Start with questions.

Education

So there’s a picture making the rounds. And although this particular picture and its provocative caption spawned this entry, what follows is applicable to any picture, meme, article, video and so on. In short, any document.

Being literate is one thing, but engaging in critical literacy means reading against the grain. Critical literacy starts with questions rather than reactions. It demands research instead of assumptions.

To be critically literate means to ask who published a given document and what do they hope to accomplish by doing so? Who benefits and who doesn’t?

Critical literacy asks for context. Not simply the text, but what comes with it. It requires active engagement over passive acceptance.

The picture in question is connected to education. Math, to be specific. And despite the caption and the header, there is no mention of grade level, no standard listed, no explanation. It’s devoid of meaningful context.

Some people are pretty upset about “it,” but aren’t really sure what “it” is. They know it looks strange/ difficult/ hard to understand and they are outraged that anyone would ever need to learn whatever “it” is.

I’m all for people having reservations and voicing concerns, but I advocate starting with questions first. For example:

In a free society, citizens should critique curriculum materials, legislation and all other documents that govern the ways we live. But it’s important to start with your own clear understanding, rather than someone else’s interpretation, summation and conviction.

It’s perfectly okay to not have a clue what you’re looking at. That’s the best time to start with questions.

The deeper business of being beautiful inside.

Love, Politics, News & Notable

Blue and I saw 12 Years a Slave as soon as it was released in Atlanta.

The film was stunning.

We dined afterward and talked for hours about the the movie and the myriad topics it inspired: slavery, racism, privilege, wealth, the power of story, literacy, critical literacy and public schooling. We discussed the stories that get told or lost. We noted, with a healthy dose of cynicism, who “history” deems worthy of remembrance.

We retold scenes to each other. Relived predictions, twists. What made us look away, hold our breath, or more tightly to the other’s hand.

The writing, directing and performances were brilliant. And yet as moved as I was during and after, it was Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey who brought me to tears:

At some point I want to truly express what Patsey meant to me, but this post is about Lupita.

I’m overjoyed she has received accolades during this awards season, including the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She is being honored for being herself. Not a shrinking violet of herself, but a lantern. A ray of sunshine in what can sometimes be the the darkness of Hollywood. She overcame a childhood of self loathing to become someone who, quite literally, puts herself on stage, on screen, on view, for all the world to see.

Lupita relates her story in a loving response to a young woman drawn to her light. Watch it below:

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. ~Lupita Nyong’o

Today in Women…

Feminist Thought, Politics, News & Notable

Today, two articles about women captured my attention for a good portion of the day. I share them here with little commentary, as in both cases, the content speaks for itself.

The first piece is Ashley Judd’s blistering critique of patriarchy and women’s and men’s complicity in upholding it. In it, she thoughtfully problematizes the media’s portrayal of women. It is fierce and awesome and bookmarked in my Diigo account  for future reference.

The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted. Continue reading.

As excited as I was to read Ashley’s piece, I was later reduced to tears – devastated to find out about legislated acts of violence against imprisoned women. I’ve been tuning in more to the politics of the prison industrial complex, and I’m the first to admit I have a lot to learn. Yet, the fact that women in 35 states are shackled while giving birth, was an appalling revelation. This article touts the good news that Florida (of all regressive places!) has put an end to this horrendous practice.

It’s unusual to hear of good news from the war on women coming out of Florida, but there is some. Last week Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a bill that establishes humane and uniform rules for the treatment of pregnant women who are incarcerated in any jail, prison or detention center in Florida. Continue reading.

I was encouraged to learn about the efforts of the Rebecca Project, and they are now on my list of organizations I’d like to support and/or partner with in some way. One of my goals this year is to write and publish an advocacy piece on a cause of personal import. I think I’m one step closer to at least finding the cause. Lest we forget, prisoners are people, too.