epiphanies: ignorance vs subconscious repression

WARNING: LONG POST!

I just came racing to my computer in a flurry, hoping to get down everything before I forget.

I just had probably the best (and worst) ECS class of my career here. My ECS instructor prompted our groups to start thinking more critically and really delve into the material and engage with its ideas. All I have been hearing since I got to university (and the Faculty of Education) is critical thinking, critical thinking, CRITICAL THINKING! But no one had ever really taught me HOW to do it until then. Really motivated by this new information, I engaged in that class and got the instructor to come sit at our table and add to my points that she recognized as a deeper type of thinking.

Today, we got put into different groups and at first, it was very awkward and no one had anything to say. But inspired to thinking critically, I slowly began to speak up and voice my CRITICAL opinions. However, I soon found myself very frustrated because the group members, for the most part, were rejecting or opposed to my thoughts. Here are some examples of our conversations. It originally began with talking about Aboriginal women’s identities and eventually led us to the misportrayal of Pocahontas and Disney movies in general.

The people sitting at my table had thoughts such as…
-all you hear is negative things
-people are over analyzing them
-they are Disney movies, they aren’t going to change
-kids aren’t taking away the racist or sexist things from those movies anyways

And here were my counter arguments…
-criticizing and pointing out what is wrong helps you to realize it and change it for the future
-if we aren’t analyzing them, it is just allowing socially-accepted ideologies to stay the same; talking about these things in Disney movies (or pop culture and society as a whole) allows us to be educated
-why can’t they change for the future? The Princess and the Frog starred the first African American princess character, why can’t other changes be made?
-maybe you don’t THINK you took away those stereotypical views from Disney movies (or cartoons or books, etc etc etc) but you probably did and you just didn’t REALIZE it (because that view is so totally ingrained into society that you don’t even think to question it) or it just enforced something you already were taught

Another thing I was really mind boggled by when I started to think about it while eating lunch was this piece of the conversation:

Boy: It’s not just race that is under represented in Disney movies. Have you ever seen a Disney princess with a disability?
Girl: But they’re cartoons!

Pause. Wait… what?

Now what I said in the live conversation was something like:

Me: That shows right there a misconception we have. You think that cartoons are happy and that happiness is portrayed in able-bodied characters.

(Reflection: Looking back, I could have phrased this in a much better way – my approach sounded accusatory. But I am a newbie at this critical thinking stuff and you learn more from your mistakes)

Girl: No! I don’t think that’s what happiness is! (defensive)

(Reflection: I don’t blame her for being defensive and denying this. It’s what anyone would have done. Because we don’t want to admit, or we can’t admit because we don’t even realize it, that we associate disabled people with sadness. I can admit that seeing a disabled child in a cartoon would probably make me sad. But that’s the joy of cartoons! They can make any bad situation funny or optimistic. So why do we have to search high and low for a character in a wheelchair when there are tons of children and members of society who this is a reality for? It’s not an uncommon thing. Yet it isn’t displayed this way in popular culture.)

What I should have said was: Pause there for a second and think about what you said. “BUT they’re cartoons.” That shows that you have an assumption of what cartoons SHOULD be. What do you think they are?

In closing, I feel like I have grown so much just from that one class. I may have been severely frustrated with my group members for a) not engaging with my points, b) shutting my ideas down without having an open mind and c) not taking the conversation seriously. But that is just something that I have ALSO realized today: university isn’t always different from high school. There will still be people who aren’t as dedicated or passionate or involved as you are. That will probably be the case for the rest of my life. Being passionate beyond words is difficult because you crave others who are just as passionate that you can converse with. And when there isn’t this equality, it IS frustrating. But you can’t let that frustration phase your experience.

In fact, I was so inspired that I came up with this as I was walking back from the class and sorting everything out in my head:

Let frustration not be a hindrance but a fuel to the fires of your determination and passion.

I don’t know if the people in my group are just not fully embracing the critical thinking that my instructor challenged us with, or if they just are totally unaware of their ignorance to open mindedness, or if they are simply pushing down their feelings because, let’s face it, that’s way easier than dealing with these issues.

But let’s face it, that is what teachers NEED to do. It’s what we are here in the faculty for. We are learning how to shape minds. Not to teach a kid addition and subtraction. It is SO MUCH MORE than that.

In conclusion, I am feeling confident in expanding my critical thinking skills and being one step closer to becoming the absolute best teacher I can be!

I hope that my journey towards teacherdom holds as many inspirational and moving moments as this one.

Cheers to education!

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