Cryptogram Wisdom

Carol A. Hand

I have a confession to make. Years ago, I became a cryptogram addict. Solving at least one puzzle is the last thing I do before falling asleep most nights (or early mornings). Most of the sayings are silly or trite, but some have provided useful or inspiring messages. For a couple years, I subscribed to a distributer and received at least one 300-puzzle book a month. Obviously, I couldn’t finish the books that quickly so I began to save them for future use. I stopped subscribing when the drawers where I stored the booklets were overflowing. When I moved almost three years ago, I decided they made good packing fill to protect fragile items, so they made the trip to my new home.

This morning as I greeted the morning, this addiction made me laugh. In times like these, I need to find humor and helpful insights from as many sources as possible. I wondered how many others find these puzzles intriguing and useful.

Here are a few of the gems I have found.

“It is no small accomplishment to improve the quality of someone’s day.”

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the author. It was one of the early messages in a booklet that went to recycling long ago, but it’s one that I try to live every day.

“University policies are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” (Henry Kissinger).

Don’t judge too quickly – I’m not a fan of Kissinger. It’s just that this particular quote resonated with my experiences in academia. Faculty who had only worked in the real world for two years in entry-level social work positions before heading the ivory towers and gained tenure enforced their notions of a relevant curriculum. Hmm … This made for an interesting context for students and newer faculty whose experiences far exceeded that of the tenured dictators.

“Experience and history teach that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.” (George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel).

Unfortunately, these words are particularly salient given recent U.S. decisions to continue ongoing imperialist wars on behalf of the corporatocracy.

One that I recently read is particularly relevant today. Instead of solving this one, I’m posting the puzzle to see who is interested in solving a simple challenge. The more difficult challenge, of course, is figuring out how to live by these words…



Photo Credit: Wikipedia

I hope you have fun solving this riddle  :-)

In the News – “Why Women Stay”

This morning, the following story was at the top of the list on Huffington Post’s website. The article speaks to the status of women in the U.S., yet it focuses on individual stories where deviant perpetrators shoulder the blame for violence. By doing so, the article reinforces the myth that abuse is somehow removed from the historical and cultural contexts that sanction violence and increasingly perpetuate oppression in systematic ways throughout social welfare policies and institutions.

A Time for Truth and Healing – Honoring Grandmother Moon

Carol A. Hand

 Recently, I have been reflecting on the issues affecting women. As someone who has survived physical abuse, sexual assaults, and rape as a child and young woman, it’s obvious that my status as a woman in the US has influenced my life in profound ways. Yet the violence of these experiences has not broken my spirit – it has only made me stronger and more determined to speak out about all types of oppression. The fear of censure for speaking out doesn’t frighten me. I have survived being called me a “bitch” and a “whore” for quietly but tenaciously standing my ground . But I can’t ignore the certainty that my spirit would wither if I remain silent when witnessing injustice.

As Hemingway (a white man) observed – “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

Yes, my experiences have taught me to read people’s character and put up boundaries, but I still deeply grieve as I witness the violence women endure. A recent photo of the view from my back door was one of the inspirations for writing about women’s issues today.


Photo Credit: The View from My Backdoor – August 28, 2014

From my perspective, this photo is not about an unmowed, garbage-strewn lawn. I didn’t mind seeing the tops of the flowers bending under the weight of the hundreds of bees that were feeding on the blossoms. Still, the state of the yard reminded me of a mother’s tears as she told me that she felt so alone. Escaping from an abusive husband has meant that she not only has to bear the responsibility of raising children with serious emotional scars, hers and her children’s, she must also deal with the added burdens imposed by an oppressive legal system that has locked them all into ongoing trauma. Her three children, aged 5 to 15, spend alternate weeks with her and their father, a father with a history of emotionally abusing them. Who could possibly believe that awarding joint custody in a situation like this is a wise or humane way to deal with children? Certainly not someone who has willingly carried and given birth to a child.


