Victoria Jelinek

A Vignette from the Peanut Gallery…
March 2, 2016, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. Aristotle

I attended a series of educational lectures on purposeful thinking this weekend. During my school holidays. Very purposeful of me. Or stupid, depending on how you think about it.

For the second day we were instructed to bring something for a potluck lunch. I thought this was a good idea. As I was staying in a hotel and didn’t think that looted crisps and pretzels from the bar were appropriate, I woke up extra early and drove 35 minutes out of my way to find a bakery that was open. I bought a pear tarte because it’s rather innocuous and it looked elegant. At the break, we went into the room where everyone’s offerings had been stored, and collectively began unwrapping and arranging it all on a large table. I thought the offerings were gorgeous. But then so was my tarte.

Then, a woman in the group – an ‘earth mama’ type, married to an investment banker – announced to everyone that the pear tarte had nuts in it. One must be ever conscious of prospective nut allergies. I looked closely at the tarte and replied, “…oh! But there don’t seem to be any nuts on it…” to which she said authoritatively, “Oh there are. I cook pear tartes and there are nuts in them.” As I hadn’t asked the baker, nor do I cook pear tartes, I said nothing more. And no one touched my tarte for the whole weekend. Not then, nor at the frequent tea breaks. Except me. Rather poignant. And, I thought, rather wasteful. I mean, are we sure the tarte had nuts in it? If you don’t, or can’t, eat nuts, then don’t eat it. Which made me think that she had been rude. Which got me thinking about what is ‘okay’ to say-and-do these days and what is ‘not okay’ to say-and-do these days, and how these social mores often don’t seem logical. It’s okay to respond to a person’s food offering at a potluck dismissively if it might have gluten, nuts, or dairy in it? Yet we talk about being sensitive to others. And much of the meat in supermarkets has steroids, antibiotics, or growth hormones in it. And industrial farming is hurting the earth. But my apologies – I’m off subject about the danger of nuts.

Then I started thinking about the nature of political correctness these days. It’s ubiquitous. It’s no longer okay to be self-deprecating. It suggests fallibility. Imagine. Yet it’s okay not to respond to emails and prompt the person sending them to feel as though they aren’t worth your time and effort. It’s no longer okay to be critical of a person if they’re not Caucasian. Even if their art, music, work, or point could use a critical eye. It’s inappropriate to talk about unfair distribution of wealth in real terms if wealthy people are present. Yet it’s okay that there are children who go to school hungry each day in the 1st world and don’t have safe places to live. It’s not okay to mention that you’re feeling badly when someone asks you “how are you?” Yet, pills for depression and suicide rates are at an all-time high throughout the 1st world. I could, of course, go on.

One attends lectures with educators of present and future generations on critical thinking and there is no discussion about what people really think about societal values and actions. Economic disparity grows daily. Public educational systems produce dolts and disillusioned teachers. Teenage depression and suicide rates rise. There is increasing infringement on women’s rights throughout the world. The flimsy, disposable architecture mass-constructed today at the same time we’re talking about the importance of our personal ‘habitat’ and the environment in general is at odds. What do these things reflect about our modern humanity? Am I being nostalgic about what creates substance in education and culture? Or is this all truly ironic?captioned-cartoon-300x216

I don’t have the answers, and I’m sure they’re complex and, arguably, much conversation is rhetoric (my Danish husband would likely say so). But I do know that it would buoy me to observe and participate in thoughtful and authentic conversations at a workshop with other educators. Perhaps there’s never enough time (another issue). Perhaps people are too afraid to have an opinion. Perhaps, perhaps…. I do know that I felt like that pear tarte. Not gorgeous mind you, but misunderstood. And I do know that I’m likely to see assertive statements about gluten, nuts, and dairy as signs of a culture gone mad.

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