Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Intentionally Equitable Hospitality as Fable

| 7 Comments

AK (@koutropoulos) came up with a genius idea of creating sort of fables of edtech. And I got a 1.30am idea to make one up just now. It’s actually not truly a *new* fable, but extending a fable for an edtech application. Ok? Here goes.

Do you know that fable about the man, boy and donkey? You can read the full story at the link, but the overall idea is that people kept making fun of this group of people – when they were all walking, people made fun that no one was riding the donkey. When the boy rode the donkey, people critiqued the boy for riding but leaving his dad to walk… when the dad rode instead of the boy, people shamed the man for riding but leaving his son to walk.. when both man and boy rode, they critiqued them for exhausting the donkey… and on and on… with the lesson being that you can never please everyone.

I’m going to turn this into a fable about Intentionally Equitable Hospitality. In our Virtually Connecting manifesto, we recognize that inclusion is elusive (so, basically, you can never please everyone) BUT in our Intentionally Equitable Hospitality, we give ourselves guidelines for how to navigate this difficult space to make the choices that would be most hospitable to the most marginalized people in a particular context.

So taking the story of the boy, man and donkey, we would ask ourselves, in this particular context, whose needs should come first? Who is disempowered in the broader macro system, and in this particular situation? We don’t have information on the father’s health or boy’s age or donkey’s situation.

How would your choices differ if

  • The donkey is pregnant? Or sick?
  • The boy is diabetic?
  • The man needs the exercise to lose weight?

Importantly, who has decision-making power in this context? For example, who speaks for the donkey, who takes care of her/his needs? Whoever said that riding the donkey is a privilege and preferred for all people (example is man wanting to lose weight)? Also, can we assume there is a possibility of switching so everyone gets a break and everyone still gets a turn? Perhaps one person can get a longer turn because of their circumstances and another person a shorter turn because they have a bit more power. Sometimes no one having a turn is also ok.

The obvious connections to Virtually Connecting and hospitality here is that you need to know a lot and account for a lot, to be able to make the right decisions, but you weigh how you make the decisions through a lens of equity first, hospitality second, and remember these things won’t happen in practice without intentionality in planning and execution.

In case you don’t see the metaphor clearly, the getting on the donkey thing is how much air time you give someone in a dialogue…the man who wants exercise is maybe the introvert who prefers not to speak today… and the pregnant donkey is…. I don’t know who she is in this metaphor… she’s probably the Google hangouts haha… but no seriously, she’s a good metaphor for someone who can’t speak for herself and we need to be sensitive to her needs even when she cannot speak up. It’s important to differentiate between when you need to nurture agency and when you need to be sensitive and make decisions when you’re in power that are intentionally equitable.

Actually, I think the donkey is the VC volunteers [in the good sense of how volunteers do so much affective labor, not the bad sense where donkeys are used as an insult] are carrying the conversation and are themselves obviously able to have a voice and have lots of power in the session but may be more marginalized outside VC context. Perhaps the pregnant donkey is a VC volunteer who at some point is carrying an additional burden… and may need extra help to function fully… but may also be comfortable going on without help. We don’t know for sure.

What do you all think? It’s now 2am. I kinda like it. But it’s 2am so my judgment may be impaired. It’s hard to tell.

7 Comments

  1. oh oh oh oh oh, YES: that fable is perfect for people passing judgment without knowing what they need to know… and sometimes with faux kindness too, thinking they know who needs what kind of help, but being wrong about that because they are judging by appearances & projecting

  2. “You can never please everyone” & you shouldn’t! e.g. Imagine you please a colonizer …

  3. Now I know that hate can’t be “included”. Now I know that I can’t “embrace” racist ideas. Simply because these ideas deny my existence.

  4. “Inclusion is elusive” cuz it ain’t easy to decolonize; it ain’t easy to end oppression. Decolonization is a journey & never ends. Now I know these things.

  5. I think the world is an example of “inclusion” in one go 😅 Obviously not a good idea!

  6. Nah. « inclusion » is omnipresent and its most common expression is the oppression/manipulation/exploitation of the many by the few. Those who resist are an exclusive minority. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncontact…. Stories of inclusion? steller.co/s/6qtwXqEXMNV

  7. thanks for sharing this! a day with Alan Watts is a good day 🙂
    I can definitely imagine an account of ed tech that has a karma message like this one.

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