Monthly Archives: April 2011

I’m sorry amatxu, pero soy escocés

E. tiene casi 19 meses y comienza a decir palabras y frases que para nuestro asombro son mayoritariamente en inglés.  En realidad tampoco debería extrañarnos tanto, ya que habla inglés cuando  está con otros niños o cuando va con la childminder. En casa la situación es un poco más compleja. Mi pareja y yo hablamos inglés entre nosotros, pero cada uno nos dirijimos a E. en nuestro propio idioma; esto es francés y castellano. 

E. parece entender los tres idiomas bastante bien, pero a la hora de hablar es otra cosa. No sólo mezcla los tres, sino que muestra una clara preferencia por el inglés. Ya se que no debería extrañarme pero cuando le oigo decir “What´s this?” o “Look” me parece raro.

La lengua materna no sólo es un vehículo de comunicación, sino también es una cuestión intensamente emocional. Por ejemplo, con mi pareja, me he dado cuenta que el hecho de hablar inglés me ha beneficiado a la hora de no transmitir o proyectar emociones o temores de la infancia o de anteriores relaciones. El hecho de que me diga las mismas cosas pero en otro idioma le quita carga emocional al asunto. Si hablamos sobre cualquier tema y me dice en inglés “no tienes los pies en el suelo”, para mí no es lo mismo que si me lo dice en castellano, ya que  puede recordarme a lo que me decía mi padre o mi madre cuando comentaba que quería estudiar magisterio en vez de derecho ( que no es el caso).

Pero cuando se trata de E. esa falta de carga emocional me molesta y me asusta. De una forma muy irracional que no puedo explicar siento que si su primera lengua no es el castellano, mi relación con él se desdibuja a un cierto nivel. En realidad lo que siento, y aunque parezca una auténtica tontería, es que no me va a querer lo mismo, y que el hecho de que su primera lengua sea el inglés y la mía el castellano nos separa emocionalmente.

La verdad es que no tengo ni idea cómo funciona la cabeza de un niño que está expuesto a tres idiomas, pero me imagino que en algún momento elige uno como el prioritario, y lo más probable es que sea el inglés.

La lengua está asociada a la expresión íntima de emociones, a la construcción de una identidad, que en mi caso es compleja de partida ya que me defino principalmente como vasca, aunque no reniego de lo español ( es decir no creo que sean incompatibles). Mi idioma materno es el castellano, pero en casa siempre he recibido una educación en la que los elementos de la cultura vasca se han cuidado y valorado. Cuando en el colegio se ofreció la posibilidad de estudiar euskera mis padres me apuntaron sin dilación. En casa siempre hemos utlizado muchas palabras y expresiones en euskera que siento  que de alguna manera estoy perdiendo.

No es lo mismo pequeño que txiki, ni cariño que lastana, ni cuidado que kontuz. Esas palabras son más íntimas para mí y están asociadas a otros contextos que E. no vivirá. Indudablemente me da pena.

En casa siempre bromeamos que algún día nos dirá que es escocés, y claro, yo me sentiré rara.  Cuando piensas en tu hijo, al menos como yo he sido educada y como lo ha sido mi pareja, la tradición tiene peso y significado. Los dos nos sentimos muy enraizados en nuestras culturas ( mi pareja es bretón, así que él también tiene lo suyo) y los dos queremos que E. sea una mezcla de los dos, conservando las dos identidades. Mucho me temo que no será posible, y que un día él elegirá el país en el que vivir, la lengua que quiere hablar la mayor parte del tiempo, y la identidad en la que configura y agrupa sus afectos y sus referencias vitales.

Quizás lo que experimento ahora es la facilidad con la que las identidades se desdibujan en un mundo globalizado en el que las fronteras afectivas y territoriales a través del trabajo, pareja o familia devienen movibles y negociables. Personalmente no me siento cómoda, pero supongo que no me queda mucha opción con una pareja francesa y un niño nacido en Escocia.

La cultura y la lengua te dan elementos de referencia, rituales, sentido de pertenencia a una comunidad, cosas que personalmente valoro en gran medida, pero cuando tu identidad tiene que ser negociada con tu pareja, y adaptarse al mismo tiempo a otro país, la opción no es otra que la negociación. Algo así como el Olentzero en navidades y los huevos de chocolate en el jardín por Pascua o Hallowen y los reyes magos. Aunque no lo parezca lleva tiempo elegir todos estos rituales y tradiciones, incluso innovar y decidir algunos propios. Todo esto tiene un sentido para mí, y ese sentido viene marcado por el hecho de que cuando E. venga un día y me diga: “I´m sorry, amatxu, pero soy escocés” ese “ser escocés” integrará elementos bretones, franceses, españoles y vascos, quizás difuminados, transformados, alterados o híbridos, pero que al menos me permitirán contestarle: “ Esta bien lastana,  se lo contamos luego a aita”.

