The “adaptive unconscious mind,” otherwise known as the practical mind, is a parallel system of thinking that operates outside of consciousness.
The unconscious mind kicks in when we do not have enough time to think consciously. For example, when there is a fight in school and we have to react quickly.
Ethical reasoning is conscious thought that relates to a set of ethical standards.
It is important that teachers explore their unconscious minds so they do not express and negative race, social class, gender, LGBTQIA+, religious, or other cultural stereotypes or biases they hold towards certain students in stressful situations.
It is also important that teachers address the contradictions between their rhetoric and their practice – what they say they are doing and saying and what they are actually saying and doing. They must also “interrupt the practice of institutionalized passivity” – not seeing it is our role to address inequities in our field. Being passive makes the practice of democracy, social justice, equity and equality impossible:
The following ideas are worth thinking about.
Avoid “Compulsory World Traveling”
Compulsory world traveling look like:
- “Promiscuous identification”: Wearing a mask to fit in; camouflaging our hybrid identities, and those emotions that are not compatible with the dominant perceptions and values; accommodating other people’s standards and their expectations of us; carrying out “practices of normalization”, which leads to
- “Emotional white-out” and “arrogant perception”: The ability to raise the value of our own selves and culture and to oppress others because we feel no real connection to them.
Do Engage in “Willful World Traveling”
Willful world traveling can be practiced through:
- Empathetic identification: the capacity to attend to the legitimate feelings of others
- Cultural (literacy) portfolios: Telling stories about how the ways race, social class and gender, for example, have impacted our lives, and analyzing the stories in terms of critical trace theory. This will help us to understand our own psychological, cultural and social world and its affect on us before we can travel to the worlds of others, of our students.
Willful world traveling offers a more equitable educational experience to our students by:
- Knowing ourselves, our own strengths, limitations and biases, so that we can have high expectations and respect for ALL of our students
- Addressing the real cultural differences in our classroom so that we can communicate with ALL of our students. Students are motivated to learn when we build on what is culturally meaningful to them. (e.g. “Funds of Knowledge” Projects. See Links to )
- Enabling students to understand their own psychological, cultural and social worlds and the ways in which they have internalized passivity (e.g. cultural literacy portfolios)
- Helping students to be able to practice democracy, justice and equality for themselves. This ability to be their own social change agents is in their own interests and that of their communities. (Affirmation, solidarity and critique/counter-socialization curricula and practices in the classroom.)
“(We) cannot disown (our) own culture.
(We) can reconstruct it in struggle.”
The “Uncle in the Attic” Metaphor
Racism for whites has been like a crazy uncle who has been locked away for generations in the hidden attic of our collective social reality.
This old relative has been part of the family for a long time. Everyone knows he’s living with us, because we bring him food and water occasionally, but nobody wants to take him out in public.
He is an embarrassment and a pain to deal with, yet our little family secret is that he is rich and the rest of us are living, consciously or unconsciously, off the wealth and power he accumulated in his heyday.
Even though many of us may disapprove of the tactics he used to gain his fortune, few of us want to be written out of his will.
Discuss the Uncle in the Attic Metaphor with your group
- What does it mean?
- How does it relate to you?
- Should you bring the Uncle down from the attic in order to be a better teacher?
- Why/Why Not?
- After your dialogue, write your personal responses below and overleaf.