Category Archives: Academy

Seven Words of Christmas

Word ArtThe news have reported that the current White House administration instructed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using seven words on their budget documents. With seven days left for Christmas, I decided to take the time to write a piece each day highlighting one of the seven words.

In the Christian tradition there is the sharing of the Seven Words. These are phrases that Jesus shared while being crucified. Many Christian churches share and preach on these Seven Words during their Good Friday liturgies. The Seven Words are the climax of what Christian theology calls “the story of salvation.” The last words that Jesus shares are: “it is finished” (John 19.30) and “into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23.46.) After these words, Jesus expires.

According to the timeline of events, after Jesus expires on the cross he is placed into the tomb and on the third day he is resurrected. This is the hope of the Christian person: no matter how difficult the journey is, no matter how painful the culmination of life is, there is always the hope of resurrection. This is the message of Holy Week.

Why am I writing about Holy Week on the season of Advent leading into Christmas? Because the Seven Banned Words of the CDC are a mirror of those other Seven Words of Holy Week.

The current federal administration has been crucifying the remnants of the facsimile of democracy that the United States had. With each carefully orchestrated move, the current administration tries to diminish the people’s confidence and trust on institutions serve the country. They are intentional in the use of words to describe the institutions that keep some resemblance of democracy. The administration’s furious attack on the free press, their obsession with political rallies a year after elections, their systemic appointment of people completely unprepared and unqualified to lead the agencies they are appointed to oversee, their deliberate construction of lies disguised as truth, the unashamed use of FOX News as state propaganda television, and a myriad other big and small actions that undermine democratic processes are just the tip of the iceberg. The United States democracy is being crucified.

Diversity

Fetus

Transgender

Vulnerable

Entitlement

Science-based

Evidence-based

These words represent all that society stands for when they are on their way to progress. French philosopher and founder of Sociology, Auguste Comte, wrote about the stages of human progress. In Comte’s theory, societies move towards progress. There are three stages of society: theological, metaphysical, and positivist. A theological society looks at an unknown occurrence and places all responsibility on unseen beings that control our destinies. Any possibility of progress is thwarted by the society’s fear of angering their mythological beings. A metaphysical society is in the middle stage. Societies in this stage begin to understand that there are certain things that have an explanation. The understanding of actions and their consequences are part and parcel of this society’s natural development. Neither one of these two types of societies is inherently corrupt or ignorant. You cannot know what you do not know. However, these are not ideal societies. The ideal society is one in which members are exposed to a systemic way of understanding truth. To this Comte called a “positivist society.”

Although Auguste Comte’s positivist approach to explaining society is not ideal, it does have merit, especially taking into consideration the banning of words in certain official documents by the current administration. A positivist society understands that humanity is on a journey forward. This journey cannot be contained, no matter how much the powers that be may try to stop it. Resurrection is the conclusion to the crucifixion. Progress is the conclusion to temporary repression.

Democracies are vulnerable entities. They can suffer from the ego of leaders who place power over service. Interestingly, Christmas is the time of vulnerability. In the Christian tradition, Christmas commemorates the birth of a vulnerable child, from a vulnerable family, who was threatened, even as a fetus, with destruction by its enemies – political, economic, societal, cultural, and religious, among others. Christianity proclaims that this child that was born transcended what humanity understood at that moment about the relationship between humanity and its divine sovereign. Some theologians propose that this transcending experience of God made Sophia, the common image of God as Wisdom, take the form of Christ in the person of Jesus, thus making God a transgender reality showing humanity how close the Divinity is to all of humanity. The diversity of opinions that ages of science-based social studies and evidence-based conclusions have shown us, is evidence that societies do tend to move forward towards progress and positivism. It is our responsibility, our duty, and even out entitlement as engaged members of a functional society, to be in solidarity with the vulnerable democracy that we are so desperately trying to save. Resurrection is the conclusion of crucifixion, even during the time of Advent and Christmas.

