Joining Better Networks, Part 2: Learn To Listen With Humility

This is the second chapter of an ongoing series of posts about how to become a welcomed member of productive networks. Humans are social animals, and always cluster into various groups. Unless you’re a hermit, you’re a member of various (sometimes overlapping) groups. These networks vary in size, purpose, and effectiveness.

Most African-American women need to find and join new, healthy networks in the global village. Because their current all-Black networks tend to be accidentally chosen, non-reciprocating, and often downright destructive. However, to join productive networks, most African-American women will need to change the way they approach networking. Most importantly, they will need to change their understanding of the entire process.

During Part 1, a reader named TertiaryAnna anticipated this chapter in the series when she said,

I think it’s also important to seem moldable. If a newbie looks like a potential protege, that can be more helpful than a newbie who is inflexible and can’t be taught. You don’t want to appear both inexperienced and unteachable.

This sums up the point of today’s chapter. To succeed, you have to be willing to take the initiative. But you also have to be willing to take direction at times. You have to be willing to listen with humility.

Part of the reason there is little mentoring among African-Americans is because most modern African-Americans make it clear that they are unteachable. People are not willing to be bothered with functioning as elders and mentors for most modern African-Americans because nobody can tell them anything. They’re too arrogant to listen, and it’s too much of a hassle to engage with them. On any level. Meanwhile, they whine about how nobody’s mentoring them or “passing the baton to them.”

Their modern attitude is contrary to traditional, “old school” African-American culture. Those African-Americans who are 40 or older are The Last Generation of African-Americans in so many ways. First, during our youth we weren’t passively waiting for somebody to pass a baton. If you became aware of something that needed to be dealt with, you simply started doing something about it. This is how many antiapartheid student organizations got started when I was in college. We didn’t wait for older activists to pass batons to us.

We followed up our initiative by actively seeking elders to consult with. We sought the advice of activist elders. And when activist elders told us something, we listened! We asked them (particularly those who were Black South Africans) what they felt were the most useful things we could do. And then we did the things they had suggested. This is another way that we are The Last Generation of African-Americans. We are the last generation who were raised to listen to people who were older than us. Not to automatically buy into whatever was said, but to listen and evaluate. We were raised to understand that folks who were several peer groups older than us had some life experiences that we could benefit from.

We also understood that since we were the ones benefiting from them choosing to share any information with us, it was on us to work to understand the message. They had no obligation to tell us anything, much less life-enhancing information. It certainly wasn’t their responsibility to sugarcoat or spoon-feed the life-enhancing information they shared with us. I was reminded of this during a recent exchange I had with a commenter,

Commenter: I think you are misinterpreting what I’m saying. By calling women’s choices foolish and since many women have already made such “foolish choices,” you disincentive people from listening to what you have to say.

Me: [Commenter], I like a dissenter with a sense of humor and grace! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! . . . First of all, common sense dictates that it’s on the person who needs help to listen, NOT on others to tailor life-saving and life-enhancing information to suit the foolish person’s fancy.

Keeping in mind the above common-sense observation of “who needs what from whom,” I’m not interested in begging fools to listen to common sense. That’s the 1st underlying premise that’s wrong. This notion that folks who need help (= folks who need or want something from others) should be begged to listen to literally life-saving and life-enhancing information. That’s crazy. NO! To paraphrase an old Jackson 5 song, the life they save by listening might be their own! I don’t care if they listen or not—it’s no skin off my nose if they choose to perish in the wilderness of voluntary ignorance.

The “take heed when a potential mentor person pulls your coat” mindset is long gone from most modern African-Americans. There are a handful of under-40 African-Americans that have “old school” values, but they’re not representative of their peers. Far too many African-Americans who are now in their 20s and 30s (and poorly raised by my generation and our older siblings, I will add):

(1) Somehow believe that other people are supposed to beg them to listen to common sense and experience; and tailor the common sense advice so it tickles the younger person’s ears.

(2) Get angry when you tell them anything.

(3) Somehow believe that their (structurally limited, by not having lived on the planet as long) limited life experience is the equal to that of any elder’s or potential mentor’s life experiences.

(4) They don’t listen; but yet they want elders to chase behind them and rescue them from the bad results of their choice not to listen.

Umm . . . no. The real world does not work like this. If you want to join better networks and secure helpful mentors, you have to listen with humility at times.

