Monday, May 23, 2011

alfie kohn + carl rogers

I'm on vacation this week, and one of my reading selections is educator-activist Alfie Kohn's Feel-Bad Education; and Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011). It's a collection of previously-published essays. Among them is an article originally written for the New York Times in 2009 about conditional and unconditional parenting. In it, he cites the mid-twentieth century American psychotherapist Carl Rogers, a pedagogical thinker who was deeply influential for the faculty who founded the Oregon Extension.
More than 50 years ago, Carl Rogers suggested that successful psychotherapy relies on three key ingredients. Therapists must be genuine rather than hiding behind a mask of professionalism. They must understand their clients’ feelings accurately. And they must put aside judgment in order to express “unconditional positive regard” for those they seek to help.

That last one is a doozy – not only because it’s so difficult but because of what the need for it says about how we were raised. Rogers believed that therapists need to accept their clients without any strings attached so that the clients can begin to accept themselves. And the reason so many have disowned or repressed parts of who they are is because their parents put “conditions of worth” on their care: I love you, but only when you’re well-behaved (or successful in school, or impressive to other adults, or quiet, or thin, or deferential, or cute . . .)

The implication is that loving our children isn’t enough. We have to love them unconditionally – for who they are, not for what they do.

As a father, I know this is a tall order, but it becomes even more challenging now that so much of the advice we are given amounts to exactly the opposite. In effect, we’re given tips in conditional parenting, which comes in two flavors: turn up the affection when they’re good, withhold affection when they’re not.
You can find the article as it appears in the book on Alfie Kohn's website.  I can't link directly to the article as it is a pop-up (annoying), but it is found under "Parenting" and is called "Parental Love With Strings Attached."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

quick hit: sojourners & sexuality

It's fun now that I have more time to peruse news stories to see how often thesis-related topics turn up in my feeds. Here's another story about evangelicals wrestling with the issue of sexuality -- specifically non-hetero sexuality.

Sojourners, for those of you not aware, is an evangelical social justice organization that originated at Trinity Evangical Divinity School (the seminary associated with Trinity College, which accredited the Oregon Extension during its early years) amoung a group of students and faculty opposed to the war in Vietnam.

From Killing the Buddha:
An online firestorm began over Mother’s Day weekend when the Rev. Robert Chase, founding director of Intersections, penned an article for Religion Dispatches documenting Sojourners’ rejection of an ad from Believe Out Loud that advocated full equality of LGBTQ people in the church. On the God’s Politics blog, Jim Wallis justified Sojourners’ decision not to run the ad on the grounds that “LGBTQ issues may not be our primary calling as our work against poverty and hunger, and for peace.”
From Religion in American History:
Even prior to this present controversy, Sojourners' responses to homosexuality (and abortion--but that requires separate treatment) have made them uncomfortable and on occasion unwelcome partners with more liberal Christians who otherwise share their vision for social justice. Sojourners magazine did not address homosexuality as a matter of either Christian ethics or public policy until 1982, over a decade after its inception as the Post-American. In an editorial entitled “A Matter of Justice,” publisher Joe Roos outlined the magazine’s interpretation of homosexuality as a civil right but religious wrong. “While we do not believe that Scripture condones a homosexual lifestyle,” Roos explained, “we do believe that homosexuals, like anyone else, deserve full human rights” that are not “conditional upon agreement over sexual morality.” Churches can privilege heterosexuality within their own communities, he argued, and thus Sojourners welcomed but did not affirm gay and lesbian Christians.  
And from Religion Dispatches:

Wallis’ tent has long been too small—and on more issues than simply LGBT justice and abortion rights. People on the religious left have often felt that he doesn’t speak for them, even leaving these two issues aside. Already in the 1970s and 1980s when Wallis became influential, he was standoffish toward many forms of liberationist theology.

When neoconservatives mobilized to demonize and defund ecumenical left networks centered in the mainline denominations and National Council of Churches, he tacked toward the center. True, he took up a place to the left of many politicians and evangelicals, especially on issues of peace and economic justice—but also well to the right of prospective “tent-mates” in the ecumenical world. Differences were especially clear on a range of feminist issues, as well as Sojourners magazine’s coolness toward scholarly work in Christian thought and ethics that was critical for maintaining the strength and credibility of left-liberal Christianity in the universities.
As with the struggles of queer students on Christian college campuses, it will be interesting to see how organizations that seek a middle path (between rejection of all non-heterosexuality as inherently depraved and acceptance of queer sexuality as equal to straight sexuality) fare in the coming decades.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