Photo Credit: Card by One World-One Race – Bend, Oregon

As a mother myself, I know that the point of greatest vulnerability for me is through my daughter and grandchildren. Surviving abuse and assaults has given me the strength to endure and heal from my own physical and emotional trauma, but it has also made me acutely aware of my need to protect my daughter and grandchildren from harm if I can. In my role as a parent or grandparent, I know I am willing to do whatever I can to buffer them. I have no illusions about being a pacifist in that situation. Although I can’t know how other mothers feel when they are forced to watch their children be shuttled to an unpredictable and unsafe setting every other week, I can imagine how deeply the unrelenting pain and sense of hopelessness would cut through my heart.

The plight of my newest neighbor is eerily similar to that of the neighbor she replaced. Also a victim of domestic violence, my former neighbor not only had to deal with the same 50/50 custody decision, she was also harassed by child welfare and police based solely on the (fallacious) accusations of her former husband despite clear evidence of his history of abuse and vindictive tendencies. For both mothers, the children’s bi-weekly stays are fraught with possible exposure to ongoing violence. The houses are close and the backyard without fences. Through the open windows of summer, there’s no way to avoid hearing children yelling, hitting their mother, or crying next door.

I wish I knew how to help. The best I could think of today was to do some internet research on child custody. Although women’s studies was not something I focused on during my education or career, I remembered reading about the backlash of father’s groups to the increasing enforcement of court-determined child support obligations imposed on noncustodial parents, the majority of whom are fathers. This is but one of the many ways women’s struggle for gender equality in the United States has been impeded.

“While American backlashes [against] women can be traced to colonial times, the style of backlash that surfaced in the last decade has its roots most firmly in the last decade…. If we retrace the course of women’s rights back to the Victorian era, we wind up with a spiral that has made four revolutions. A struggle for women’s rights gained force in the mid-19th century, the early 1900s, the early 1940s, and the early 1970s. In each case, the struggle yielded to backlash.” (Susan Faludi, 2006, p. 63)

The dimensions that were most threatening to the patriarchy remained women’s ability to control their own money and their own reproductive decisions. Women made gains in economic, political, and reproductive rights during four pivotal eras: the mid-19th century, the Progressive Era (early 1900s), the World War II years (early 1940s), and the Civil Rights era (early 1970s). Each step forward was met by stiff resistance. Mid-19th century gains that allowed middle-class or wealthier Euro-American women to postpone childbearing years were met with accusations of “race suicide” by religious and political leaders. Women’s successful unionizing resulted in “red-baiting,” characterizing women labor organizers as communists. In 1914, Margaret Sanger began publishing a newsletter to raise awareness about contraception and was forced to flee the U.S. when her actions were criminalized. When she returned two years later to open the first women’s birth control clinic, she again faced challenges from the legal system. In 1920, as women finally gained the right to vote, the Miss America pageant was started, belittling respect for women as equal partners in the nation. Women’s efforts as competent and enthusiastic workers in high-paying positions during the war years of the 1940s proved that they were valuable assets to the paid labor force, yet when the war ended, industry, government, and the media joined forces to put women back in their place. “The 50s backlash didn’t transform women into full-time ‘happy housewives’; it just demoted them to poorly paid secretaries” (Faludi, p. 69).

women suffering

Photo Credit: Peace Woman Watch

All of these dimensions of oppression continue to affect women’s lives today, yet for my neighbors, the most relevant gains and backlash occurred as a result of new federal child support enforcement legislation. Historically, child support legislation only focused on enforcing financial support for children whose parents who were connected to federal welfare programs (Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, and Food Stamps)(U.S. House of Representatives ). It was a way to offset state budget expenditures. In 1981, child support agencies were granted permission to collect spousal support on behalf of custodial parents who were not on welfare, and in 1984, agencies were “required to petition for medical support as part of most child support orders” (Almanac of Policy Issues, 2000, para. 3). As states became more aggressive in their efforts to use the avenues open to them to collect child support for non-welfare families, resistance from economically advantaged fathers grew.

