Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Sunshine Award :)

Congratulations to Maznah from Malaysia (who received the Sunshine Award from Heart - a fellow blogger from my own home, South Africa!). 

Maznah's blog is a social networking site all by itself, linking people from around the globe who have a shared interest in the arts and culture. Since I was invited to do a guest post (let us consider it a forthcoming attraction for now... :) I realised that what makes her blog so wonderfully popular is this: it's a web threaded together with all the flavours and foods of the cooks of the world, and I am quite pleased to be a part of it

... and pleased to have been given the glowing sunshine award, too! Once again, thank you Maznah :)

Rawiyah is  my pen name, and I am a Humanitarian who wants to see the world and learn new languages. I am currently buying inner peace at the cost of love, smiles and small sacrifices. 

I am required to pass the Sunshine award along to 10 amazing bloggers, who are bound by the following
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them
2. Tell us something about yourself
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers
4. Let them know you awarded them :)

Here they are (in no particular order), the recipients of the Sunshine Award:
1. Sakura (India)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“Eish*, that salary won’t pay much”

This is what - sneeringly – I am told when I make mention of my intended vocation. If not that, i hear that teaching is for stupid people. Frankly, I am sick of hearing it and refuse to give up defending the nobility of a grand profession discredited much too easily by many. Like teaching, poetry too, is derided. And in response to Plato’s attack on it (poetry), Sidney declares that it does not require a defense: poetry was a storage facility that housed all the old, basic and fundamental forms of knowledge – history, philosophy, even science and mathematics. Thus, deeper forms of knowledge are useless without poetry, as it is the parent block from which all other branches of knowledge initially stemmed. So one can truthfully state that poetry acts as (or is) the stepping stone towards academia. This is why Sydney believes that the person who mocks poetry is like a child who shows ingratitude towards his parents (poetry being the parent block and everything else, its child).

I love the way in which Sydney argues this point, because it is akin to the perception of teaching in society today. Much like poetry, school teaching is one of the parent blocks of human understanding and social construction. University lecturers are amazingly intelligent (and consequently, respected) because of the level of their qualifications. Also, they are valued because of the kind of knowledge that they can transmit and produce, all towards the development of society. However, we forget that their teaching is useless to the person who was without a school teacher to first help him understand the ‘simple’ basics, like learning to memorise and write the distinct curve and shape of each letter at primary school. Doing so was as hard as writing a couple of thousand words on the topic of subjectivity in Pride and Prejudice at university, the success of which can be acquired only through a gradual ascension across cognitive levels.

Successful teaching is an amazing feat. We are not self-sufficient in our ability to easily write or calculate. Our brains were taught to do so by out parent-teachers, the people who influenced the world in ways we forget to see. God-willing, I hope to become a teacher, and in response to all the why not’s, here is a wonderful list of whys:

To teach is to -
  • erase ignorance and awaken understanding.
  • determine a way of thinking for those being taught, thereby forming a future culture of expression, seeing and living based on the principles of each lesson.
  • establish a legacy of wisdom and understanding.
  •  be unselfish: imparting knowledge as a charitable gift.
  •  empower man with invaluable skills that others outside of school may not care to share.
  • invest in others with the wealth stored in your inner reserve bank: passion, kindness and guidance (and it is never depleted!)
[This blog is dedicated to the teachers of the world who create imprints on the consciousness of their students - who sometimes don't know it... but would thank you profusely if and when they do]

* A South African expression indicating surprise or dismay. Pronounced "aysh".

Saturday, April 30, 2011

On the Radical Nature of Racialist Theory and its Possible Catastrophes

 It is time to stop attempting to deform natural realities to match political ideologies, and instead accept the racial realities which exist and deal with them as best we can. MX Rienz

In 2008,  scores of people chanted the famous “Yes we can!” slogan after Barack Obama, having The Audacity of Hope that a black man could be the leading force of the world’s leading country. Today, that hope is but a shadow of reality. And Obama’s presidency and resultant abilities as such are neither undermined by nor judged according to his blackness – until racialist science proves otherwise, that is.

Racialism is the idea that individuals fit into a particular category within a racial hierarchy. It supposes facts about the intellectual capability, physical appearance, biological and social characteristics of a given race. Race, its formative societies as well as ensuing characteristics, constituted the bulk of anthropological and scientific research three decades ago. At present, it (Racialism) is a concept unforgotten but little studied, for what it proposes, if proved, would shatter the foundation of nations and bring about the probability of a global reform, except if science held less significance in our modern world.

Life as we know it would not exist in a world removed from science, since for life to be protected and sustained; it must depend on operative systems such as legal and medical schemes – both of which are science-based.  At the very least, science governs life: consider that guilt is made absolute when science links an individual to a crime, in the face of which he is utterly defenceless. Science is thus, fate too. Clearly, its unquestionable authority lends it the title of the Divine, as well as the holder of Truth.  Yet, I doubt that people would be willing to accept science as Truth, if it reveals Race to be biological, and Racialism, a fact. For then, it vehemently opposes the major religious doctrines of the world:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians: 328)

"O mankind! We have created you from a single male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other. The most honourable of you in the sight of Allah are surely the righteous." (Quran, 49:13)

Racialist Theory would then destroy the unity which religion strives to create amongst diverse nations, and trigger a war not just between groups of people, but between Science and Divine Truth, in which case the latter may be distorted, or the former exposed as a lie.

