Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Batman and Robin Rose

I was up and outside before 7:30 AM, and it was raining. I had started to think that it would be impossible to have any good weather here, and I guess this wasn't exactly "good weather," but it was a heck of a lot better than being out in the sun. I had forgotten my umbrella, so I just had to get wet in the rain, but it was refreshing (at least at first) to be a little damp. I had breakfast at the Ratty again (potatoes and sausages, I keep forgetting to have cereal), then I showed some people from Women and Leadership the way to the building (I guess I'm making a habit out of it), which was less than a block from the Ratty. 

Class started in a small auditorium, and Dean Almandrez reviewed our discussions yesterday, then talked about intersectionality and how gender alone does not define you, it is the intersection of the other six categories that forms your identity. Then we quickly moved on to Dean Robin Rose, who started the Leadership Institute, and who would be talking to us about listening skills.

Dean Rose started by defining leadership as the process of influencing others and helping a group get what it needs in order to accomplish goals. Then she asked the class how many of us had thought about something other than the topic we were discussing, and saw several hands raise. She explained that our society sanctifies multitasking, and that true listening requires discipline. We learned how asking a question to the group and waiting for an answer silently can work better than just suggesting your own ideas to fill the silence. We did an exercise in pairs where we listened to a partner and asked them open-ended questions to keep them talking so that we knew more about their experience. 

Our guest speaker emphasized that understanding first was important. She told us that using summarizing statements helps clarify the other person's opinion. It's like giving someone your phone number; they'll read it back to you to make sure it's right. She had us partner up again and try using summarizing statements to make sure that we understood each other. Sometimes, what you think they mean isn't what they mean at all. 

We also learned that feedback, whether it's criticism or praise, is always helpful. She taught us how to give feedback using "I" statements ("I think..."), not to label them (don't say "you're being irresponsible," give specific examples like, "I worry about you when you..."), and not to say "always", "never", or "should," because it can sound condescending.

Dean Rose told us that she didn't like the phrase "young people are our future." She thinks that anyone is capable of doing good things at any age, and I loved that part of how she ended her lecture was: "We have work to do, ladies and gentlemen..."

We had lunch at the Ratty, and today I explored around the corner of the food section once I was finished eating to find a grill on the other side.

We jumped back into Women and Leadership class after lunch and talked about collusion, which is basically "letting it slide" when someone makes a racist joke or a sexist comment and you don't speak out. Then we reviewed the Cycle of Socialization, which is basically how we continue to have stereotypes and how they're passed down. We divided into groups and covered the cycle as described in our reading, and my group covered "enforcements" which is the system of rewards for collusion and punishments for not following the social norms. I spoke up (which I've been doing more and more as I get more comfortable) when my group presented enforcements to the class and gave an example of a punishment, and explained why it was a negative enforcement. 

Then we discussed privilege and its relation to the seven categories, then talked about oppression. Dean Almandrez explained that privilege and oppression go hand in hand; you can't have one without the other. We watched a clip of "What Would You Do?" in which a Muslim woman wearing a hijab (an actress) is harassed by a shop owner (an actor) and is asked to leave because he says she is not a real American. The spotlight was on the "bystanders" to see who would stand up and help her and who would do nothing. The majority did nothing, but I was shocked to find that some people actually supported the shop owner, one even going so far as to give him a thumbs-up twice. Others left the store angrily or defended the woman, but I was struck by how both groups seemed to think of themselves as "good Americans."

Then we started generally discussing the Action Plan (I had had a basic plan for mine already) starting from scratch. We were handed a worksheet that showed different types of action plans and asked us to explain problems that interest us, and how we could work to solve them. 

Then I went with a group to the Hunger Banquet, where we were randomly selected to represent people from either the upper class, middle class, or lower class. I was chosen to play a middle-class person, and watched as the upper class sat at a table and had plenty of food, I had a chair and ate a plate with rice and chips, and the lower class had a bowl of rice and water, but no utensil. We watched a slideshow and discussed world hunger, its causes, and things we could do to help prevent it.

I headed back to my room, and prepared to work on my blog, my Action Plan outline, and do my reading so I could go to sleep. I'm always very tired at the end of each day, but I know that I'm taking in a lot and I hope that this pattern continues to challenge me. 
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