 Natalia

Education crushing creativity in children

Just when I was thinking about finding ways of not interfering and allowing children to make mistakes and what critical thinking is, I came across this amazing video. Please please watch this amazing video talk on children’s creativity and education by Sir Ken Robinson, I found via simply montessori. It will make you think, laugh out loud, and if you are softy as me, even cry.

And if you get carried away, also watch this one, by the same guy.

Lucila

Critical thinking

Natalia’s recent post, as usual, made me think, in this case, about what are we doing when we are blogging. Thinking about my experience of these  first months at it,  I found that a very important, un-planned and unforeseen aspect of writing this blog was to discover another way of doing academic thinking and writing.

Academia’s main tool is critical thinking. For years I would pride myself in finding fault with different ways of thinking, with academic papers, or talks. I am not sure when this happened, but I reached a point, where I found this exercise dry and unhelpful. I then went the other way and had trouble criticising. Or even worse in academic terms – though I suspect this is what many academics do in their practice- I realised I did not like stuff, just because it did not feel right. Then of course I found many rational explanations…but basically this is how it went:

– do I want to throw the book out of the window? Is this because it forces me to think something new, uncomfortable, or because it is bollocks? – this can be a tricky one, though…think Derrida…

However, this is what much of academic work is about: pointing out flaws in others people work. However, in this blog, in our reviews, I concentrate in what I like, what I find useful. Which is obviously part of academic work, as you need to work with something, but not one that is enhanced. It does not mean I do not find things to criticise, but I brush those aside, unless they itch me in a productive way. I have started to accept my body’s reactions to ideas and readings too, as you can see from the language I use. It does not mean either that I get married to these ideas. I use them if they are helpful for what I am trying to do, think and/or write. A more pragmatic way of looking at academic work.

I know there is a host of feminist thinking on what is valuable, rational, important in terms of academic work, and it also links to what Natalia analysed about her experience of academia. But I come to realise- with the help of good talks with friends, counselling, reading – that this is the only way of thinking something original for me. This is the way I work. And this means, I have to work on being afraid of making mistakes, of being vulnerable, of feeling exposed. During my PhD, this was a constant struggle. I had to work at having my own voice, and not being drowned in other people’s theories or ways of writing. My supervisors were especially good in this sense (if you ever read this, thanks!). And during my viva, my examiners commented on how refreshing it was to read some very honest reflections on how methods and how theories worked or not for me (self-inflicted blushing here), which was really nice, and uff, people, what a relief. So it is not that this way of doing this is not appreciated, it is, but it is hard work, and quite scary frankly and tortuous (for me at least!),  and you have, as usual, to find the spaces where this is appreciated. I do not need to tear people up to make myself bigger as others do.

I think that finishing my PhD, and the viva, gave me more confidence. The feeling of thinking it is OK to say what I think and use theory and academic work in particular ways; a feeling I used to have but lost along the way. I hope others don’t need to go through this process to find their voice, and be more confident. In this sense, academic work is like other creative work, I think, in terms of, as a dancer friend said, unless you say/do what’s true for you, it won’t work well, it won’t shine. And this blog hopefully will help do just that. So thanks for listening and leaving your comments, it makes all the difference.

Have you had these struggles too? Have you found your voice?

Lucila

Oh, he is such a boy!

As I’ve mentioned, I’m reading Cordelia Fine’s book Delusions of Gender and it’s really making me think about popular assumptions related to brain differences between boys and girls.

E. is a very active toddler. He likes hitting things, including mum’s head, with his toys, running around, pulling CDs and books out from the shelves, playing with the toilet brush (aghhh…), flushing the toilet ten times in five seconds, getting into the shower when it’s all wet, putting his toys into the washing machine, climbing on the sofa and the beds, hitting the computers, TV and hi-fi, eating headphones and splashing food all over the kitchen, just to list some of his delightful repertoire.

When I talk to people about how active he is I get this sort of comment: “It’s normal, he’s a boy” or “Boys are different, they’re more active”. It’s true that I’ve observed that boys tend to be more active than girls. On the other hand, girls sometimes talk and walk earlier than boys. Of course, this is just a purely personal observation and not a scientific thesis from which we can deduce the existence of any innate difference between the genders (as many people seem to do). I believe that the way children socialise, our expectations of them, the toys they are given to play with, their character and their home environment play an important role in developing children’s skills more than any sort of biological determination according to their gender. But how to resist to all these gender preconceptions?

