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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

The Story of... otherism

Uppdaterat: 27 jan. 2020

There is a sense of great sorrow and frustration within me at the moment as I try to deal with what is happening in my family and what is happening around the world.

On Friday (in August 2018) my son started medicating for his ADHD - he has a diagnosis of autism/ADHD and t it has been a constant uphill battle with the school system to try and create a learning environment that encourages him to learn... something that we have not yet achieved. He is constantly seen as a problem, despite people who meet him outside of school being able to see him as wonderful, creative, passionate and caring, this is the absolute opposite of how the school sees him, and it breaks my heart that he is not viewed as him but as an "other" - something that has to be dealt with as a problem - and most often as a problem for the other students in the classroom rather than the problem he has with them and the way they teach. So they always address the wrong issues and seldom address the real underlying issue that he has yet to find meaning in this school system. Homeschooling is illegal here, it is not an option.

He has made the decision himself to medicate as a way to make school easier. I hate the fact that my son needs to medicate to enable him to go to school... to enable him to be more like the others on the outside... that who he is, is not acceptable. Today, January 2020, my son is no longer taking medication (he stopped using September 2019) - he refused to be "bothered" by his school and insisted to be a part of the classroom and not the "support studio". He now has friends, he gets along with the whole class and he is getting grades... all of which he did not have previously. Being included is so important. Working philosophically with young children... and letting that approach permeate all my interactions with the children... i discovered that children include if we stop "othering". That we are all just sharing opinions, experience and approaches to life... and they all have value... that we all react to experiences in different ways, and that is OK, and we learn how to create a learning and play spaces together that do not contain too many of these experiences that make an individual stressed and anxious, and we learn how to help each other through these experiences if they do happen... not the teacher/educator fixing the "other" and helping them become more like the norm, but the whole group expanding the norm and including people as they are. No others... just we... Yesterday (2018) I spent a lot of time trying to moderate a dialogue about cultural appropriation... this is an incredibly important topic... it is part of this otherism. We need to gain a better understanding of minority groups, oppressed people... these "others". We need to work out how to include them rather than change them to be a part of the norm. As part of my story of communication series I have been bringing this up... about our role as adults learning to communicate to include. and about how the room communicates with the children (and adults) and creates welcoming and inclusive environments that encourage play and learning. But today I feel so much frustration and sorrow. I have a strong belief that the way forward is to communicate so that others listen... if we are hostile, rude or put others down to promote our agenda then people will not be able to hear the importance of what you have to say they will spend time protecting themselves from the discomfort and offence... instead of listening to learn. I want people to learn from each other... but sometimes there feels like there is a competition to be the most politically correct... and I have struggled in the last 24 hours with trying to deal with it in my non-violent approach (verbally non-violent too) - is it the right way... or am I being complicit to oppression as I was being accused of... Today in my twitter feed the timely words of the Dalai Lama helped me with my thinking

Human beings are social animals and it is love that brings us together, while anger drives us apart. To live more peacefully, and joyfully in our daily lives, we need a warm heart

I am going to stand by the fact that communicating in a non-violent way is the best way forward. yes we can be passionate - but not at the expense of others I think sometimes people have too much of an agenda which blinds them and deafens them to the stories of others - they are so quick to share their agenda and ensure that others hear it (and often these are agendas that need to be heard) that they do not take the time to find the story of the person they are attacking. Because it is delivered with such passion that the person on the receiving end is belittled and sometimes accused of things that they are not... and then they feel the need to defend themselves and their story - and so the message that is so important gets lost - because it becomes about the emotions and not the content. I wrote in my blogpost - story of communication - about how I feel that debate is about how well the person puts their message across rather than the message... this is why I like to dialogue... because, for me it is about learning together... as in our philosophy sessions... we are a community of learners... not two opinions trying to prove themselves right. Yesterday (2018) I read an article about parenting... the difference between reactive and responsive parenting... and I think this is what I am striving for... that we have responsive dialogues rather than reactive... Even though we can often be justified for having our reaction, our emotions, and that far too many are suffering from being oppressed... the problem is that if we are reactionary in how we communicate then people will react back. But if we communicate our story (with passion, and explain our emotions, but without the rude tone, or angry tone, or the need to put others down or ridicule) then we increase the chances of people responding... I have repeatedly shared the ted talk about the danger of the single story... and I feel I need to share it here again...

