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Kelsey's blog

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Reading Rilke: On Questions of Universality

           The first time our Ecoliteracy 360 met was in December, in the English House lecture hall, where we talked about ourselves and our homes and where we were going to go throughout the next semester.  The second time we met, we piled into two blue Bryn Mawr vans and drove 30 minutes and what might have seemed a world to Camden, where we spent the first half of the day gardening and the second half touring Camden’s water treatment facility and some of Camden’s streets and ending in one of Camden’s parks, where our guide, Michael, pointed out the environmental threats and innovations that surrounded us.  This was our first 360 field trip, designed to help us learn about ecoliteracy, but even now I am hard pressed to say exactly what I learned that day.  I came in from the outside and began to reevaluate my assumptions about a city I’d only ever heard talked about as poor and crime-ridden but, even though I did learn some things about Camden that I hadn’t known before, I think that day really started my semester-long process of changing the way I see the world.  Perhaps the poet Rilke was describing something like this when he wrote:

And we: spectators, always, everywhere,

looking at everything and never from!

It floods us. We arrange it.  It decays.

We arrange it again, and we decay.

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How to Educate for Activism

            During the second semester of my freshman year of college, I took a course in Bryn Mawr’s sociology department entitled “Punishment and Social Order”.  Before taking this course, I knew almost nothing about prisons, either in America or elsewhere, and I’d never really questioned the role that prisons play in our society.  Throughout the course, as I learned about how mass incarceration in the US functions as a racialized form of social control analogous to Jim Crow, and how the system results from and perpetuates capitalist inequalities, I became increasingly convinced that, to achieve social justice, prisons need to be abolished.  Because of this class, I am now seriously considering working on prison abolition after graduation.

            For me, this experience is my personal window into a question I have struggled with for this entire semester: Can education be used to create social change?  And if so, how?

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4/23: What I Might Have Said

Since I wasn't able to be in class yesterday because I was sick, here are some of my thoughts about The Hungry Tide in response to Anne's class notes.

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Story Slam Facebook Event

Here is the link to the story slam Facebook event!  Please share the event and invite your friends! 

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Empathy and Dialogue

 empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

            Empathy is one of those qualities that we’re constantly told that, as “good” people, we should possess.  From elementary school character education to high school literature classes, one purported purpose of education (at least in my American public school experience) is to teach us how to care about and understand the feelings of other people.  I’ve always considered myself an empathetic person, someone who cares about and understands others’ feelings, but lately I’ve been questioning whether this quality I’ve prided myself on even exists.  Is it ever possible to truly “understand and share the feelings of another”?

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Outdoor Spaces as Sites of Learning

Throughout most of my educational experience, going outside has been seen as a luxury, a reward or fun place to hold class but one that is rarely used, because it's thought of as distracting.  On the few occasions that I have had class outside, we were supposed to act exactly as we did inside, not engaging with the environment around us and forced to ignore all "distractions" from that environment.  We never truly engaged with the place in which we were learning, because learning was seen as only the content of the class itself, not the place in which we were having it.

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Wissahickon Reflections

When I arrived back at Bryn Mawr after our trip to Wissahickon and saw one of my friends, the first thing she said to me was, "So I heard you got lost."  She was jokingly referring to the first part of our walk, when jccohen and I, absorbed in our cameras, fell behind to the point where Hummingbird had to call and ask where we were.  We kept pace after that point, and I fell into conversations with various groups of people, but the trip felt somehow different after that- not better or worse, just like there was an an after where I was engaged in conversation and community, and a before where I was silent staring through a lens.   

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Harriton House

Walking to Harriton House, I was reminded of the few times I've walked around the neighborhood of Old Field back on Long Island- mansions stategically placed amongst the trees permitted to keep growing, obvious evidence of wealth with every step.  I know that Bryn Mawr (and the Main Line as a whole) is one of the wealthiest communities in the country- along with Old Field, which is only a few miles from where I grew up- but there's nothing quite like taking a stroll through the neighborhood surrounding the college to remind me of that fact.  Harriton House itself also exudes wealth, in the colonial way of times long past that many of the other houses in Bryn Mawr also do, but its wealth is different- it feels older, run down in a way that the still-inhabited houses of the Main Line are not.  Nothing is falling apart or even starting to decay, it's all carefully preserved, but the people who run Harriton House are obviously trying to cultivate a colonial image in a way that's very effective.  Stepping on to the property, if I hadn't heard the constant humming of leaf blowers and other motors I could have been convinced that I had travelled back in time.

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Concerns About Safety as a Challenge to Environmental Education

When I was in sixth grade, the summer camp I attended annually stopped letting us climb the rocks.  I had always loved clambering up the boulders, feeling carefully for stable hand and foot holds; slower than many of my peers, who scrambled up without worry of falling, but always victorious when I finally stood twenty feet above the ground and gazed out over the nearby world.  But for reasons I don’t remember—perhaps a camper hurt themself, perhaps there was just concern that a camper would—one summer the counselors told us that we couldn’t climb the boulders anymore, at least not without strict adult supervision.  We still climbed occasionally after that, always with several adults stationed nearby, but it never felt the same to me.  Perhaps we were safer then, but we were also less free.

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The Danger of a Single Story- Response to Apocalypse, New Jersey

First, to say what I liked about this article, brief because I disliked most of it- I appreciated that the author tried to contextualize Camden within larger national and global processes of politics and nationalism.  There was a lot about the history of Camden in the article that I didn't know, though of course I am as skeptical of the historical information provided as I am about everything else in the article.  But otherwise, I have to agree with Ari's letter to the editor in that the article "Apocalypse, New Jersey" shows the danger of a single story by portraying Camden only as a broken and crime-ridden city.  As someone who doesn't know much about Camden besides what I've read and seen on my two visits as an outsider, I don't know enough about Camden to say exactly what is wrong about the article, to propose another story that can be told.  It's not my place, not my right, to tell a story about a place I don't know- if I tried, the story would only be representative of me.  But as someone who is interested in crime rhetoric and our prison system, I am irritated by and skeptical of the discussion of crime in this article.  The article reads like it's making a half-hearted attempt to contextualize crime, to explain that there's more crime in Camden than in other places because a lack of jobs forces people into the illegal economy, but the article still ends up reading like it's villainizing drug dealers and other people who commit "criminal" acts as horrible people.

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