It’s not just toys but also how children are expected to dress in our society. It has always struck me how strongly clothes are gendered in the UK . On the continent, I don’t find such a strong separation in clothing for boys and girls. I try to buy clothes for E. that are gender-neutral, and my policy is that pink is another colour. Except when I get a huge feminist rush and I end up buying him a doll or a pink shirt. That’s why pink has become a question of feminist politics in our household.

I personally hate Bob the Builder and the planes, cars and tools that routinely decorate boy’s clothes. But it’s no easier if you have a girl. I find that many girls’ clothes in theUK present a sort of mixture between princess and pin-up girl. So every time we inspect the girl’s section to find something for E. I’m unable to buy anything because it’s all pink flowers, sequins, flounces or allusions to princesses, girliness and prettiness.

Another comment that annoyed me is that if you put your toddler into pink or give him dolls or kitchen tools he will be gay. I’ve heard that a couple of times (no kidding). It gets on my nerves, not only because it’s a horrible homophobic comment, but also because if he does turn out to be gay everybody will say that it’s because my feminist parenting, and it will discourage most of my white middle-class heterosexual friends from following our gender-neutral parenting approach, and it reinforces the view that homosexuality is a sort of a sickness that can be cured with the right approach during childhood. My mum, who from time to time produces weird remarks, told me when I mentioned my upset about this sort of comment: “Why should being gay be a problem? Gays idolize their mums” (I hope you will excuse me from commenting on this latest from her).

So getting back to whether boys behave differently to girls, I find that E.’s behaviour is the product of his own character, not of his gender, but I don’t know how to explain that to my friends apart from recommending that they read Cordelia Fine’s book and show them this picture of E. at toddler’s.

 

Does gender matters? Women in science

Barres, Ben A. “Does gender matters?” Nature, Vol. 442, 13 July 2002, pp. 133-136 

I’m half way through Cordelia Fine’s most recent book, Delusions of Gender, and I’m really enjoying it. The book explains in a clear and straightforward manner some of the prejudices behind many of the currently fashionable theories about the cognitive differences between the male and the female brain. In showing the inconsistencies of all these theories, she refers to Barres’ article.

Barres writes from the unusual point of view of a transgendered person (from female to male) and so he is in an excellent position to capture some of the invisible elements that drive gender discrimination in academia. Barres engages in the topic from both a personal and a political perspective, which I really appreciate. For example, he mentions that he soon realised that as a male academic he was in a more powerful position than when he was a female academic. As he states with irony, “I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man” (p. 135).

The trigger for Barre’s article was a statement by Harvard Professor Larry Summer , President of Harvard University from 2001-2006, Director of the White House National Economic Council and parenting expert in his spare time . Summer suggested that women are not advancing in science because they are innately not as well-equipped as men with the sorts of abilities required in science. His statement caused commotion and great opposition, and finally cost him his post as President of Harvard University and as Obama’s advisor. 

Summer’s approach was in part based on the polemic research conducted by Simon Baron-Cohen, who concludes that women are more inclined to empathize, communicate and care for others, whereas men are better at systematizing. Consequently, he says, the reasons behind women not advancing in science (or in any other field that requires systematizing skills) is purely related to biology or genetics. Up to this point there is no need for a great imagination to see some of the consequences of this assumption: if women are not as good as men in certain areas, let’s pay them less, put them into less favourable contracts, or simply not encourage them into research at all as it’s a waste of time and money.

 I must admit that when I read this pseudo-scientific rambling about female-male brain differences I get really mad. It’s not the fact that there are differences between the male and female brain, as seems to be the case, but rather that these differences are interpreted and constructed to justify women’s disadvantaged position in science and academia. Historically speaking we have been here before, so arguments about lack of women’s soul or intelligence are not new. This is just a sophisticated version. More than ever, we need to remember that the personal is political: that is, I’m not getting a Chair in Physics not because I’m not smart enough or lacking systematizing skills (sic) but because the institution discriminates against me on the basis of my gender.

I know that Summer’s statement happened in 2005, but still. How on earth does an intelligent and accomplished person who is supposed to be leading one of the best universities in the world have the guts to stand up in front of the academic community and say this? I guess because a) this is what Summer really thinks and b) because the institution has been implementing this policy for such a long time that mentioning it in public is nothing more than revealing a common and accepted practice . Not surprisingly, Professor Nancy Hopkins and others protested vividly.

