Monday, May 10, 2010

Time to put the "I" back into "integral"?

From Jonathan Kozol's Ordinary resurrections (2000, New York: Crown, pp. 54-55):

I used to edit out these questions that concern my private life when I was writing about children. I think, in part, I did this to avoid the risk of "complicating" things too much by intermingling the details of my life in Massachusetts with the more important details of the stories and impressions that the children chose to share with me. I think that this was probably connected also with the old idea that I, like many other writers, used to have of trying to remove ourselves from any situation we described in order to convince the reader, or ourselves, that we had not become entangled in these situations in a way that might affect our objectivity or have some power to affect the way children chose to speak to us.

I think most of us recognize, however, that we do become entangled and that we're never really neutral in the way that we conduct a conversation with a child.

Couldn't have said it better myself, only I'd simply omit the last three words of the above quote. It's time we face up to the social forces that shape our understanding of the world around us, whether we're talking about our understanding of spirituality and religion (as Kozol is above) or our understanding of science and mathematics (as I often do).

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