My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

Tell Me Why?

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September 5, 2013

Dear Readers,

Question authority.  This two word sentence has always excited and incited me, if for no other reason than to determine the answer to that age old question, “Why?”  Perhaps I should clarify, not, “Why is the sky blue?” kind of questions.  Rather, “Why do we want to impeach President Nixon?” kind of questions.  Yes, I am old enough to remember the Watergate era, although just barely.

As a young girl, I was a precocious chit.  I became interested in current events at around the age of 8.  Although I didn’t quite understand all of the nuances of the answers, I would still ask my dad the why questions that filled my head.  And my dad would graciously and patiently answer them.

Through the years, I began to notice that my why questions always fell into one distinct category:  justice for all.  Although one of the cornerstones of our society, justice for all has never quite been America’s zeitgeist.  Oh sure, we come as close as anyone.  However, we generally tend to fall a little short.

I believe the reason that I directed my why questions to society at large was because I was never allowed to question authority in the society that was my family.  And truth be told, I’m sure my dad found it so much easier to discuss with his daughter, the whole of society’s injustices as opposed to discussing family dynamics.  “Why are we fighting in Vietnam?” was infinitely easier to answer than “Why do I have to learn how to make tortillas and the boys [my brothers] don’t?”  I told you I was precocious.

Fast forward to me raising my own family.  I believe I responsibly handed down the concept of Question Authority to my own children.  If there was a why question on my children’s lips, I allowed them to ask it.  And that includes questioning some of the rules I laid down.  Now, dear Readers, notice that I did not say, “Challenge authority.”  No, not challenge but, question.  Whereas questions can be respectful inquiry, challenge insinuates disrespect.  I taught my children how to do the former.

I was generally open to discussing the whys of my parenting with my children.  Make no mistake dear Readers, ours was not a democratic familial society.  No, it was definitely a monarchy, and there was but one ruler, yours truly.  However, I always surmised that if my children knew the why of some of my directives, they would be more likely to accept them.  And as my children grew into adolescents, they became quite adept at questioning me with the intent of trying to change my mind.  They grew up watching me, their authority figure, logically answer their why questions so much so that they picked up a few pointers.

Incidentally dear Readers, I am frequently wrong.  In fact, I tend to believe that most authority figures are frequently wrong.  However, not being questioned lulls them into a false sense of security that they can do no wrong.  And when ordinary citizens are not allowed to question authority, injustice ensues.  This is especially true with the teacher/student relationship.

In the kingdom that is my classroom, my students are the subjects to my benevolent dictator.  However, I always spend a good deal of time schooling them in the art of questioning authority.  And I have to tell you dear Readers, I am most proud when my students question my mandates, only to have me see the error of my ways and change my mind, thus, change my rules.  As I said, I am frequently wrong.

Such was the case today, dear Readers.  I had laid down the law in the first few days of the semester.  However, my students were far from the law abiding citizens I had hoped they would be.  So, to quell the uprising, I recently suspended all privileges.  Most of my students acquiesced.  However, there was a lone rebel in the crowd who had taken my Question Authority lessons to heart.  And she became the leader of the Student Rebellion.

Myra (not her real name) respectfully questioned me as to why I had to revoke certain privileges.  After I thoughtfully and carefullyexplained my position, we both realized that there was no logic in my argument.  Even though most of her classmates wanted her to, Myra didn’t challenge me, she simply and respectfully questioned my authority.  And she was right.  And I was wrong.

That was yesterday.  Today, I humbly went before my classes and apologized for the injustice.  I also thanked Myra for being brave enough and respectful enough to question me.  I proceeded to tell my classes that they had her to thank for my changing my mind.  I was very proud of Myra today.  Although, I think she was even more proud of herself.  And it sure did make me smile when I overheard her telling a group of her classmates, “She told us we could question her.  You guys should listen to Ms. Kunzmann.”  Yes, indeed they should.  Peace, ~v.

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