Sunday, September 11, 2011

Deep Educational Responses - Ten Years On

We have all been reflecting on 9/11 - the event that ten years ago brought us and our global community to our knees in profound, painful and heart-opening ways. Two essays that especially moved me are these - - -

(1) A piece titled Formulating a Deep Educational Response to Tragedy: Reflections on the Eve of 9-11, by Tony Jenkins, Director of Education at the National Peace Academy.

Jenkins writes ". . . 'Our quickest responses are those that use the least of our imagination and are framed in unquestioned and familiar ways of looking at the world. Human tragedy and suffering will always be shocking, but the increasing frequency with which these violent events occur is evidence that our responses have not gone deep enough.'

Articulating further what I mean by a "deep" response is where I return today in my reflections about 9-11.   "Going deep" is a provocative metaphor.  In ecological terms we talk about digging deep below the surface to reveal the roots.  While we may see and appreciate a tree from the trunk up, we know that it cannot survive without the root system that delivers water and nutrients to each leaf and branch. Belief, cultural, political and institutional systems operate similarly: there are often ideas, principles and values at the core of these systems that are poorly examined and invisible to the naked eye. 

Facilitating learning that capacitates citizens to see and feel deep below and inside is one of the roles education can play in responding to tragedy.  Providing opportunities that engage learners in processes of reflection, relating, re-conceptualizing, futures thinking, and rebuilding should be at the heart of that deep response.  While not exhaustive, these processes are the building blocks of a transformative educational response to tragedy. . . " 

The second piece is a challenging and deeply reflective essay written by Timothy Cahill, Director for the Center for Documentary Arts at the Sage Colleges (Troy & Albany campuses) in Upstate New York. Timothy writes ". . . after the cruel destruction of that day and the bloodshed and destruction that followed, the one incontrovertible truth it has demonstrated is that aggression never works. Not in the long run. It will not affect the change you imagine and cannot set you free. Aggression is slavery, and if we are not to destroy ourselves as a race we must, must, must reject it. We must rise above our baser instincts to fight and accept our human capacity to cooperate, to collaborate, to experience empathy and feel compassion. Love—only love—is the hope at the bottom of Pandora's box. . . " 

This link will take you to the full entry on Timothy's blog, Art & Document

It is good to gather around the table with you again. Soon I'll be ready to return to more regular blogging. . .  things are starting to pick up again in the studio, though more in the way of quiet and steady industry than wild flurries of activity - which feels good. 

Blessings all -


  1. Thanks, Claire for reminding us of the need to go deeper, especially in the face of tragedy and destruction.

    I, too have been absent from blogland of late, but once my thesis is submitted I plan to return with gusto.

  2. Hi Elisabeth - we and others are occupied by many and various things these days. All is as it is. I am always lifted by your visits - thank you for popping in and for leaving this message.

    Perhaps it's when going deeper also means going higher that we have a chance of finding the gold that's buried in the lead which in turn leads us towards greater understanding?

    Wishing you clarity of thought and inspiration as you bring your thesis to completion, Elisabeth. I have no doubt it will be an exceptional work. L, C

  3. Watching as little as possible of the anniversary coverage on tv, finding it tended to re-traumatize and inflame, I realized that we cannot trust being led to wisdom by politicians, experts, those to whom we once looked for answers. Our truth is where it has always been, within. Stepping away from what seems to be popular thought, but which may only be loud, interior states of deep silence and contemplation tell us so much more about humane responses to life, really, just being life. Tragic, disturbing events small and enormous are a part of it and, as Timothy writes, love is the hope...the only hope.

  4. Dear Marylinn - who was it who said 'the truth is in the gaps' - in the space(s) between? I have long considered this so - we have become deafened by, and to, noisy delivery no matter how fine its intention. . . When the call to compassion comes in hushed tones and on quiet wings, we lean in to listen. And what we hear is an invitation to a different way of being in the world, engaging with our current issues, rewriting the script. The truth is not outside. The truth is within and it behoves us to quieten down in order to more effectively align ourselves with it. Deep silence is deep listening. And yes, as Timothy says, love is all.
    Love in all, too.
    C xo