“The so-called fathers’ rights or men’s rights movement began as a backlash against what some fathers perceived as unfair sole custody awards to mothers and the assignment of child support responsibilities to non-custodial dads. Additionally, the expansion of shelters, social services and legal aid for battered women, together with better job opportunities for women, made escape from a violent marriage easier for women, enabling many to obtain a divorce and seek custody of minor children. As with other major societal revolutions, gains made by the feminist movement and women’s bid for equality prompted a backlash by men who felt threatened by changing roles.

“Certain social developments are credited with fueling the growth of fathers’ custody advocacy groups. One key development was stronger government enforcement of child support orders, beginning in the late 1980s. State enforcement programs pursued parents who were negligent in paying child support, issuing orders to garnish wages or taking other actions to assure support payments. Prior to stronger enforcement efforts, many families headed by mothers barely survived when fathers failed to pay child support over many years. When child support orders were more widely enforced and when payments began to be ordered through the courts or other government programs, some fathers objected and found a way to avoid these payments. Their solution: switch custody of minor children from the mother to the father.

“Summaries of more than 150 studies of child custody cases in numerous states compiled by the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence reveal that over several decades an alarming trend has emerged. That is, for cases in which child custody is challenged, it is often the father who is ultimately given sole or joint custody of children – including cases where there is evidence of domestic violence and child abuse. The Leadership Council list, Are “Good Enough” Parents Losing Custody to Abusive Ex-Partners?”, includes studies that find fathers are awarded sole custody even though they were not involved in child care activities prior to divorce. In many cases, the accusation by the father of the mother alienating the child(ren) figured in courts awarding the custody to the father.

“The Push for Joint Custody: The fathers’ custody activists claim that both legal and physical joint custody is in the best interest of the child. But it is no coincidence that joint custody drastically reduces the father’s child support payments and other financial obligations (health insurance, day care, etc.). Efforts to make joint custody presumptive by state statute are ongoing around the country for this very reason. In reality, after joint custody is agreed to or ordered by the court, many mothers often have the child or children most of the time, while the reduced child support payment from the father negatively impacts the mother’s ability to support the child or children. Additionally, in many families where the parents are married, time spent with and provision of daily care of the children are not evenly shared by the two parents while they are together. There is no reason to impose a presumption of joint legal and physical custody on families when they have not previously chosen this arrangement for themselves.

“Many women agree to joint custody for fear they will lose custody completely. Threats are often made to mothers that if they don’t agree to joint custody; the father will push to obtain sole custody resulting in the mother having little or no time with the children. As mentioned above in the parental alienation syndrome discussion, it is far too common for loving, protective mothers to lose custody and to even be subject to supervised visitation or no visitation, after trusting in the court system to fairly address custody of their children. So, while it may be a matter of money for many fathers in contested custody cases, it is undoubtedly a matter of love for and protection of the children for the mothers.” (NOW Family Law Ad Hoc Advisory Committee, 2012, pp. 3-4)

My two neighbors were especially vulnerable to the abusive adversarial judicial system because they love their children. They sacrificed their comfort and safety in order to remain a part of their children’s lives. The minimal financial support they were awarded sent both back to school to complete health care degrees. Meanwhile they worked double and triple shifts on the weeks their children spent with their fathers in order to be both nurturers and breadwinners. How can anyone find fault with a neighbor who can’t mow her lawn or pick up the trash from skunk-toppled garbage containers because she worked 88 hours that week? More importantly, how can anyone fail to find fault with the economic, political, judicial and social welfare systems that place women and children in such a precarious position in the first place?