 What really make me angry is the fact that we’re supposed to stay cool and quiet and accept Summer’s apology  without suggesting that his speech reveals something more than the personal opinion of someone with a big mouth. In the end, the apology was just about Professor Summers’ lack of tact, but nothing is said about the discriminatory practices endemic in academia.

Barres mentions in his article that although using words to combat words might be an appropriate strategy, something more needs to be done. Larry Summer’s comments on women’s innate inferiority is not an exercise in freedom of speech: as Barres says, it is “verbal violence”. Barres suggests not only standing up to openly denounce this sort of statement and the junk science they are based on but also doing something about it. These are some of the points he highlights in his article:

• First, let’s be clear; there is no evidence of different abilities in maths or science based on gender.

• Second, it’s common in academia to raise the bar for women: “One study found that women applying for a research grant needed to be 2.5 times more productive than men in order to be considered equally competent” ( p. 134).

• Third, we should be aware of the phenomenon of pulling up the ladder behind us. Unfortunately some women are not helping when they get to the top and often try to stop other women arriving in similar positions. But also some women fall into what is called “denial of personal disadvantage”, which implies comparing their achievements with those of other women rather than with men to conclude that there is no such a thing as gender discrimination in academia.

• Fourth, women are not more emotional than men, and for that reason they are well-equipped to look after other people.

• Fifth, there is a need to boost girls’ and women’s confidence that they can get what they want in terms of their studies and jobs. We need to encourage girls to study science if that’s what they want, and to avoid any sort of gender bias when advising them on their future professional careers. Most of all, as Barres puts it, it would be very useful to provide women with tools that teach them “how to survive in a prejudiced world”.

• And sixth, we should speak out and denounce discrimination in academia, no matter whether it is based on gender, religion, sex, nationality or race.

Natalia

De aprender a equivocarse mejor

¿Como enseñar lo que no sabemos hacer bien? Es una pregunta difícil. Natalia habló acá sobre su dificultad de jugar. Una de las cosas que  no le quiero pasar a r., es el miedo a equivocarse. No sé tan bien de donde vino este miedo, pero que esta, está. Me cuesta mucho tratar de hacer cosas nuevas, tengo que sobreponerme a una resistencia interna importante, y no puedo evitar sufrir cuando no sé hacer algo, aunque sea la primera vez que lo intento. 

Pero me parece un tema importante, incluso, central. Y me pregunto cómo hacer para modelar, y para respetar – porque creo que al menos r. todavía no tiene este miedo – ese arrojo, esa necesidad de hacer las cosas por ella misma, de equivocarse sola, como darle el espacio y tiempo adecuado, como no intervenir.

La verdad es que en teoría todo siempre es más fácil. En este caso, r. tiene dos y casi medio, y está en el etapa de querer hacer todo sola – en realidad desde hace rato. Y creo que aunque esto es común en muchos chicos de esta edad, es bastante pronunciado en r. Y yo intento respetar esto lo más posible (porque la entiendo perfectamente! ;)). Pero la verdad es que ya me cuesta. Sufro presenciar como intenta por 20 minutos ponerse una media. Dejo de respirar, me pongo tensa, se me escapan las manos para ayudarla. Por suerte, ella me recuerda rápidamente que no me meta, me saca la mano, y me dice un ‘no, mami’ rotundo. Si llego a tocarla, aunque sea por otro motivo, o por ejemplo, para desabotonarle la remera en la espalda (cosa imposible para ella), agárrate. Se enfurece. No sé a quién sale así 😉

Si ya sufro viéndola luchar con una media, y quiero ayudar y meterme, no me quiero imaginar problemas adolescentes, con amigas, novios, trabajo, y posibles demases. Hay un parte de mi que no quiero que se frustre, que se sienta mal. Pero a la vez, soy consciente de que si no la dejo ser, intentar, hacer cosas sola, algo se pierde, se frustra, se estanca.

Hay una frase de Beckett que me encanta que dice ‘Da igual. Prueba otra vez. Fracasa otra vez. Fracasa mejor’, y que tendría que ponerla tipo poster en mi casa, en mi escritorio, así se me graba, porque modelar esto es probablemente más poderoso que cualquier discurso.