**ADDENDUM** Let me give a concrete example of what I mean. During the Spare The Rod And Destroy The Child post I repeatedly mentioned that I have never seen the “we don’t ever spank the children” parenting style succeed in raising decent children. I’m in my 40s and I’ve been actively paying attention to how relatives and others have been using various parenting styles for roughly the past 25 years. If you’re a “never spank children” believer who has only been alive for 25 years, that observation I mentioned should have raised some concerns for you.

Let me make it plain: I’ve been watching this “never spank the children” parenting style repeatedly fail for as long as some of you zealous “never spank the children” believers have been alive! I’m not saying that this observation by itself should change anybody’s mind. But it should have given some of the “never spank” believers who haven’t been on the planet as long a reason to step back for a minute. And think. But I noticed that not a single one of the 20-something, or even early 30s “never spank” believers gave that 25-year-long observation the weight or consideration that it deserved. That “as long as their entire lifetime” observation didn’t cause them to slow their roll for even a millisecond. They blew off that observation as if it had never been said. This kind of refusal to pause and listen for a moment is exactly what I’m talking about in this post.

That kind of behavior is not how I was raised. When somebody has been watching a particular phenomenon for as long as I’ve been alive, I listen. I don’t automatically believe or agree with them; but I do step back, sit down, and listen.

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25 Responses to “Joining Better Networks, Part 2: Learn To Listen With Humility”

  1. ZooPath says:

    Being able to gracefully and gratefully accept constructive criticism is such a gift. If someone corrects you before you have a chance to make the same mistake twice, they are doing you a favor. I’ve learned so much by listening to mentors and wise elders. Even enemies teach you something because you learn to not give people an “in” to clown you again.

  2. ZooPath,

    You said, “Being able to gracefully and gratefully accept constructive criticism is such a gift. If someone corrects you before you have a chance to make the same mistake twice, they are doing you a favor.”

    Indeed. And if you really want to shorten your learning curve, you’ll ask elders to give you constructive criticism. When I first started practicing, I asked several of the veteran court reporters to please, please, please tell me if they saw me doing something goofy or just not up to snuff in court. The court reporters are in a position where they see the full range of what attorneys are doing in courtrooms throughout their jurisdiction. The good and the bad in terms of trial practice.

    I’m not saying that it’s “fun” listening to constructive criticism, or opposite opinions from elders or mentors. In fact, it can be excruciating at times. But the discomfort of the future problems that you might avoid by listening usually weighs MUCH more than the discomfort of listening with humility.

    The court reporters’ constructive criticism drastically shortened my learning curve. Within a couple of weeks, they pointed out that:

    (1) I wasn’t speaking loud enough in court; I was still speaking at a normal conversational volume. Meanwhile, more experienced opposing counsels’ voices were booming off the walls and carrying throughout the entire courtroom.

    (2) I was using verbal fillers like “uh, umm…” while questioning witnesses.

    And assorted other verbal “tics” that we all have in normal conversation. Their constructive criticism made my presentations much more crisp than they would have been without their help. I’m eternally grateful to those veteran court reporters because I see plenty of trial lawyers who still have lots of verbal “tics” after years of trial work.

    Addendum: I knew that if I wanted the court reporters to help me tighten up my trial performance, then it was on me to make their experience of giving me constructive criticism as pleasant as possible. That meant being consistently gracious and appreciative when they told me about something subpar that I was doing. Most people are not going to fight with you in order to help you.

    So, I didn’t debate with them about how maybe it’s okay for me to talk at a normal volume because Joe Blow Who Has Been Practicing For 15 Years is also doing it. I didn’t argue about how many is too many verbal fillers. When they told me something, I listened. And thanked them for telling me. And after mulling over their comments, I decided that they were absolutely right about all of it.

    Expect Success!

  3. Karen says:

    Dear Khadija,

    There is not much I can add as you have summarized the issue quite well. Over time, I have learned that all too many young people are not open to learn or even listen to those who have life experiences to share.

    It has been refreshing at this blog to have a forum where we can exchange info and share our experiences.

    It is not that it is expected for someone younger to just take the info as the only way to do things but to sit back a moment and give it consideration.

    Often, we are sharing things in order to help smooth the way. When it is summarily rejected without pause, it truly shows how much as been lost when it comes to valuing and honoring those with wisdom and experience.

  4. Dear Karen,

    Before I say anything else, let me mention how delighted I was with the questions asked by a young reader named RevolutionaryAndJoyful during Part 1 of this series.