I did develop a friendship with my last neighbor and was able to provide support and encouragement, and of course garden produce, during the most difficult times. I also earned enough trust from her son to be asked to babysit for his beloved pet lizard. But trust takes time to build, and it may not be possible with my newest neighbor given time, work schedules and family dynamics. Although she is alone dealing with her own particular family challenges, she is among thousands of mothers who are dealing with similar situations right now in the United States. Sadly, most don’t have access to the healing power of traditions and ceremonies that honor women’s strengths and life-giving gift.

I thought of my neighbors as I stood in a circle of women during a Grandmother Moon ceremony. Like my neighbors, each woman in the circle carried scars from past trauma, yet each stood in beauty with her commitment to healing and life.

grandmother moon

Photo Credit: Sacred Circle Wisdom

 Honoring women and children is the hallmark of cultures that honor life.

Works Cited:

Almanac of Policy Issues (2000). Child Support Enforcement Program.

Susan Faludi (2006). Backlash: The undeclared war against American women, (15th anniversary edition).  New York City, NY: Three River Press.

National Organization for Women Family Law Ad Hoc Committee (2012, Fall). Fall 2012 Newsletter – Special Report.

U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee (2012). Legislative history. Green Book.


Copyright Notice: Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


“Inch by inch, row by row …”

 Carol A. Hand

 Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna to make this garden grow …
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
‘Til the rain come tumbling down
(Pete Seeger)

I have been thinking about how important blogging has become to me. When I posted my first essay on June 18, 2013, it was only because of a partnership I had with a friend who knew more about technology that I did. Anyone who visits this blog now can probably see that, despite a little over a year of blogging experience, I still have many technological challenges to overcome yet. The few improvements are due largely to my new blogging partner, Cheryl.

I remember that the only one who liked my first post was my blogging partner at the time, Susan Sutphin at intersistere. Much to my surprise, someone pressed the “like” icon for my third post, and then honored me with recognition for my fourth post. Over time, we became virtual friends. Without his support, encouragement, and recognition, I am sure I would have given up many times. I know he has done the same for many other bloggers. When he announced that he was taking a hiatus from blogging for a little while, it felt a bit like the sun going out. Since then, I have been contemplating how to express how important his posts have been for me, and how crucial his support for other bloggers has been in building a network that feels like an authentic community based on honesty, creativity, inclusiveness, and critical thinking.

Because he often remembers to ask how my garden is doing, it occurred to me that the work he has done in the blogosphere is similar to gardening, and Pete Seeger provides the metaphor – “inch by inch, row by row… Jeff Nguyen, this is my way to say chi miigwetch for continuing to be part of all of our lives (Ojibwe thank you very much). As I look at the before and after pictures for my garden, I am reminded of where I began as a blogger and where I am at present. It’s still a work in progress, but you gave me the hope and support to continue.


Inch by inch…

I moved to Duluth in late October of 2011 to a house I bought sight-unseen. My daughter picked it out, although I had seen the following pictures that were posted on the internet.


Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011


Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011

I wondered about the log cabin and the windmill and the strange metal “tree” in front of the deck with its ringed branches holding flower pots filled with plastic flowers. I guess we all have different ideas of beauty. And then there was the aged greenhouse frame surrounded by raspberry bushes and little trees, and the rotting weeping willow that showed daylight halfway up its mighty trunk. Cutting trees is not something I do lightly. Yet, as I watched children walking past everyday on their way to and from the elementary school on one side and the high school on the other, I realized I would need to do something to make their passage safer.


Photo Credit: February 13, 2012

So the dying tree came down, leaving its partner to weather the winds and storms on its own. The next spring, I cleared the brush the old fashioned way, shovel by shovel, inch by inch, and painted the greenhouse frame – still a work in progress.

garden August 2013 (1)

Photo Credit: August 13, 2013



Photo Credit: August 11, 2014

Of course there are always challenges – critters that have been displaced by urban development, and brutal winters.

polar vortex 2014

Photo Credit: The Polar Vortex Winter – February of 2014

 A deer just ate my tomatoes

Photo Credit: A Deer Just Ate my Tomatoes – May 15, 2014

Yet gardens, like blogging, provide opportunities to help others develop knowledge, skills, and a belief in their ability to honor life and create something beautiful. This is the newest project that my granddaughter, Ava, helped to create out of salvaged lumber from the old fence that was replaced as a deer repellant.