In his book, The Great Betrayal: Fraud in Science, Horace Freeland Judson writes extensively on the issue concerning the fake data which many scientists produce in order to gain power and approval. And among them is Charles Darwin, who based his theory on a futuristic discovery of transitional fossils* – none of which have been found and the rest found out… to be manufactured. If science does, however, provide Racialism with the credibility it currently lacks – whether as an actual fact or a fraudulent one – all of the world’s ‘development’ tactics would be in reverse. Modernism will ironically become a backward idea, a counter-science (due to its quest to oppose the Enlightenment - the Age of Reason)

For all that the world has worked towards, changed and attained – Freedom in an Apartheid South Africa; Abolishment of Slavery in America during their Civil War; and Equality in pre-Revolutionised France – it will never be able to re-establish a converse state: Racialism within a modern society. Too much will have to be changed, and accepting such change will result in the Palestine-Israelite situation reflecting itself in every country in the world.

If, as Racialist theory states, Asians are situated at the top of the racial hierarchy as the more developed race, and Blacks at the bottom due to their being less intellectual in comparison (!), then no Black person will occupy management positions within any organisation. Racialism would prove them much too inept for any such thing, and Apartheid regulations similar to the Coloured Labour Preference Policy would be reinstated into employment schemes in every sector. Consequently, Black Employment Equity Acts would have to be dissolved. While it makes sense to offer a job to the person (proved by science to be) most able to execute its tasks best, does it mean that the opportunities awarded to individuals to excel in such areas will be restricted to a select few? Surely, if Blacks are less intelligent than Asians, then awarding them with academic opportunities are a waste when they can instead, be utilised optimally by their superiors. Bantu Education would probably ensue, accompanied by Sharpville Masacres and the like (okay, maybe that is a bit extreme. Although, wars do persist across centuries…).  If Blacks are lesser intellectually, Racialism would be the indirect cause of them being perceived as lesser human beings, too. At present, such ideas are too far removed from the situation we find ourselves in here in South Africa, with our equal and many human rights. However, enough segments of Racialist indulgences remain within us to pick up exactly where we left off…

All History is current; all injustice continues on some level, somewhere in the world. Alice Walker
Urinating in soup and feeding it to Black workers is something that would have been brushed aside by the Apartheid government as trivial. The four students from the University of the Free State who did so were quickly pardoned by the university’s Vice-Chancellor, and the dignity of the Black domestic workers is now something left to them to fight for on their own, without the support of what would have been their greatest ally in a quest for justice – the institution itself. Their sub-human treatment of Blacks is not much different from that of Sara Baartman and her experiences of being sold to an animal trainer and caged for ‘civilised’ people to ogle at.

Simplifying the world into organised units may make its management easier, as was the opinion of the Apartheid government, and the ideal view of Racialism. However, in light of  Marshall McLuhan’s theory and prediction of the world as a ‘Global Village’ (a state in which South Africans already are, living in a multi-racial and cultural society), establishing a hierarchy will be impossible. What will become of ‘hybrid’ individuals, whose ancestry includes Indonesian, Malaysian, European and Khoi? Therefore, in order for Racialism to work, it can only function within societies with clans of people who are all ‘pure bloods’. Bearing this in mind, it is fair to state that the quest of Racialism is to eradicate unity, and with it, refute all ideas of a democracy. 

The term “homo sapien” means “modern/ wise man”, and it is divided into different classes. Not surprisingly, Africans have the least favourable description, as indolent and impulsive, as opposed to whites who are governed by laws, and Asians who are governed by opinion. The theorists (for example, Linnaeus) who are behind these classifications of human beings are all White. Thus, when Blacks are classified as inferior homo sapiens, and consequently, less wise, it is from a subjective standpoint. Like the European Colonisers, these theorists have themselves been indoctrinated by notions of Cultural Imperialism, and their perceived elite status brought with it far-fetched ideas and drastic measures by which superiority was to be maintained by its rightful possessor, resulting in racist statements like the following: “The selective elimination of inferior human strains will tend to eradicate many mortal inequalities”(!)Science provides fact. Its results, irrespective of the judgements held by the scientist, are objective. The subjectivity associated with Racialism therefore makes it unscientific. And since it is unproven, it may just be a counterfeit produced to gain power.

Harold Wilson states that “he who rejects change is the architect of decay.  The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery”. If Racialism becomes fact and a necessary change, I presume that the world would exist as a graveyard for centuries after. Perhaps my knowledge and understanding regarding the issue is too limited, that I would opt to lie in my own grave, in blindness and perplexity. Which does not seem all that absurd, in light of a quote that says, “the circumstances of the world are so variable that an irrevocable purpose or opinion is almost synonymous with a foolish one”.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Vocational Concern: to what extent can practical work develop cognitive thought?

