Thinking Slowly

While I’m procrastinating on another project, my mind slipped (trying to avoid that other project), back to the struggle trope. One of my good friends said she had to struggle to read the Freirean quote on critical thinking that heads this blog. She said, “I slowed down to understand this challenging bit

of text.  I noticed two things.  First, I had to wrestle with the language to consider how to read “critical thinking-thinking”—which I like, as an expression, but it was a challenge to capture.  And I circled around the text to sort out the complicated constructions and to construct for myself the meaning.  I think reading can often be a ‘struggle.’  So why not writing?”

Racing ahead in my mind, I can see this post is  going to be too long (and I need to get to that other project). I know I had to read Freire slowly when I first stumbled across him–as with my friend, Mary, I had to read forward and back, thinking through and digging into his ideas. It’s worth analyzing why this passage and so much of the early Freire is difficult to read. The ideas are not complex–we’re just not used to those thoughts–“an indivisible solidarity between the world and the people and admits of no dichotomy between them.” OK–use of “dichotomy” is a bit problematic–Freire means a break, a division between opposing forces. In capitalist America (and particularly in Louisiana), we’ll have some trouble with that concept–we’re people, God’s people, and he put the earth and animals (and the universe) here for us to use–the Universe is our Eden. So it’s a bit difficult to imagine a stone as important as us.

I’m really procrastinating. I would enjoy, like Mary, going through this passage sentence by sentence. I have spent a class period with my students on this paragraph, slowing down, if you will, to read seriously, turning what might be a struggle into, well, into something else–a walk in a garden where friends sit on a stone bench and just talk and think about things. We don’t have to get anywhere or do anything; we just consider, wonder.

I am wondering now whether struggle is a consequence of speed–and that we create struggle for our students by hurrying them, giving them lots to read and write and prove to us that they have read and written.

Let me offer a for-instance: why don’t we spend more time having students write and read and respond (to what was said, not how it was said) to each other in class? Quiet time. Like in a garden. Music. Writing and responding to each other as pleasure.

I have to stop. I really have to get that work done.

2 Replies to “Thinking Slowly”

  1. Irv: why don't we have students write and read and respond to what was said to each other in class? Several reasons, many of which have to do with a combination of students, fear, the instructor, time, the class description, class size. All excuses, now that I see them written. If I've done the work of creating a community, in which the students are citizens (like the A. Barlett Giamatti quote on the signature line of my emails), then I should be able to. While I do encourage a highly discursive class, the discussion can't be continued beyond what students remember having said or wrote. Your post gives me pause to examine my classroom practice, and to revise the exigence of the situation that is the community of writers, readers, and speakers. My guess is that, if I open the discussion about writing between students about each other's writing – in writing – I can go along way in encouraging a discussion that can yield more positive results about how students view themselves as writers in an ongoing conversation. Thanks 🙂

  2. thanks for your note, Liquid. I meant to add in my post a little discussion, too, about what we're reading and writing. wrong side of the stick, i think, when we imagine writing as homework–we should be doing a lot of that in the class.

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