By telling the many varied, diverse stories... and valuing them... we can avoid otherism. By being aware that this is happening, that our lives are often built on a single story then we can also avoid otherism. I share the below pictures again, these that I shared in my first Story of Communication post... because this, for me demonstrates this otherism...

We have these "others" that are not a part of our local social norm... and what is often seen as correct is that we invite them in to our social norm... this often requires them to change and adapt. Of course there are many things done to these "others" outside the norm that are done to push them further out, to make them more different... to oppress. But even in these attempts to invite them into the norm, the focus is always on their "otherness" and not our similarities What I really want is to expand the norm so that the "others" can become a part of the norm as they are... this will mean everyone will learn about each other, adapt, accept and understand. I saw preschoolers able to do that. Without a shadow of a doubt young children can do this if we give them the space and the time and the tools - and also share our own adult power with them... that I, as an educator, do not sit with my adult norm and invite their child othernessinto the norm... but expand that norm so that childhood is an active part of the democratic norm in our learning and play.

It sounds so simple, but for some reason it does not seem to be... I think it comes down to trust... I think the education system needs to change... and fast... to be more inclusive... In the second post about communication I wrote how the environment can exclude and also offend by teachers/educators not being aware of what the room says... or it invites, or prohibits and also how it sometimes uses other cultures inappropriately so that it creates "othering". There are far too many people in this world that actively use otherism to further their agenda. We have seen how Trump and his party and those that support him have used otherism to justify their barbaric way of treating families at the borders... In a way Trump can be a great example of why we should communicate peacefully rather than with anger... during clashes earlier this year (2018) in the USA Trump said both sides were to blame... as he was able to pick at a few people who protested with violence... instead of focussing on what the real message was... on the content of the protest. The message got lost. And I feel this was a message that should not have got lost it needs to be heard loud and clear. Otherism is sadly far too easy to create. During the second world war the European Jews, homosexuals, people with disabilities and other "others" were at first the subject of "otherism" to pave the way for the most dispicable persecution to occur where millions suffered and died because they were excluded from the norm. There are stories of oppression around the world and throughout history. Stories of otherism. We need to start hearing the stories of these people. We need to listen. We need to see the humanity and respond with humanity. My contribution is to support children with their listening skills... to listen to understand... to share their opinions, to enter dialogues to be a community of learners, to listen to the opinions of others and value them even if they do not agree... to listen with respect. Discovering that the life you lived is based on a single story... and that story was cruel and fed off the suffering of others is incredibly uncomfortable... but this discomfort should not be confused with the discomfort of dealing with someone who uses anger to tell their story... then there is a different kind of discomfort... not the discomfort that comes with the realisation that we do not know or understand, but a discomfort of being told off by a person because they did not know another story. We need to tell these stories so that people listen and learn, we need to accept that not all people will have been given the opportunity to hear or find out about other stories. We need to provide time to learn that there are multiple stories and be able to make better and more informed decisions. I want children in my care to be exposed to multiple stories - to go out actively searching for more stories and not just accept the one story they are being fed in society... to think critically, creatively and empathically. I think if all educators do this... then we stand a chance of peace in the future. The incredibly sad part is that many people around the world are not free to tell multiple stories - they can be punished for deviating from the single story. This year (2020) International Fairy Tea Party (which occurs close to the September equinox every year) has the focus of GLOBAL COMMUNITY

The International Fairy Tea Part is a global celebration of play and imagination... not just for the children to have their own personal play (which is incredibly important in this day where play is becoming all more endangered) but to be a part of a global community - to learn about other countries around the world and that we are united in play and imagination... and also the choice of having the celebration on the equinox (autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern) means that we all share the same number of daylight hours... we might not have the same cultures, languages or resources but we can be united through daylight, play and imagination. It is about learning about others, not creating otherism. About respect, joy and connection. There are many countries across five continents that signed up for the 2019 celebration and the facebook page has just come out of hibernation to prepare for the 2020 celebration - everyone is encouraged to play within their own context. Why not join in this celebration as a way of learning more stories about this world we share. below are some quotes I would like to share...

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