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The Beautiful Little Rhomboid

tomahawk's picture

After taking a step back, going home to California and driving to my city (San Francisco), I think the best way for me to end this class is to write an essay lauding discussion-based classes. While I drove through the city, I realized that so much of what we’ve talked about is there: Simmel, Zetkin, and many more. But more importantly, it became clear to me that it wasn’t just Simmel or Zetkin who was correct. They all were. And, they all weren’t.

Steadily, throughout the course, I’ve come to realize something about rightness and wrongness. I’ve written about wrongness before, but this is different. I still love being wrong and being told I’m wrong. But now, I think there’s something bigger than this and perhaps better.

Every day, we would come to class and disagree and agree. Some people would promote the Believing Game. Others would ask us to turn back to the Doubting Game. And slowly, I think everyone realized that it’s not black and white. In fact, few things are. We shouldn’t just scorn interpretation, but we also shouldn’t constantly search for some personal narrative, some greater meaning. 

In another class, a week ago, I went on a mini-rant about KONY 2012. I said something like, “This ‘white savior complex,’ it’s ridiculous. Completely. It’s so pretentious to believe that we as Americans can go into another country and fix problems that they’ve been dealing with for decades. They aren’t inept. They don’t lack the resources. The real problem with how our generation romanticizes quick-and-dirty revolutions is that they’re never successful. We simplify people’s complex lives.” Now, I wouldn’t dare compare questions like ‘What is Art?’ to ‘What should we do about Kony?’ But, I think some of the rhetoric I used in this argument is similar. People have been asking questions like ‘What is Art?’ and ‘What is play?’ and ‘What the heck is a city?’ for a long time. That’s because the questions aren’t simple. And, instead of looking for one bright golden truth, we should acknowledge complexity.

For example, the ongoing determinism vs. free will debate. Until I was eighteen, I was sure that I had free will. And then, I found determinism. For two years, I fought for it. Literally, I would argue with countless people over determinism. I would try to sway them with diatribes and words like ‘nature’ and ‘nurture.’ But now, I’m in the middle. You see, I’ve realized that perhaps I don’t care much for THE TRUTH. I’m sure it’s out there. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life pursuing THE TRUTH in many different ways. But, for now, I am content being on the fence about determinism and free will. I realize that what’s truly important about determinism and free will isn’t THE TRUTH, it’s what determinism and free will can give me. Determinism let’s me forgive people. It shows me that poor people don’t equal freeloaders and that there are reasons why people go into a life of crime. Yet, free will reminds me of accountability. Free will dictates that I can’t just go into the kitchen and eat all of the food in the fridge. And, when my parents get upset, I can’t turn to them and say, “Well, I don’t have free will. What else was I supposed to do?”

To turn back to discussion-based learning, this is what it does (when it’s successful). There are people sitting in a room and they talk about things. No one is trying to prove themselves or to prove that their interpretation of Keisha/Natalie is THE TRUTH. Instead, we’re all just trying to learn, to see the complexity.

Often, I let my imagination wander in class. Sometimes a giraffe stands behind Anne Dalke. Sometimes an orb bounces from window to window and lands on the desk of whoever is talking. But, my favorite is when people are speaking and the argument expands before me from 1D to 2D to 3D.

Discussion-based learning allows me to understand, not to suck in knowledge like a vacuum cleaner. I hear many points of view and I am not asked to accept or bad-mouth any of them. Instead, I leave the class with a clear picture in mind: a beautiful little rhomboid, filled with many arguments and many perspectives.