Left! Left! Left, Right? … Left?

Our national broadcasting channel has a programme called Q&A, which appears weekly. It’s a political programme with a host, Tony Jones, and the guests range from prominent businesspeople to well-known writers, but obviously, due to the nature of the programme, there are always politicians on the panel. The concept is, ‘you ask the questions’, where ‘you’ is the general public. Tony Jones reads out questions which have been tweeted at or emailed to the show, and there is a studio audience who are also able to ask questions of the panelists.

I don’t tend to watch it–partly because it’s on at an awkward time for me, and partly because it can be quite confrontational, and I find that I want my television to be satirical or hilarious, because I have to do a lot of confronting in everyday life, and watching it on television when my day is over is not my idea of relaxing.

However.

I was in the car the other week, having dropped First and Second Offspring at school, and heard an advertisement on the radio for that show. It mentioned that there would be a few people I’ve admired–namely, Ray Martin and Wendy Harmer–and I thought, you know, I should probably give it a go! And then the ad went on to name Christopher Pyne as one of the politicians on the panel. And away went any inclination to watch it at all. Because I really can’t stand Christopher Pyne.

In my defence, a lot of people find him annoying. And I’m sure he’s probably fine in person. (Although it’s in person when a lot of people seem to find him annoying. So perhaps I’m wrong, there). What I mean to say is, I don’t want to completely dismiss him as a human being. He just rubs me up the wrong way, and what’s worse (or perhaps because of this), he is on the side of politics with which I tend not to identify.

Christopher Pyne is a Liberal politician, which shouldn’t be confused with a liberal politician. Our Conservative party here in Australia is called the Liberal party, and (this may come to some of you as a shock) I am not conservative. Conservationist? Sure! But as far as politics go, I have both feet firmly placed on the left end on the spectrum. So if Christopher Pyne says something, the chances are, it’s going to be quite different from what I believe.

There are obviously a couple of issues here. One is that I should be able to listen to someone from a different political persuasion and have a conversation with said person without having to resort to ‘OH YOU ARE SUCH AN IDIOT.’ After all, having different opinions and expressing them eloquently and politely is what grown-ups do. The other is that when I’m watching Christopher Pyne–or indeed any politician–on TV, or reading a report online, I should be analysing between the lines for what he is saying and I should be asking: ‘What is the agenda of the journalist or newscaster or media company which is reporting the news? What would they like me to think?’

I find Christopher Pyne annoying because the sound bites I hear make him seem annoying. So, he seems like a bit of a tool, but he’s been an MP for years now. That means, people have voted him in. More than once. Now, I know what you’re thinking: just because someone has been elected does not automatically mean that they’re amazing. There are a whole host of reasons why people would vote for a government, and believe me, given our current one, I’m going through them, one by one, as I convince myself it’s ‘not that bad.’ (It’s not. It’s just… not as good as it could be. And takes our country in a direction different to the one I’d like. But that’s another post!) Whatever the reason people vote for politicians, usually they stay in office because they are doing something right. I admit that’s not always the case, but our government isn’t yet so dysfunctional that people can stay in office when they’re grossly negligent or incompetent.

What is Christopher Pyne doing right? Quite honestly, I have no idea. And therein lies the problem. I don’t know what I do or don’t like about him. He seems irritating and immature, but I couldn’t name one thing, off the top of my head, which really bothers me. Oh, I’m sure there ARE some! And when he next holds a press conference, no doubt there will be plenty with which I disagree. But am I disagreeing, just because it’s Christopher Pyne saying it?

The worry is that if I’m constantly leaning to the left in politics, how can I be sure I won’t get so lopsided that I fall over? It’s easy to read and watch liberal commentators and have discussions with other left-wing folk, because that means I don’t have to worry about confrontation, and I don’t have to worry about defending my views. But really, that’s kind of lazy. And even though I don’t want to have to lay out my arguments for this or that issue every time I talk to someone, perhaps I should be more open to it. More importantly, I need to be a critical listener. When Christopher Pyne opens his mouth, I’m automatically on the offensive. I know where he’s coming from, and it’s not my corner. But if it’s a person who has more liberal (and not Liberal!) views, I really am lazy. I don’t attack those arguments as much as I would from a right-wing pundit or politician. I’m more accepting, more open to negotiate. I don’t question the left as much as I do the right.

