Sunday, February 13, 2005

Reflecting on Paul Kivel's "Are You Mentoring for Social Justice"

This is one of the better essays I have read on mentoring. Although Kivel, in the beginning of his essay, addresses this to his progressive peers 40 or older, I think this applies to everyone no matter their age, their political outlook, or their current place in life.

For instance when I was younger and in a desperate struggle to survive in a violent environment--there were even younger people who needed help and advice just to stay alive or sane. My biggest regrets in my life were those that died or were mentally/physically destroyed--those that I fear I could have saved if I would have done more.

Its not just an elder to younger relationship--I didn't start college until I was 28 and so I have had the unique experience of younger mentors. Age means nothing in the development of wisdom and experience (I mean reflective experience that shapes or moves one to unique conclusions/insights)--I've met old fools and learned from very young intellectuals. Older people lose out if they do not learn from the wisdom of the young.

Also we have the opportunity to mentor through our daily behaviors--how well do we model what we think through our daily life? Are we living the life we talk/write about?

I feel that mentoring is also a process of cross-cultural education... what can be learned from the interaction/engagement with those of a different outlook, a different economic/environmental situation, a different gender, ethnicity, sexuality, place, disability/ability, etc... They teach me through expanding my perspective of experiencing the world--they add to my fragmented, partial understanding of this world. This is why we must listen to those we oppose in order to attempt an understanding of why they think the way they do.

Likewise, we cannot simply dismiss an act/person/group as evil or an aberration, we should seek to understand what they think and why--how have they developed and what are they reacting to in their actions. This is often difficult for my students (and for myself), they are often encouraged to simply dismiss those that contradict their social, political or religious identity--don't engage them for they may change you. Its true you are changed by what you read/view/hear and its not always for the better. But if you want to discuss or deal with anything you must "listen" to what they have to say--listening involves engagement with and consideration of their position.

Finally, at this time when the world is under such an environmental threat, we must not forget what animals and plant life have to say to us. Mentoring relationships can be developed through long, deep engagements with places, through close interaction and observation of animals, and through understanding of the broader ecosystems that encapsulate the limited human frame of understanding.

Are You Mentoring for Social Justice

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