“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” –Cesar Chavez
In this version of the story, the urban woman buried in rural cultures research reaches for familiarity, for home–she is losing herself in the conservative wild west world she is studying. There are no professional standards, no law enforcement, information is unreliable, and no one trusts anyone else. She is surrounded by old people, authoritarian people; gatekeepers protecting little patches of power with passively fierce aggression. She is an outsider in this rural culture, never hears her name, and is socially isolated with no access to the internet. She is starving for the company of young people; her soul aches in its need for imagination, for possibilities, for life.
She decides to teach one course at the local college.
She chooses a textbook with no political messages, only ideas about how to relate in healthy ways with other human beings. She prepares a syllabus that revolves around students relating with one another, one-on-one, in conversation. Her lessons focus on understanding, not debating; the activities are designed so learners can play with and try on ideas about resiliency, about adapting, about creativity and imagination, about mercy and forgiveness. Ubuntu.
She does not find learners here. She finds students who are trapped in top-down power structures and systems that the old people have left behind, that keep everyone at the university locked in combat mode. She meets students who are fighters, students who virtually shoot to kill, in her direction. Most are uni-oriented: they can only orient to other human beings in an adversarial frame. Her non-adversarial approach confuses and frustrates them, and they don’t know where to punch. They can clap back, double down, attack, and defend, but they don’t know how to understand. They have been fighting for so long that they have forgotten how to learn.
White female students revolt, students of color vanish, grades are taken off the table, the administration gets involved, and hilarity ensues.