quick hit: interview with historian darren dochuk

Paul Harvey @ Religion in American History has a two part interview up with Darren Dochuk, the author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011), another text I drew on for my thesis. Dochuk describes his own research in this way:
While struggling to find a Ph.D. dissertation topic, I read (and loved) Lisa McGirr’s Suburban Warriors and thought more could be done to explain Southern California conservatism, so I set out to do it. My goal was to write a book that embedded evangelicalism in the larger story of post-1930s politics by teasing out its connections to suburbanization, political economy, race relations, and the politics of labor, education, housing, and business. I wanted to thread evangelicalism into mainstream narratives of U.S. political history, which still tend to paint evangelicalism as a sideshow.
Read the rest of the interview over at Religion in American History (part one). Part two can be found here (link updated post Blogger-phut).

Thursday, May 12, 2011

project update: thesis accepted!

Just a short note to say that on 29 April I submitted my final draft of my thesis, "How to Live?: The Oregon Extension as Experiment in Living, 1964-1980" to my advisers in the Simmons College History Department. This past Monday, 9 May, I gave a ten-minute presentation on the topic at the Spring Colloquium, where all of the graduating students in the MA History program present their work and there is feasting and celebration. Both of my advisers signed off on my thesis at the event, so I have it "on the record" that that chapter of the project is complete.

Look in the coming weeks for an online version of the presentation (what I've been referring to as the "teaser" for my thesis) as well as a downloadable PDF version of the full text.

In the months to come, I hope to carve out some time to begin transcribing the interviews themselves and processing the raw WMA audio files for web-friendly versions. Look for further updates in this space!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

quick hit: queer activism on OE campuses

I've been watching all year as stories come across my Google Reader feeds about queer activism on Christian college campuses, a number of which send students to the Oregon Extension.  I've written on my own personal blog, the feminist librarian, about the experience of being queer on a Christian college campus (in my case, Hope College). It's interesting to watch the process unfold at other colleges across the country.

At Seattle Pacific:
In a recent story on The Falcon, several students spoke out about the University's decision to not recognize The Haven, and suggested that administrators are trying to silence discussion about sexuality on campus. One student, referencing a January 25 meeting with the administration on campus where the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs said the school would not recognize The Haven, said that while the administration might not see a need for a group like this on campus, there are LGBT students and straight allies longing for a safe space on campus to meet and discuss issues.

“They can define us out of existence all they want, but Haven will continue to meet on campus because there’s a need for Haven on campus,” said Aaron Roberts, a senior sociology major and a co-leader of The Haven.
At Westmont College:
My best friend in graduate school was a girl from a very strict Christian faith. She went to a Christian university, after which she ended up in Syracuse, NY, where we met. And it was with her that I started Syracuse University's first LGBT publication. I know from her that tolerance, compassion, love and support for the queer community is possible in those who follow Christian teachings.

That said, some Christian colleges are certainly not thriving spaces for LGBT awareness and inclusiveness. We've been covering here at the push by LGBT students and straight allies at Seattle Pacific University to get a campus club officially recognized.

But also making waves is Westmont College, a school in Santa Barbara, CA. Thirty-one gay and lesbian alums have written an open letter to the school's newspaper, detailing the "doubt, loneliness, and fear" they felt while attending the college. Another 100 graduates of the school signed the letter.
At Wheaton (via Feministing):
The recent chapel message on Sexuality and Wholeness and surrounding conversations may have left some of you feeling alienated, ashamed and afraid. It can be difficult to see the danger of messages about sexuality that emphasize "God’s compassion for the broken," but as a group of LGBTQ Wheaton alumni and allies, we’ve seen the devastating effects these words have had on ourselves and our loved ones. Many of us felt trapped and unable to respond honestly to these messages while we were students. We feared rejection from our friends and our college. We know many of you may fear the same and feel alone or depressed.

If you are a student and this is part of your story, your sexual identity is not a tragic sign of the sinful nature of the world. You are not tragic. Your desire for companionship, intimacy and love is not shameful. It is to be affirmed and celebrated just as you are to be affirmed and celebrated. In our post-Wheaton lives, we have traversed the contradictions we once thought irreconcilable. Our sexuality has become an integral part of our broader pursuit of justice, compassion and love. We can no longer allow ourselves or our loved ones to be trapped in environments that perpetuate self-hatred, depression, and alienation. As people of integrity we must affirm the full humanity and dignity of every human being regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I was especially moved by the lengthy list of signatures attached to the open letter / statement by LGBTQ Wheaton alumni (above).

I will be interested to watch this process of coming to terms with the diversity of human sexuality as it unfolds on Christian campuses in the coming years.