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Filed under Academy, Creativity, Culture, discrimination, Human Rights, Identity, LGBTQ, Philosophy, Queer, resistance, Sociology, Theology, trans, transgender, United States, USA

The Academy and Creativity

It took me a very long time, but I finally recently got admitted to a doctoral program. I am currently completing a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree in educational leadership through an innovative distance learning program on a respected university. Contrary to what many people believe, online degrees are not less rigorous or less demanding than traditional programs. Certainly, there are several “diploma mills” out there – and both the FBI and the Department of Justice have taken matters into their hands.

Since way before I entered a doctoral program, I was excited with the possibility of becoming part of the academic elite. I do not mean this in a derogatory way. Far from it! I have admired academics and researchers my whole life. I looked up to them. I followed some of them and their works. I wanted to be part of this group that gives so much to

"This doesn't leave much room for creativity."

“This doesn’t leave much room for creativity.”

society. Thus, when I was admitted to the doctoral program, I was elated. I was finally entering a world in which I could be creative, original, and novel… My interaction with other students would allow me to discover new things and to expand my understanding of the world. Having mentors and teachers with vast experience in the field would mean that I would have the opportunity to ask questions, to get answers, to get recommendations on where to find answers, to get encouragement on topics to research and so much more.

What I can say, however, is that it’s been both encouraging and frustrating (but I guess that this is exactly how life in general goes!)

I am not saying that I am not happy with the program and the mentors. Nothing farther from the truth! I have enjoyed every part of the program. My mentors are amazingly great scholars and they have shown tremendous respect for their respective fields of study, for the training of the students, and for the institution they represent. I must also confess that I am in absolute awe with one particular mentor. Throughout my life, I have had my fair share of great teachers, and this particular mentor has quickly become one of them.

My frustration, however, is not with the institution, with the program, or with the field of study. My frustration is with the academic system that, in order to standardize the production of knowledge, has, at the same time, curtailed creativity on the part of the scholars.

I am not suggesting that we ought to get rid of rules altogether, or that we should never follow certain standards. However, I have noticed how the rules and regulations are so ridiculously complicated and detailed that they do not allow for the expressing of individuality on the part of the scholar who is writing.

I became aware of this through my doctoral studies. Throughout my academic life I have used different styles manuals (mostly the University of Chicago manual, but also MLA Formatting and Style Guide and the APA Style Publication Manual.) Since one of my graduate degrees is in theology, even more creativity was allowed. This doesn’t mean that theological research is less rigorous. It means that, because of the nature of the field, creativity is welcomed and celebrated. Moreover, some flexibility was always allowed so as to present works that spoke to who we are as individuals in relation to the work we are doing.

Now, however, as I move to a more standardized form of scholarly writing, I find myself baffled at the many regulations that come with it.

Two spaces after a final period? Why the heck?! Do the people who put together these manuals are over 100 years old and still using typewriters?

A whole, almost blank page *just* for my name and institution? Apparently they don’t care about wasting money or resources when printing!

Having to repeat the title on EVERY. SINGLE. PAGE? Why??? Just… WHY???

OK, I get the numbering pages (always have done that.) And I also get having a standard way of quoting, citing, and writing the references. But, honestly, there are other rules that make no sense… and that, for people who enjoy writing and reading like me, make it difficult to be creative with the way in which we present our work.

Now I understand why most scholars dress the same, talk the same, have the same mannerisms, and pretty much look all the same: they have been following standardized ways of scholarly work for decades! To me, that is sad.

To be honest, I will definitely follow every single one of the ridiculous rules and regulations the program asks me to follow. After all, I *do* want to succeed in this program and part of the way of doing this is by conforming to the system that has allowed you to pursue research and scholarly work. But I also make myself a promise: never, ever, ever, EVER, to curtail the writing creativity – within reason – of my future students and mentorees.

 

[RANT OVER. LOL]

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