    You said, “It is not that it is expected for someone younger to just take the info as the only way to do things but to sit back a moment and give it consideration.”

    This is why I was so pleased with her questions about what could a newbie ever bring to a mentor’s table. The questions she asked showed that she was actually listening, and considering what was being said. Her questions were MUCH more productive than if she had blindly co-signed the things I said in the essay. What she did is the sort of productive behavior that I’m encouraging others to do.

    So, to be clear, I’m not talking about agreement here. I’m talking about how important it is to actually listen with enough humility to actually consider what the potential mentor is saying.

    You said, “Often, we are sharing things in order to help smooth the way. When it is summarily rejected without pause, it truly shows how much as been lost when it comes to valuing and honoring those with wisdom and experience.”

    This is what struck me about the 20-something and early 30-something “never spank” true believers from the earlier conversation. They summarily rejected—without a moment of consideration— my longer-than-their-lifespan observations. They summarily rejected—without a split second of consideration— the teacher-commenter’s observation that I quoted in the essay.

    It would have been different if these 20-something and early 30-something “never spank” zealots had asked some questions about my observations, such as “Are there any common traits with the parents that you’ve seen fail using the ‘never spank’ method?”

    But, no…they summarily blew it all off. I’m mentioning this because I watch 20-something and early 30-something AA attorneys do the same thing at work. Nobody can tell them anything. On those rare occassions when an older attorney takes the time to pull their coat, they summarily reject whatever the person is telling them.

    Let me mention something else for (angry) younger readers to consider. Sometimes people have multiple things they’re checking for during a particular conversation. With younger AA colleagues, sometimes I’ll deliberately say something they’re almost certain to disagree with. Just to see how they handle opposing or displeasing viewpoints. I watch to see if they listen and consider other viewpoints. I don’t mentor or help younger people who summarily reject other perspectives.

    I’m not going to argue and fight with somebody to try to help them. I let the non-listening younger AA attorneys stumble, fall, and damage their careers. Several of them have gotten fired. Oh, well. At the point when they’re being written up and disciplined by management, then they whine about how nobody’s rescuing them. Well, “the rescue” had already been attempted (and rejected) long before—at the earlier point when older colleagues tried to tell them something!

    The other thing that I find curious about all of this is how different it is from the attitude that I had as a teenager and young adult. As a teenager, it always tickled me that so many younger people have the false self-image of themselves and their peers as being more open-minded than older people. I never understood how they came to that (unduly self-flattering and false) conclusion.

    Because starting at around age 16, I noticed that there are VERY FEW groups of people who are as close-minded, conformist and herd-like as most teenagers (and later, college kids). All while believing that they are free-thinking individuals. Amazing. And anyone who had the nerve to not conform as a teenager (or college kid) got to see how vicious these “open-minded, free-thinking, individuals” are in enforcing conformity.

    Expect Success!

  5. Hodan says:

    I agree with you its important to learn from our elders, despite the facts some in my age group assume they won’t be able to relate. I agree that if you are not willing to take constructive criticism and examine your held believes, there is little personal growth.

    I learned a lot from my mom and the older generations that I grew up surrounded by, it taught me self respect, independent thought and life learning lessons. On the other hand, sometimes one only learns these life lessons through trials and errors.

    Qs: Do you think the older generation can learn something constructive from the youth? Why or why not?

  6. Professher says:

    I tried to offer a young woman an insider opportunity to take advantage of a “members only” event recently. I offered to take her on my time and at the expense of my pleasure (these are my PALS; I wanted to have fun, not mentor). This was going to be a Step 1 that others simply don’t have (unless they are gifted by others in the same way I intended to gift her).

    A couple of days before the event, she began telling me about how many contacts she has, how many social organizations she’s connected to, and even mentioned a more senior “big name” in my profession — into which she’s trying to break — as IF. I didn’t think twice. I told her “You know what? This is likely beneath you. Why don’t you just START at Step 2?” She didn’t like that one BIT. Now, Step 2 was also something I “gave” her that others don’t get (unless they, too, have an insider sharing). Do you know that sent an e-mail, telling me she disagreed with me and went on and on about what SHE “wanted???!” I was even willing to reconsider my withdrawal of the invitation IF she caught her error, came correct, and decided to submit to the process and be a mentee. She didn’t.

