Monday, October 12, 2015

He Named Me Malala (movie review)

Carol and I watched this in the Regal Cinema at Fox Tower.  Today is Indigenous Peoples Day.  Portland has said good bye to Columbus, officially.  He's had enough days by now.

I woke up forgetting it was a holiday and started bugging people at work, my bad.  Then on leaving for the film, I left the front door to the house wide open.  Thankfully, Melody came by at random and took care of it and then hung out with Sarah-the-dog (she gets lonely).  Lucky me, to have such friends.  Melody just has to take some last exams to get her license as a massage therapist.  Her knowledge of the body's musculature and specific pathologies is quite extensive, plus will be deepened with more experience.

Just before the film we saw the Suffragettes preview, coming in a few days.  That provided some good shading (as in nuance) regarding the dark ages patriarchy we've been enduring for some time.  Men have needed to run things, at least in their own minds.  And we're not out from under said patriarchy yet.  Those with an XY chromosome still seem to suffer from some sense of extreme entitlement.  Something about brain chemistry?  Are we talking nature or nurture?

Whatever the explanation, I'm thinking the imbalance in power and opportunity is indicative of a defect in the species.  The combination of monotheism coupled with thinking that God has male gender, would seem an unfortunate memetic mutation.  As with any archetype, that one needs to be counter-balanced lest it become a runaway train.  Monotheists are notorious for not being team players.

What is "education" anyway?  Does it always look like classrooms?  Is it a carbon copy (a dated term) of the institution you attended in your youth?  I had a good experience with schooling on the whole, so lets not paint me as bitter and complaining in raising questions about conventional notions.

Definitely the process of educating oneself includes learning to read, that much is clear, but when do we learn about intuition and listening to inner promptings that are not mere temptations or cravings others have cleverly implanted?  When do we learn to become less gullible, less someone else's puppet or stooge?  Becoming informed and building character happens in many ways, through many life experiences.  Let's not become the prisoner of our own stereotypes.

A most important aspect of elementary school is it makes the acquisition of specific skills, such as numeric computation, a peer group activity such that one's likelihood of future success becomes a public topic.  One is graded relative to others.

There's a zero sum aspect to any curve based assessment.  Even though we think the collective IQ of humanity has been increasing, whatever that means, renormalizing means we don't see that fact, and that in itself is a way of deceiving ourselves.  One learns to measure oneself relative to a cohort of cronies with little sense of cohorts past.  Malala is subjected to these same regimes, in the name of "schooling".

In that artificially created zero sum sense, school may be a crushing and cruel institution for many an impressionable human (with the unimpressionable past hope), so I'm hesitant to romanticize said institution as "the better fate" for all girls, in any sweeping sense.  That'd be too cavalier.  There's too much that's pathological about "schooling" to wish it on everyone in its present form.  So even as we bring more girls into education, lets transform what we mean by education.  It's not like all the future shock is for the Taliban alone.

Suppose one sees through the social media that other kids one's own age have learned a lot of skills.  They read and write, surf the web...  that sense of "peer pressure" is still there, but perhaps with less potential for public shaming?  Humans nudge each other to perform at higher levels, but with more privacy restored?

Lets focus on creating safe personal workspaces for every student, places to be left alone in for awhile (out of choice, not punishment) places to study quietly, to read, to write, to reflect.  Being crowded together with others:  is that somehow intrinsic to what "education" means?  Who taught you that?

It's not either / or of course, but so often these days it seems "school" means exclusively either "under the watchful supervision of authorities" and/or "in crowded spaces, a space of endless random interruptions".   Neither environment may be conducive to learning.  One might suggest such circumstances are specifically designed to prevent too much learning.  Was a lot of what we called "schooling" really more about "warehousing" when we look back?

In point of fact, there is no one institution entitled to call itself "the" school to the exclusion of all others, just as no one human is "the" teacher of all the others, not the father, not the mother, not the uncles, not the aunts, not the sibs.  All are teachers, no "one" is.

Put another way:  bringing a child into the world is a social act and the world gets to be a collective teacher, not just one adult (another preview was for The Room).  Learning to read opens more windows, and the possibility of more relationships.

Lets remember that the invading Euro-Anglos used their "boarding schools" quite deliberately to tear into indigenous societies, to abduct their children, to ensure the native ways died out in favor of what was "Christian" (or whatever nonsense) -- still a pattern to this day.

"Education" is often code for "learning to think more like the victors and less like the vanquished" i.e. we need to be clear that "education" may be a vector for genocide, a tool of missionaries, perhaps well meaning, but nevertheless on a mission to crush and defeat whatever customs or ways they demonize as inimical to their own.

Obviously genocide is what the Taliban fear, as the prospect of educated women in the sense we're talking about suggests lifestyles entirely different from those they had imagined for themselves, as future patriarchs.  But then we all live in a time of future shock, and a lot of expectations don't get met all around, including those of men in other cultures besides the Taliban.

Prayers for cleverly planted desires may go unanswered or worse, lead to unintended side effects.  The easy availability of weapons makes "blaming others" and "making them pay" a no-brainer for the many shocked by their emerging futures.  People "go postal" in their disappointment, wanting to share their pain with a world turned enemy.  Sometimes the military is a great outlet for collective freaking out, and taking it out on others.  Ain't that NATO in a nutshell?  Not so different from ISIS in being run by aggressive males anxious to preserve their way of life.

Lets agree that sometimes taking the children away from home and placing them under the authority of other adults is not the only or best way to transmit a culture.  Educate the whole family at the same time why not?  Don't give up on the adults or tune them out.  That's mistake number one.  Malala's family does a lot of learning together.  That's healthy.  Good show.

We see that girls are born into the midst of wars, meme wars, PR wars, same as boys.  A tug-o-war ensues, pulling them in all directions.  Exercising one's ability to think for oneself and to follow one's own intuition, while retaining some power to exercise freedom, the power of choice, would be the goal of a liberal education.  But many an education is far from liberal in its goals.  So be vigilant!