Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 18: Critically Thinking About Yourself

Today was my last Thursday in the Social Justice Research Academy. 

Arnold Farr, a Philosophy professor at the University of Kentucky, came to speak to our class today about Critical Theory and Liberation Philosophies. A previous student of Andy's, and her friend came to class as well. Kirk James joined us, too. Arnold talked about a lot, focused on Marcuse's teachings. We talked about being dialectic thinkers and moving away from facts but towards the process of fact production. We talked about negative thinking, and Arnold said, "Being optimistic means seeing the glass half full. But you have to realize that the glass is also half empty." We also talked about the Liberty Bell's crack and how the crack symbolizes our flawed liberty and freedom system. He said that we as human beings also have cracks and are full of contradictions.  

At lunch, Andy brought a group of students and I together and sent us out to lunch with Arnold, Kirk, Chloe (Andy's previous student), and her friend. We went to a restaurant near campus and ate and talked. I was able to talk to Kirk more about his experience with being incarcerated, and his spiritual growth. Chloe told me about her experience at Penn and how she applied what she learned in Andy's classes to her life and her business degree. We talked about how you have to reconstruct yourself and grow throughout your life to create change. Kirk said, "Change only happens when you are courageous, different. That is why the world is not changing right now. It is too scary to be those things." We covered a lot, but we focused our conversation on the inner workings of ourselves. We established that we must change ourselves to change the system. We must look at the roles we are playing, not just at the flaws of the system. Because systems are nothing more than the projection of who we are at this present moment. Lunch with them was great, because I was able to ask more questions and talk about what I was interested in. Also, talking to Chloe about UPenn and her experience with the Wharton school, helped me to develop more of my thoughts about this university.

After lunch, Toorjo Ghose, a social worker and professor at UPenn, came to speak to our class about Organizing for Social and Economic Justice, with focus on the Occupy Movement and the mobilization of Sex Workers in India. I was made to sit in the front of the room next to Arnold and the other guests as T.J. did his presentation. The presentation was very interesting and, for some people, very awkward. After briefly talking about the corrupt police enforcement and court system involved with Occupy, we went on to the subject of sex work, primarily in a small Indian town/city. We talked about how some people are forced into sex trafficking and do not enjoy it, but that not all people in the sex "business" are forced to do it. Many poor mothers and wives work as sex workers. Many have made work unions and joined them. Many are educated about diseases and pregnancies and make their clients wear condoms. T.J. was telling us a lot of new stuff that I have never learned about and have never been exposed to at school. Some of these women have even taken up polyamorous relationships, where they are partners with multiple people. T.J. went over the subject of polyamorous relationships, which seemed to bother some people, but I found interesting. T.J. taught us things today that I would never have learned in school. 

I don't know why Andy made sure that a certain group of us went to lunch with Arnold Farr, or why he made me sit next to him in front of the classroom, but there must be a reason. It never "just is" with Andy. 

Today was our last full day of class. It makes me sad that I will no longer be attending this class. This class has changed my life in one short month and everything I used to believe in has been turned upside down. I have learned so much and have started the process of becoming a life long learner. I am learning how to ask questions, how to see something for what it really is, and to not just accept. I am going to miss my professors, the guest speakers, my classmates, and the teacher assistants. They have all impacted my life in some way. I am glad that I at least have one more day with them all. 

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