January 27th, 2004

rock shadow

classes and rants

Tonight I ponder the meaning of the saying, lifted from a bumper sticker, "Don't keep your mind so open that your brain falls out." In high school I was often a very, shall we say, subjective thinker. I could expound at length on any number of topics, filling the air with voluminous yet vacuous monologues. (Perhaps you would argue that I still do, especially when blogging. :~)) But when I reined in my wild thoughts and subjected them to a rigorous, quantitative, results-oriented course of study (namely, the computer science curriculum), I started to find the metaphysical conversations I used to get so passionate about fanciful at best. In addition, I learned to subject my thoughts and opinions to careful analysis (scientific, if possible), and as a result, became more confident of my own opinions. I could analyze and accept or reject others' opinions, rather than giving equal weight to all and ending up in a postmodern morass of "everyone is right." Anyway, the event that set me pondering all this is one of my classes. The reader for the class is awesome, on par with my book The Art of Looking Sideways for captivating tidbits of information. But so far, the class itself has been somewhat hokey, talking about how we should change the way we think and how we don't really see the world around us and such, without giving reasons for it or benefits of changing. (Maybe it's self-evident to the "enlightened" who don't question?) I was telling my aunt about it, and she said it sounded like a cheesy sixties education class. :~)

My other classes are much less "open-minded," but most of them are very right-brained. I went to my animation class for the first time today, and we talked about how to make a cartoon storyline. Who's the character? What do they want from other characters? What's the problem? How will the character and others deal with the problem in this scene, and in the cartoon as a whole? We analyzed the storylines of a bunch of short cartoons, mostly Loony Toons, and discussed the storylines in some longer movies as well. The instructor, Jonathan Luskin, said that good cartoons should be understandable without their soundtracks; cartoons like the Simpsons (and Strong Bad, I realized tonight) are just animated radio.

I also went to a (mediocre) databases section today, and before that, my four-hour drawing course, where I did a decent gesture drawing of my shoe (along with other gesture and contour stuff):

The instructors are big on an exercise they call "spherology," where you gesture-draw a sphere for several minutes by making many large, sweeping circles and ellipses. It's meditative.

Today I learned that I was accepted into the photography class. This Thursday we will go on a field trip to MOMA! I used to go all the time with my aunt's membership, but I haven't been in over a year now.
  • Current Mood
    artistic artistic
rock shadow

(no subject)

This article discusses cultural awareness exercises such as discrimination based on eye color or other arbitrary things, which are meant to raise awareness - especially among the privileged whites in the group - of the hardships ethnic minorities face, and to provide an outlet for the anger of said minorities. It sounds like there are many problems with these sorts of exercises. Some leading figures make sweeping generalizations about race or other subjects which are quite alarming: whites are "logical" and value objects, Native Americans "learn through oneness," blacks are "intuitive," etc. Others select a member of the audience who is part of a privileged group and berate him/her. Some vilify the USA in particular, while praising the rest of the world, or vilify whites in particular, while praising nonwhites for simply existing in a world of inequity.

All, or at least all featured in the article, belittle individual experiences by insisting on the validity of their racial or cultural stereotypes, violate privacy by forcing participation and sometimes disclosure of information, and undermine dignity by belittling participants or making them belittle each other in discrimination games. This example startled me:
    In 1993, Ana Maria Garcia, assistant dean of Haverford College, proudly told the Philadelphia Inquirer of official freshman dormitory programs there, which divided students into two groups: happy, unselfish Alphas and grim, acquisitive Betas. For Garcia, the exercise was wonderfully successful: "Students in both groups said the game made them feel excluded, confused, awkward, and foolish," which, for Garcia, accomplished the purpose of Haverford's program: "to raise student awareness of racial and ethnic diversity."
Excluded, confused, awkward, foolish ... wonderfully successful?

These programs seem to feel the need to force people to change their opinions, to indoctrinate them - they don't trust individuals to change their minds on their own, or to have a thoughtful conversation about the issues at hand.

While I would generally agree (as I've expressed in other posts) that there are sometimes egregious inequities in the world, I don't feel at all comfortable with programs like these, however noble their goals are. In femsex we talked about the danger of accusing all thin women of having eating disorders. These programs seem to make the same errors. Are all white men inherently evil? Are all black women inherently good? Are all thin women automatically anorexic? Is my past worthless because it took place in a culture that was predominantly white? No! We can all have misconceptions and make mistakes, or have insights and do good. What is important are our individual experiences. "Cultural awareness" workshops should try to add to these experiences, not take them away.
  • Current Mood
    surprised alarmed