    After her “radio silence” and Step 1, I e-mailed her detailed info about the upcoming Step 2. Do you know that she hasn’t indicated anything along the lines of appreciation? I cannot tell you how utterly WEAK I regard her to be. I should’ve taken the hint when she couldn’t even initially approach me to ask if I’d mentor, but sent her husband. WEAK! Color me disgusted.

    On the other hand? I reconnected with a Black woman who’s my age peer but senior to me in my field. She is VEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRY persnickety, particular, abrupt, gruff, and quirky. I want her to give me information about her unique success and path. As kuh-razy as she seemed at any given moment (no examples; just think “check your ego at the door”)? I lapped UP her knowledge and wisdom and submitted to her stuff. Can I tell you how many goodies she offered that had nothing to do with what I sought?

    I am GRATEFUL. Which is something I think is also in short supply these days. She didn’t have to give to me; she did. I didn’t expect her to; I hoped she would. RESPECT THINE ELDERS, in age and in deed/experience!

  7. Zoopath says:

    I think so, especially if the younger person in question has been successful at something that has consistently eluded the older person. There are a lot of older women that I think could stand to take dating advice from me.

  8. Karen R. says:

    I think overall many “young people”(Aw Lawd..I am in my 40’s) are lacking in basic wisdom. If someone has forged a path before you, there are lessons that can be learned from them. Period. I can think of ways that this is true professionally, spiritually, and relationally. For example, before my husband and I started a family, we sought out parents whose parenting styles and well-behaved children we admired for advice (they didn’t spare the rod). They had been on the path before us so they had lessons we could learn and we LISTENED.

    I think of my mentors who are successful information marketers in the field of real estate. They have already been successful in where I am trying to go, so when they give me a little gem of insight to their success or give me advice/instruction, I listen. They have been where I am trying to go. There have been times when the advice I was given seemed counter-intuitive, but I still listened. I trust based on our overall relationship, that any instruction given to me is meant to help me and not to harm me.

    Many of the examples listed above reinforce for me the idea that many of our youth are lacking in basic insight and are uncouth ie. awkward and clumsy in manner, ie boorish!!! It used to be that one could assume that a person with a college degree had some semblance of manners and could appropriately “read” a situation and behave appropriately professionally, relationally, etc. Those days are LONG GONE!! What we have now is a situation where youngsters aren’t willing to submit and who don’t know that they don’t know. As a result, they constantly shoot themselves in the foot, sometimes with permanent negative consequences.

  9. **Warning: VERY Long Reply-LOL!**

    Hodan,

    You said, “Qs: Do you think the older generation can learn something constructive from the youth? Why or why not?”

    Yes, depending upon what the subject is.

    However, I generally don’t care for that sort of question because I don’t like what’s typically motivating it—an ego-driven refusal to recognize one’s actual position(s) relative to various others in one’s society.

    Hodan, I’m NOT saying that this motivation is what prompted you to ask that question. But I know how AAs “do,” and that’s what’s usually lurking beneath that particular question when AAs ask it.

    I think it’s best if I discuss this in a somewhat roundabout way.

    First, I’ll quote from a writer who expresses my concerns much more eloquently than I ever could. In his book, The Broken Chain: Reflections Upon The Neglect of a Tradition Aftab Malik talks about the difference between:

    (1) the traditional methods and more importantly, etiquette of transmission of Islamic knowledge from learned scholars to their students;

    (2) versus the modern rise of instant, self-proclaimed “internet scholars” who presume to split theological hairs that the medieval scholars left alone. And the chaos and mutual enmity that these “I’ve read an online compilation of hadith [the Prophet Muhammad’s—PBUH—sayings and actions], so now I’m going to give religious verdicts” type of Muslims are creating on campuses and in mosques.

    The author talks at length about “adab” (manners, etiquette). [Similar to the etiquette of training in traditional Asian martial arts, numerous Muslim writers have discussed an overall Muslim etiquette for how one behaves while seeking knowledge.] Mr. Malik said,

    I am referring to the loss of adab. Adab does not simply imply ‘manners’ but more so to discipline—the discipline of body, mind and the soul. Adab in the true sense of the word includes the discipline that assures the recognition and acknowledgement of one’s proper place in relation to one’s self, society and community; the recognition and acknowledgment of one’s proper place in relation to one’s physical, intellectual and spiritual capacities and potentials; the recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that knowledge and beings are ordered in degrees, levels and ranks.

