Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Notes from #HortonFreire

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So I finally found my annotated version of Horton+Freire! Yay! And I laughed because I had so many passages highlighted that pretty much say what I wrote in my previous post “We Make the Book by Reading” without realizing they related to the book. Except maybe it explains why so many people are writing about reading now 😉 given it’s in the book and all!
So now…some notes from reading now and reflecting on previous highlights. 

On Personal Perspectives 

On p. 10, Myles Horton talks about two things that are really important for me in my open education journey and in my deep preference for (auto)ethnographic research. He recognizes that as an individual he can only tell a story from his own perspective and he worries that it might give an impression that other perspectives don’t exist. Collaborative Autoethnography sort of tries to go beyond that, but it’s also limiting because you’re unlikely to conduct a collaborative project with people who are in complete discord at the time. So some perspectives will still get left out.

What always concerns me is if my voice because it is so loud becomes seen as representing a group of people like me (Egyptian, Arab, Muslim, global South. Whatever). People know, intellectually, that this should not be the case. But I think it’s unconscious. 

Right after this, Horton talks about the fact that one’s ideas are “constantly changing and should change and that I’m as proud of my inconsistencies as I am of my consistencies” (p. 10, emphasis in original). This is one of the areas where openness and public scholarship can be wonderful. Unlike peer-reviewed articles that often take months to review and then publish. I have sometimes ALREADY changed my mind by the time a peer-reviewed article has come out! With non-peer-reviewed stuff, I can modify and link and respond and it’s dynamic on my blog or Twitter or wherever. There’s always the issue of whether people stick to your old ideas or if they get the updated ones. I always think of Edward Said who is famous for Orientalism, but who has revised ideas on the topic that are less widely read/cited (in Culture and Imperialsim, for example). It is only normal that we are continually learning and experiencing new things that make us modify our thinking and sometimes these changes can be drastic. Sometimes incremental. Our perspectives are also often contextual. Horton refers to Lynd saying “I’m a different person in different situations”. There is an identity activity I use sometimes in workshops that helps people unpack that idea. And become more cognizant of how they choose to represent themselves in different contexts.

I am now skipping over to the section on reading

“Reading has to be a loving event” (Freire, p. 26)

When I wrote “we make the book by reading” I meant what Freire is saying on p. 27 “reading is also an act of beauty because it has to do with the reader rewriting the text. It’s an aesthetical event”. This “beauty in the very act of reading” and feelings of happiness Freire describes and I feel…those are things I hope to help my child develop as she now decodes the technicalities of reading – I hope she never loses her current love of books.

I also like the part about selectivity in reading. I still remember the day in my teens when I suddenly realized I don’t *have* to finish reading a particular book because I wasn’t enjoying it. It was a fiction book I was reading for pleasure. And I really wasn’t finding pleasure. It was hard for me to do. But it became easier with time. I also discovered i read different things at different speeds and for different moods. So some books i devour in one sitting and i don’t sleep. Other books i dip in and out of. Others I skim and scavenge for gems then forget. Others i keep going back to. 

I noticed something Adam Croom mentioned about spending years (during graduate studies, i think?) not reading fiction. I never stopped reading fiction and my fiction reading OFTEN influenced my thinking and writing for my dissertation and elsewhere. On p. 33 Horton says “Sometimes I get my best ideas from something that has nothing to do with mt work” and that’s the case for me. Including children’s books and cartoons as those are a big part of my life now!

Now another thing in this chapter that resonates very much is the part where Freire says (p. 31) “Reading of books makes sense for me to the extent that books have to do with this reading of reality”. What many people tend not to understand is why I resist reading or getting deep into some Western theory – it’s sometimes that it truly doesn’t resonate with my reality or doesn’t help me understand it better… They probably think lots of ideas as universal, but that’s the privilege talking. There are words, simply words, that exist in my language that don’t exist in English. And those words make all the difference in the way humans perceive and express their own experience. This word, مظلوم is the object version of ظلم which means injustice. Mazloum (مظلوم) is the person against whom injustice has been committed. It is a word with the depth of “oppressed” (مضطهد) but not speaking of oppression (that’s a different word in Arabic – اضطهاد). The word mazloum refers to an instance whereas the word oppressed refers to systematic/structural injustice. But Mazloum is no less important, is a heavy word in Arabic. And the existence of the word changes your perspective on the world.

On writing for the public

I have for some time believed that “public/open scholarship” isn’t about just making our ideas/writing public and technically accesssible, but more importantly in making it accessible as in understandable to a lay (within reason) audience! I hate how academia trains us to NOT be that. I love Freire’s point (p. 32) “writing beautifully does not mean scientific weakness. It is, on the contrary, a duty we have.”

Ok. I am gonna stop now. I don’t know if I had more highlights from before (pirated pdf image version on Notability) but this post is long enough as if is 🙂

 Note: thanks again to Bryan Alexander for starting this book as part of his bookclub. More info here 

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