When I watch or read news which is skewed to the right, I know that I tend to look down on those ideas. I instantly try to pick holes in their arguments, and granted, this is often easy, because some of the right-wing philosophies can be way out there. But if they bring up something that really is credible, I should be open to it, rather than blocking my ears and singing, ‘La-la-la! Not listening!’ If I’m going to disagree with something, I should have good reasons to do so, just as if I’m going to agree with something, I should be doing that for the right reasons, too.

Or the left reasons.

Oh, you know what I mean.

Radio Silence, Or Something Like It.

People of WordPress!  I’m stuck in the Land of No Internet! 

Many thanks to all who’ve stopped by to read, like and comment since I got Freshly Pressed.  Please know that I’m not usually this lax in responding, but we’ve just moved house to a much smaller city where you obviously have to kill someone to get the phone put on, and sell your firstborn to get internet (currently crafting an ebay advert as I type this).

 

I shall return, as soon as possible!

More Than You’ll Ever Know.

This is not my regular kind of post. I am currently writing something about politics, but I thought this needed to be said, first.

I checked my stats today. I’ve been checking them a lot this weekend (well, more than usual!) because I’ve been waiting for a milestone, and this afternoon, I hit it.

path: ethic now has 1000 followers.

1000!

You guys have no idea what this means to me. I just went through and found that people from 79 countries around the world have visited this blog. How amazing is THAT? People from Jamaica to Portugal to Sweden to Nepal, from Brazil to Poland to France to Ecuador, from Singapore to the USA to the UK, have all dropped by to see what I was writing.

That seriously blows my mind. That 1000 of those visitors thought it was worthwhile clicking ‘follow’.

When I started this blog, I wanted a place where I could do some more structured writing, where I could work through some opinions and hopefully engage others in thinking about current affairs or philosophical issues. My day-to-day life is very much needs-only; I’m a parent of four young children, the oldest of whom is six-and-a-half, and they… need a lot. They need me to feed them (several times a day, apparently), clothe them, bathe them, and most of all, listen to them. In turn, they listen to me, as I tell them about exoskeletons (we found one from a stick insect today; very cool) and rainbows, and why we don’t stand on the backs of chairs to reach the Weetbix on the top shelf. But right now, they’re not really up to discussions of the depth I crave. And while the Handsome Sidekick is wonderfully patient, sometimes one needs a wider audience.

That’s where you guys come in. This blog has helped me to keep my sanity. It can sometimes seem like a drag to try and get one post out every week–and sometimes, I don’t even manage that–but it keeps me going.

And so do you. Thank you, each one of you, for visiting, following, liking, commenting. It means such a great deal to me.

I know, I know. I’m overly sentimental when you let me loose. So I’ll just end by letting you know that over the next ten days or so, I’m going to be possibly a little more remiss than usual at responding to comments, since the Handsome Sidekick and I are moving to another city, along with the children and our dog, chicken, and three cats. I’ll be without internet for at least a weekend (please keep me in your thoughts as I struggle with that!) and then busy with settling First and Second Offspring into new school and kindergarten, and Third and Fourth into daycare. Oh, and unpacking. (Ugh)

But I’ll be back! And I very much look forward to continuing the journey with you all.

Best,
Bec.

Intelligence is in the Eye of the Beholder.

I love to learn.

I love finding out new things, and it makes me so happy to see a puzzle piece fall into place, that ‘aha’ moment, when I discover a connection between two words in different languages, or ‘oh wow, how cool!’ feeling when I find out that ladybirds change colour according to the ambient temperature. The world is awesome and amazing, and my knowledge of it has come mostly from books and formal education. That’s in great part because I’ve been lucky to be able to read and go to school, but also because that kind of learning is my ‘thing’. I like reading, and I like classroom learning. I like facts. And growing up, I figured that this was what made a person smart. Intelligence was learning facts, and being good at remembering them.