Photo Credit: Ava’s Garden – August 11, 2014

Inch by inch, the garden is continuing to grow, and post by post the blogging adventure is continuing to grow as well. I wish to thank of everyone who has stopped by our modest blog to share your wisdom, kindness, and insights. And again I wish to say chi miigwetch, Jeff for helping build a community that is working to create the peace and unity your work represents.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“It All Depends on How You Look at Things”

Carol A. Hand

These were the words often repeated by the Churkendoose, a voice from the margins in the first book I remember reading as a young child (Berenberg, 1946). As a unique animal – a hybrid of a chicken, turkey, duck, and goose – the Churkendoose accepted his differences and those of others around him. Despite the initial discrimination he suffered, he stayed focused on using his special gifts to benefit others. Because it’s a children’s story, it had a happy ending. The Churkendoose’s efforts were rewarded by acceptance. In real life, that’s not always the case.

It may be that overcoming the differences that can be seen is easier than dealing with differences in perception that are not visible on the surface. In a story for older children, Aunt Beast, a character in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time represents creatures whose “sight” is not dependent on superficial appearances, but on the ability to discern the essence or substance of things beneath the surface.

“We do not know what things look like, as you say… we know what things are like. This must be a very limiting thing, this seeing.” (p. 181)

“We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal.” (p. 186)

I was reminded of the significance of the ability to discern more deeply by a comment about Teaching – And the Wonder of Life in a Blade of Grass from someone I worked with in the past. Initially, the comment didn’t make any sense. I reluctantly decided not to approve it. After reflection, however, it seemed to be another perspective – one that conveyed the inability to see the wonder of life beneath the surface appearance of things. I am grateful for a culture and experiences that have privileged me with a different view, and for artists like Louie Schwartzberg  and scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson  whose work reminds us all of the beauty and mystery of life.

The observations and question I shared in my essay…

“Understanding one’s self and the ways in which one has been socialized to see the world are indispensable for understanding others in respectful, inclusive ways. Learning to see the wonder of life in a blade of grass is perhaps one of the most important things we can learn. If we can’t see the beauty and wonder of life in nature, how can we see it in each other?”

blade of grass

Photo Credit: 3quarksdaily – Tuesday Poem

The response from the critical commentator (as originally submitted) …

“I spent a long time thinking about the acute angle formed by the tip of a certain blade of grass. Perhaps the word “thinking” is not quite appropriate. That strange, trifling conception of mine was no continuing process, bet reappeared persistently, like some refrain. Why did the acute angle have to be so acute? If instead it were obtuse, would the classification “grass” be lost and would nature inevitably be destroyed from that one corner of its totality? When a single tiny cog is removed from nature, is not nature itself being entirely overthrown? Then my mind would aimlessly examine the problem from one point of view, or the other.”
Yukio Mishima ~ The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

This comment, based on the 1956 novel by Yukio Mishima, helps me understand why some people can destroy the earth or oppress others. Perhaps they can only see triangles where others see the wonder of life. Those who see the essence of things must be a powerful threat to those who can only ponder the surface of things. Yet, as deGrasse Tyson observes, we are not given clear guidelines for making sense of the universe.

“We awakened on this tiny world beneath a blanket of stars like an abandoned baby left on a doorstep without a note to explain where we came from, who we are, how our universe came to be. And with no idea how to end our cosmic isolation. We’ve had to figure it out for ourselves.” (deGrasse Tyson, 2014)

How we live and what we learn to love all depends on how we look at things.

