hold a time-honoured place in educating our children, then it begs, “What is the purpose of school?”

Questions: What purpose does school serve in a democratic society? I find the object of school reform is not to change school or its purpose, but to simply layer one more fad on an already overloaded system which is ill-equipped to handle it. The result is we are failing many, serving few, and leaving a huge hole in the middle. What should school reformation or transformation look like? I believe this requires a conversation about purpose of school and its structure. Is the present hierarchical, industrial-age model a suitable mechanism to deliver education in the early 21st Century?

Recommendation: I enjoyed the book. It is short and easy to read. Professor Rose provides a view which is different from the mainstream educational reformer and challenges the reader with questions and not answers. I would recommend it to anyone searching for a different view of educational reform.

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