Yet, not everybody learns this way. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this! I came across multiple intelligence theory while studying for my teaching degree (ironic that I discover these things in a classroom, right?!) It was fascinating, because I had always been a little arrogant in my views on intelligence, but this also hinged on the fact that I felt as if I were on the defensive.

It was not only that formal education made you smart, as far as I was concerned, but that the real smart people–the real intellects–were involved in science or maths. They were the ones who were advancing humanity. They were the ones who were discovering new species and curing diseases and reaching out to the stars.

And I wasn’t that way inclined at all. My favourite subjects were English and Social Studies, and later, German and Philosophy. I loved learning about science, but if there were any maths involved, I’d have to work so hard to get my head around it, my eyes would eventually glaze over and I’d find myself daydreaming and writing a poem about it.

So this theory was not only an eye-opener for me, it also shone a light on the possibility that I, too, was intelligent. And so were people who weren’t so interested in a classroom learning environment. Just because others didn’t perform well on a spelling test didn’t make them stupid. It just meant that, unlike me, they perhaps didn’t have a visceral response to letters being in a certain order.*

In my very first teaching prac, we were assigned to primary school classes. We had to teach for only a few minutes during the week (it was our first time; they didn’t want to scare us off too quickly!) and so most of the week was spent observing the teachers in their classrooms, and of course, the students.

One morning, the teacher took them outside to play a game. She had a soft ball, about basketball-size, and she told the children to spread out on the grass, wherever they wanted to stand. Then she explained the rules: the ball would start with one person, and that person would then throw it to someone else, and then leave the grass and stand on the pavement. Then the next person would throw the ball, and leave the grass. The aim was to have only one person left on the grass at the end–kind of like playing solitaire.

There were a lot of skills needed for this game, which I thought about as I watched them. Of course, it involved the ability to aim and catch and throw, which, considering these were eight-and nine-year-olds, wasn’t necessarily a given. But it also involved communication, and strategy. Only a few of them realised that if they didn’t plan ahead, they would end up with children too far away from one another to be able to throw and/or catch the ball. These students tried to tell the others where to throw in order to finish the game with the desired result.

‘Isn’t that great?’ I murmured to the class teacher. ‘They’re really planning it out.’

She smiled and nodded.

These students were demonstrating such forward thinking, a real ability for strategy, which I never would have had at that age. They were illustrating an intelligence I probably wouldn’t ever have. I was humbled. You are not as smart as you thought you were, Rebecca.

Studying and discussing multiple intelligences gave me a better understanding and empathy for the different students in my classroom, and it also helped me to attempt to provide different tasks to try and meet the varying needs of their varying intelligences. It also made me sceptical about how we place those we consider genius on pedestals. We choose certain types of intelligence–logical/mathematical, for example–and really celebrate individuals who demonstrate it, but we don’t celebrate those who might have other, less well-known (or less well-respected) intelligences, such as interpersonal, or naturalist.

Yet these intelligences are just as important. If we only had gifted scientists or writers, and no dancers or social workers, what kind of world would this be? It could be that a certain individual won’t ever make a scientific breakthrough or write a symphony, but instead has a real sense of how to comfort a grieving stranger. This doesn’t make them any less worthy. This doesn’t make them any less intelligent. It makes them wonderfully important.

I’ve grown to dislike the word ‘gifted’, because I think it’s too narrowly used, and I think it implies elitism. We’re all gifted–some of us incredibly so–but I don’t want to believe that one intelligence is any better or more valuable than the rest. I believe we should celebrate the ways in which people make each others’ lives and the world such an enriching experience, simply by virtue of being who they are. Intelligence exists on such a broad spectrum. It’s time we stopped pinpointing these tiny areas, and stepped back to get a better look. Because when we do that, I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised at how absolutely beautiful is the view.

*incorrect–some may call it creative; to each her own–spelling makes me squirm. In fact, incorrect grammar and punctuation make me quite uncomfortable, as well. I also have a similar reaction to instruments being out of tune. It makes me shudder. I suspect that’s just a bit of an odd quirk, rather than having anything to do with intelligence, however.