Acá van algunas de las cosas practicas que hago (o más bien intento hacer) para esto:

  • Arreglar la casa como para que r. sea lo más independiente posible. La mayoría de estas ideas las fui sacando de la filosofía Montessori. Tiene un placard en la cocina con sus cosas para comer, una selección de su ropa en cajones que ella alcanza, una ‘torre’ para que me ayude a cocinar, escalones lo suficientemente altos para llegar al inodoro sola, los juguetes y libros ordenados y a su alcance, una mesa y sillas chiquitas, y así.  No quiere decir que todo se use y funcione perfecto, pero creo que le genera una sensación de satisfacción poder hacer y acceder a cosas sola. Hay muy buenas ideaspor ejemplo acá o acá.
  • Cuidarme con los elogios. Para esto me sirvió leer el libro Nurtureshock y How to talk so kids will listen…(hace poco hice un post sobre esto –en inglés). Básicamente implica tratar de elogiar el esfuerzo más que su inteligencia. También no dar tantos elogios, porque puede ser algo que distraiga más que ayude, ser descriptiva y  específica con lo que estoy elogiando.
  • Cuidarme con como manejo mis errores – si me puteo cada vez que hago algo mal, obviamente doy la impresión de que es algo muy malo. Intento contener mi tendencia a putear, y tratar de decir lo que hice mal, y como puedo hacerlo mejor la próxima, y como lo puedo arreglar (por ejemplo: si se me cae un vaso de agua, en vez de decir ‘la p*** madre!’, como sería mi forma habitual de reaccionar, trato de decir, ‘uy, se cayó, no tengo que ir tan apurada, vamos a secar con el trapo’).
  • Darle el tiempo y el espacio para hacer las cosas solas, lo más posible. Obviamente esto a veces no es posible, porque por ejemplo tengo que llegar a algún lado a tiempo, y si la dejo, tardamos 4 horas en salir! Estas transiciones y momentos me resultan super difíciles la verdad, sobretodo que no termine en gritos y llantos (de las dos) (alguna idea?)
  • Dar espacio y nombre a los sentimientos. Si se enoja, o se frustra, aceptarlo. No significa que vayamos a cambiar lo que hacemos pero darle lugar y nombrar lo que le pasa, en general la calma (después de un rato de repetirlo – está enojada, se puso mal por tal y tal cosa…(habla en tercera persona)

Estas son algunas de las cosas que hago/intento hacer… pero me gustaría saber que piensan ustedes, y si tienen tips/experiencias que quierna compartir, son muy bienvenidas: ¿cómo manejan este tema? ¿Les pasa/ó algo similar? ¿Qué piensan?

Lucila

Health for children not a priority in the UK

I was talking to Natalia the other day about our experiences with the NHS care for children, and we both felt that our GPs did not have much of a clue about children’s health, that they were not properly looked at (clinically), and that most of the times, our concerns were dismissed, or not heard.

First, let me say, that I love the NHS, I think it is amazing that there is such good public care, and I understand that because this is the case, many times we don’t have access to other ‘luxuries’ I could get in Argentina, like for instance, being able to call my paediatrician by mobile phone when I have a query. Because in Argentina I pay for this very expensive, private, care. And this means that you get what you can pay, which I think it is an awful way of thinking about something as basic as health care.  This, however, does not mean that I don’t feel that there are many problems, inconsistencies, and disorganisation within the NHS, which now that I have a daughter, sometimes scares me.

Today, I read an article in the Guardian online, which underlined some of these problems, which are probably bound to be made worse with the cuts and changes that this government is planning. Reading the confirmation of our fear is not a nice way to start the morning, I can tell you.

This article shows how a study by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), has flagged up a very serious shortage of consultants, and a need to better organise children’s units to deliver safe care. Scarily, data from the college shows that  

‘a third of the 220 children’s units in the UK are not compliant with the EU working time directive. Doctors are forced to work longer than 48 hours, trainees – albeit senior trainees working to become consultants – are left in charge, locums are having to be employed and consultants end up having to stay overnight unexpectedly in the hospital because there is no one else.’

One of the reasons for these problems is, guess what? under-investment.

‘Under-investment in children’s services is partly to blame. The number of children arriving in accident and emergency has gone up by 12% since 2009 – now almost 4 million children a year, a quarter of all visits – possibly because GPs no longer routinely do their own out-of-hours cover. And a surprisingly low proportion – 37% – of GPs has done any training at all in paediatrics. In many other countries children are not taken to a GP but to a paediatrician.’

The problems, however, are not only in emergency care, but also in routine care, and it shows how diabetes is not well controlled, and cancer symptoms are not picked up soon enough, which means there is less possibility of chidlren  surviving.

I find the fact that the majority of GPs have not had any training in paedriatric shocking in one way, but on the other it unfortunately resonates with my experience.

Children, as Prof Sir Ian Kennedy is quoted saying, are not a priority within the health service.

Depressing. Sorry.

Something you can do: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/Protect_our_NHS_Petition#petition

Lucila