Works cited:

Ben Ross Berenberg (1946). What am I? New York City, NY: Wonder Books.
Madeleine L’Engle (1962). A wrinkle in time. New York City, NY: Dell Publishing Company.
Neil deGrasse Tyson (2014). When knowledge conquered fear (Season 1, Episode 3). Cosmos: A Space Odyssey.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

No Toys Under the Couch

No Toys Under the Couch

By Cheryl A. Bates

I sat on the floor for a moment to scratch behind the dog’s ear

and happened to notice there were no toys under the couch anymore.

No singing coming from the bathtub after dinner or

water on the floor to soak my socks.

No lingering smells of baby lotion and bubble bath

no more stories about dinosaurs, ballerinas, or

living room camp outs before bedtime.

No hair clips and tiny toys left forgotten on the floor

to pierce the arches of my feet at midnight after work

when headed across the room to bed, in the dark.

I lay on the floor now but something is wrong,

no sudden full body attacks from a two and a half foot munchkin.

No giggles of delight from when I toss her into the air

No more, do it again Mommie. Do it again!

Gone are the dainty ribbons and bows for her hair

and the sophisticated nail polish of grape purple and cherry red.

Blue jeans with holes in the knees – “no mommie, I want leotards, please.”

“I am a girl,” she proclaims emphatically, all the while gently stroking her newly found backyard toad.

No more crickets in the jar – where she added a little grass and oh, better yet some dirt.

Her eyes twinkle with an idea – she disappears momentarily to return proud,

having added some water.

“But where’s the cricket,” I say. She points to him caringly.

“There he is mommie!” Poor little cricket covered with mud, I’ll let you go after bedtime.

“Here mommie,” she’d say, “hold this while I go play.”

Off she goes to discover more treasures for the day.

I lay on my floor now – I glance over and see

no complacent toads in a cup, no bewildered crickets in a jar, and

no toys under my couch anymore.

How empty life can be.

Copyright Notice: © Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cheryl Bates and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Teaching – and the Wonder of Life in a Blade of Grass


As I look back on my time teaching, I am once again grateful for the lessons from an advisor I never had time to thank while she was alive. I hope some of the students I had the honor of working with carry this lesson forward in their own future work.

Originally posted on Voices from the Margins:

Carol A. Hand

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Sister Lorita, my undergraduate advisor from St. Xavier College for Women in Chicago, taught me more than botany. Through example, she taught me what it means to teach. Students made fun of her because of her weight and because of her enthusiasm for her subject, a subject they found boring. One day when we were meeting, Sister Lorita looked at me and said, “I know students laugh at me, but I don’t care if people make fun of me. It’s worth it to me if they learn to see the wonder of life in a blade of grass.”

“The wonder of life.” Isn’t that the most important thing we can learn? Although I was a chemistry and biology major at the time, my life took a different path. Instead of science, I teach students how to work with people…

View original 1,787 more words

“But … We’ve Always Done it this Way…”

Carol A. Hand

Did you ever feel like you were living in the wrong time? That somehow you had missed learning how to simply accept the fact that we should do things the way they’ve always been done? Wondered who had decided how things should be done initially, and who benefits from keeping things the same? Why so many people automatically react to any proposed change with immediate resistance by using the same old refrain – “But we’ve always done it this way”?

einstein graphicsheat dot com

Photo Credit:

The question I had to address throughout my career as a social work educator was whether I, like most of my colleagues at the time, should teach using paradigms and topics from the past, tweaking models that haven’t worked to improve people’s lives because they failed to take socio-economic causes into account. The message was to “Just teach students how to fit into the social welfare agencies where they will work in the future using new evidence-based methods.” Hmm. I must have missed something. Despite these individual pathology treatment methods, I don’t see much “evidence” that the structural causes of problems – exploitation and social marginalization – have improved as a result of decades of interventions. More importantly, I ask if we can afford such hubris and indulgence when we are faced with global unrest about growing socio-economic inequality and the escalating effects of global climate change. The populations most affected are, of course, the very populations with whom social workers plan to work in the future. Is it realistic to believe that the future we face will be any better served by using past methods that haven’t worked?