I fear that teaching at school may (somewhat) prohibit my intellectual development. Mind you, I mean not to insult educators’ levels of intelligence. My own teachers were sufficiently educated and trained to dispense their knowledge in perfect dosages to the young brains they miraculously nursed to perception and understanding. Indeed, it is a given that the knowledge-base of teaching/learning methods will increase with teaching, as will social awareness and educational development skills, proving thus to be an invaluable asset in general. But this relates to the practical component of teachers' work, not so? What about the mental/ cognitive component, where teachers are able to further their own learning? Teaching is exhausting and time-consuming, when will I find the time to delve into my own passion (literature) and become an even better expert in my field?

I feel that the level/depth of the work is not challenging enough academically. School environments are not akin to the scholarly ones found at university, where deeper insights into literature are probed by complex theoretical texts and hard-core lecturing. The obvious answer would be for me to become an English tutor at university and further my studies. But I wouldn't like to become an academic - at least, that is not my aspiration right now - and I am passionate about education and teaching at high school. The ideal is to continue to do both at the same time, and they can't be done separately: i need teaching to make a living (not only because it is fun and rewarding!) while I also need to continue my learning to grow and sustain my thinking, without which life will feel incredibly dull.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Teachers: unacknowledged experts in their fields...

Observing teachers who have 20+ years’ practice in teaching English language and literature is an overwhelming and intimidating experience. They teach literature as if they know the texts by heart (which I am beginning to think they do), and respond to students’ questions in ways that are indicative of their clear confidence before a classroom. Although I consider myself to be confident in my knowledge of literature at 3rd year level, I don't have the ability to confidently prattle off Shakespeare as if it were the chorus of a song. How do teachers remember random verses and their places within various texts with such precision? That’s my classroom observation ‘wow’ moment.

Indeed, there are as many literary texts in the world as there are people (which may be an exaggeration – or not) and it is a fact which bothers me. At present, I am reading through Othello, The Great Gatsby, notes on visual literacy, The Kite Runner, Macbeth, and poetry.  These texts are but drops in an ocean of literature, the majority of which I feel I ought to know and understand well enough to be qualified to teach. Nonetheless, all marvellous teachers were budding experts at one point in their lives. For me, that point is here, the Right Now of today.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Teaching Visual Literacy

Books and other forms of printed texts no longer serve as primary sources of information, not since e-books/ journals/dictionaries/articles became the convenient and cheaper substitute. As such, youngsters have only a small inclination towards those bound stacks of pages we call books. They feel threatened by its concrete nature - its seemingly hard and unchanging face in a fast-changing world. Devoid of visual animation and colour, English reading material is considered to be an introduction to the Land of Nod. 
And so, knowing that hedonism charcterises the lifestyle of the postmodern nation, i appealed to my students' desires and surprised them with a presentation on visual literacy, with concepts and images that were new and relevant to them. 
It was a great success (although my laptop crashed, which i think was worth it anyway - ah, to see the light of interest in their eyes!)

Teaching, like everything else in the world, should evolve. According to Prabhu, there are no wrong teaching methods. They are all successful and context-dependent. For now, i have one amazing lesson stuffed happily into my pocket of teaching memories. Here's to hoping that i may accumulate and learn from more, with time.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Teacher tendencies newly-begun: horrid and super all at once...

I remember feeling that the transition from school to university was hard, until now - when the transition from university back to school (as a student teacher) proved to be worse.

School. School is that place in which I loathed to spend my time, a place that stifled my inner freedom to the point of claustrophobia. That place, a structure as concrete as dogma, is now my world of teaching practise, learning and thought. And it's a strange place to be: the other side of the large, front desk, teaching a class comprised of versions of my old self, fragmented yet bound together in a new generation.

I DO enjoy teaching school students - when they are like the two senior classes i currently have: rowdy but responsive; silly yet sharp; potentially serious, and (thankfully) mostly humorous. But not all classes are like these, especially those which are uncontrollable, and cause you to question your abilities as a teacher, lacking in adequate abilities do an effective job in every classroom, irrespective of the circumstances or students in it. Today, i had one such class. We did a good job as a team: i wrecked my vocal chords as they went about wrecking my self-esteem. I don't harbour any feelings of dislike for them, even after being told - quite pointedly - that they dislike my subject (English) and are only attentive in their favourite classes: Natural Science and Arts & Culture.

I understand that students have preferences, and respect that. I believe that my determination to have them develop a fondness for my subject is a waste of the energy of which i am bereft at the end of the day. I also know that i am fixating too much on this single, bad lesson, and allowing it to extinguish other better and awesome lessons i have had thus far. While this class didn't amanage to chip away at my core (which i need to be in a healthy, bright and inspiring state for teaching),  they succeeded at making me hell-bent on returning to them on Tuesday with an altered approach and killer lesson-plan.

Tuesday is also the day that my supervisor comes to visit - and evaluate my abilities as a prospective teacher.