November 24, 2016

Ideas and perspectives that are to be changed

Race, secularism, and the public intellectual [image: Writing | Image via Flickr user Jonathan Kim] Who counts as a black Christian public intellectual? There are certainly public figures who are not in...
Intellectual work is not repeating what is obvious, and intellectual work does not leave the observer thinking in the same way she was thinking before. Some intellectual work weaves together disparate threads. Some intellectual work makes explicit what was once implicit. Some intellectual work provides a new framework for approaching an activity or seeing an aspect of the world. Those performing intellectual work, then, can be singers or dancers, professors or politicians, poets or preachers or tweeters.
But intellectual work is different from the role of the intellectual. The latter suggests second-order reflection: not just changing the way others see the world but explicitly addressing the ideas and perspectives that are to be changed and how they are to be changed. Intellectuals can be found at elite levels, including in universities, in literary reviews, and in think tanks, but they can also be found at the grassroots, among those challenging their marginalization. They are not found in between. At a conceptual level, the bourgeois intellectual is an oxymoron, as the essence of the bourgeoisie is a needy clinging to the perceived security of worldly order.
The experience of marginalization breeds intellectuals, but the privations of marginalization suppress the possibility for those intellectuals to express themselves. Those at the margins, who suffer at the hands of elites, by means of the ideas of elites, automatically question those ideas. At the margins, it is natural to imagine the world otherwise—but it is also exceedingly difficult to sustain this imagination, given the power and violence of elites. Despite these odds, impressive intellectuals emerge from the margins: Anna Julia Cooper and Ida B. Wells, Paul Robeson and C. L. R. James, Ella Baker and James Lee Boggs, to name just a few black examples.
Circumstances change. Oppression takes new forms. Anti-black racism may persist in its virulence, but the current economic and cultural regime of neoliberal multiculturalism is particularly skilled at sowing confusion and misdirection. Many aspects of this phenomenon have been carefully discussed (for example, by Lisa Duggan, Jodi Melamed, and Lester Spence)

Creating a better future through great literature

Huffington Post
reading and discussion of rich literature gave students a platform for exploring alternatives and thinking about their own dilemmas.
Teenagers ask: “Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Where am I going?” I’ve found that guiding students through literature and active discussion begins the process of answering these difficult questions and provides life skills that extend beyond the classroom.
Conflicts between good and evil presented in stories and poems can be applied to personal and ethical choices in a student’s life, and these concepts are the same for every student—from urban to suburban schools, from American to international schools—the universal qualities of literature provide shape and substance for student exploration. Because literature is a cultural treasure that stands as a pillar of human experience, great books and the conversations surrounding them can lead students to moments of insight, of truth.
Now, with the Great Books Foundation in the service of the Shared Inquiry method, I have the opportunity to reach thousands of students of all ages all over the country.
Through the reading and discussion of literature, students develop a deeper sense of their potential and begin the long process of discovering their personal identities. Literature also allows students and adults to connect with their larger cultural identities, a process that requires the exercise of empathy and understanding, particularly when cultural assumptions are challenged.
The experience of literature offers the possibility of common ground—our shared humanity—and the opportunity to confront and understand a world of different ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives. Literature, therefore, is essential for personal growth and social progress—our very survival may depend on it.
Pioneers for Change is a seed-bed for innovative thought. Joseph P. Coulson, Ph.D. is President of the Great Books Foundation, 
How we think about who we are shapes not only how we relate to the world but also our definition of consciousness

[You are as naive and ignorant as a newborn lamb. That is the way things come, only one doesn't notice.] Sri Aurobindo

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