einstein licalvox dot com

Photo Credit:

Why not try something new? Isn’t that what education is supposed to do, to evaluate the effectiveness of past efforts honestly in light of what is happening now and what we anticipate in the future? Some students may be persuaded to voice the need to fit in with the status quo, but they’re quick to understand why it’s important to learn for the future. Most faculty and administrators are harder to convince. It could just be the challenge that motivates me to innovate.

It does take courage to walk into a classroom as the “teacher” knowing you don’t have the answers, and knowing no one has your back if you make a fool of yourself. Sure, you may have years of diverse experiences, but as Lisbeth B. Schorr (1998) points out, reinventing the wheel is important. Each group and community that wants to make a difference needs to figure out for themselves how to work together toward shared goals, to own the goals and the process through negotiation, teamwork, sweat, and tears. My approach to teaching research to undergraduate students this summer was an experiential experiment to see if students could conduct their own research studies as teams.

einstein quoteko dot com

Photo Credit:

I am pleased to report that the experiment “worked.” Yesterday, as each team of students stood together before the class with their Power Point ready to share, the atmosphere in the room was decidedly different than that of the first day. (Only two hands out of eighteen went up that first day when I asked how many were excited to learn about research – more than I expected.) When they presented their impressive work during the last class, it was clear that they had become “teams,” they shared the work, disappointments, and successes. They learned that research is not easy to do regardless of your methodology. They learned through the most effective way there is — by actually doing something themselves and thinking critically about their experiences. They could clearly articulate what they would do differently the next time!

Through participant observation, one team learned about the effects of changing weather patterns on local food production by weekly visits to a farmer’s market and conversations with the local vendors. Through surveys, another team learned about local views of climate change and contrasted those with views nationwide. The single subject design team took an inventory of the food in their cabinets and refrigerators and noted where it was produced. They planned to calculate the “food miles” and CO2 production that resulted from their buying choices. Over the next month, they took two more inventories to see if their buying habits changed as a result of trying consciously to reduce their carbon footprint. The photo voice and interviewing teams both focused on exploring the effects of the 2012 deluge and flood that affected Duluth, MN and the surrounding areas. Their experiences countered the common assumption that qualitative research is easier than quantitative studies.

I am so grateful that I had an opportunity to work with this adventurous and creative group of students. It was a fitting way to end my career as an institutional educator. The only thing I regret is that other faculty and institutional decision makers missed the student presentations. Imagine – what could the world become if educational institutions were inspired to explore ways to change how things have always been done in order to honor the earth and all life?

Work Cited:

Lisbeth B. Schorr (1998). Common purpose: Strengthening families and neighborhoods to rebuild America. New York City, NY: Anchor Books.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Symbols of Power


Yet again, I have observed the need of administrators to use their socially-constructed status to oppress others rather than build egalitarian partnerships that are liberatory. Perhaps my efforts to offer alternatives from the margins will take root and bear fruit in the future…

Originally posted on Voices from the Margins:

Carol A. Hand

This morning I awoke thinking about the images that come to mind for three of the ways power is manifested: military/police force, symbolic forms of oppression through the enforcement of conformity, and resistance. Military and police action is the easiest to envision for me, and the list of images that come to mind is long indeed. Images for resistance are also easy to envision, although not as likely to appear in corporate media. Symbolic power is more difficult to envision, but the image that comes to mind for me is from Andry (1749), Orthopaedrics of the art of preventing and correcting deformities of the body in children.


Photo Source: Drawing by Carol A. Hand

(based on an adaptation of N. Andry (1749), Orthopaedrics or the art of preventing and correcting deformities of the body in children, cited in Foucault (1)

At a university with strong…

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