    I am not trying to infer a hierarchy nor want to draw the parallels where oppression, exploitation and domination are legitimised, and certainly not in the English sense of the word. In stark contradistinction to this, I point to the ranks and degrees in the order of creation, the cosmic essence and the display of divine wisdom. Allah is The Just and He fashions and deploys all of His creation in justice so that we might recognize and acknowledge His just order.

    It can be clearly seen that Allah Most High in the Qur’an has differentiated between selected Prophets and others; between the earlier believers and the later believers; between times and places; between those whose belief holds complete sway over them and those who admix their faith with sins . . .”

    The Broken Chain, pg. 16. (The author goes on to give numerous Quranic citations in support of this assertion.)

    Now let me mention some things that I recently discussed in an email to a friend. I told her,

    When I hear talk of “edpunks, edupreneurs,” and a “do it yourself university,” I have a mental picture of all these non-degreed individuals demanding that their ill-informed and uninformed ramblings be given the same weight as those of literate people who have actually studied, and read books on a regular basis.

    This is what has happened with the local public school councils in Chicago. You have crack heads and other welfare recipients who are voted onto these neighborhood LSCs (local school councils) being allowed to set educational policy in their neighborhood schools!

    This madness was framed as “empowering” AA parents. How could the majority AA Chicago Teachers Union stand against “Black empowerment” and “community control”? They would have been tarred and denounced as tools of the racist White oppressor—who never wants to see Black folks govern themselves.

    The few sensible local AA politicians found themselves in the same “how can I be seen to stand against community empowerment” trickbag. Anybody with half a brain sends their kids either to one of the magnet public schools, or to private schools.

    The crack head LSC parents and their AA community activist supporters even came up with a slogan to justify this: “Parents are teachers too!” Which is an insult to every real teacher. Many of whom (like my relative) invested the time and energy into getting advanced degrees to better service the children.

    Guurl . . . that mess was printed up on Chicago Board of Education outreach literature! One crackhead parent actually repeated that cr*p to my [relative who’s a teacher] during a parent-teacher conference. [My relative] had told her about how her child was not meeting whatever (professionally-determined) standards for his grade level. At which point this welfare recipient replied that, “Parents are teachers too. I feel that DeShawn is doing okay because blah…blah…blah.” [!!!]

    . . . This “parents are teachers too” ignorantly arrogant attitude is widely shared [by the illiterate local AA masses]. Right now they only “show out” with this attitude when it comes to female-dominated professions like teaching. But once the ivory tower completely crumbles, they’ll start making the same assertions with other fields. Other fields where it’s equally critical to have qualified people in place. I can hear it already: “Parents are doctors too!” And I can see how that “do it yourself university, edpunk” talk would support this type of crazy attitude. . .

    Like I said above, depending on what it is, there are things that older people can learn from younger people. Some people are younger in chronological age, but yet more advanced in their mastery of a particular skill set.

    Some people are unwittingly more advanced in particular skills without any conscious mastery. Lately, I’ve been amazed by the inherent wisdom that many babies and toddlers unwittingly have—that is, before they get older and lose much of that. For example, babies are comfortable with, and take delight in, all parts of their bodies. They like and enjoy their toes and everything else that we learn to perceive as funny-looking.

    Many babies, once you give the bottle to them, forget all about their previous discomfort and crying. Unlike older children and adults who dwell on problems even AFTER they’ve been solved, most babies focus on the present moment of, “It’s all good because I’ve got the bottle right now!” Obviously, the babies and toddlers I’m describing aren’t elders, and they don’t consciously realize the value of what they’re doing. But there are still things one can learn from watching them.

    Be that as it may, I’ve never really liked the sound of most “adults can learn from teenagers/elders can learn from juniors” statements or questions. It usually has the same underlying vibe as the “Parents are teachers, too” statement coming from the crackhead parent that I described earlier. Which is the ego-driven refusal to understand one’s actual rank in relation to others in various contexts.

    NO, parents are not “equal” to actual teachers in knowledge or skill in educational methods. NO, the white-belt student is not “equal” to the martial arts instructor, or the black-belt students in martial arts knowledge and skill. And it would be insulting for the white-belt student to ask the instructor whether or not the instructor feels that there are things about that particular martial art the instructor can learn from the white-belt student. Probably not. Yes, if the white-belt student is also a doctor, then the layperson martial arts instructor could learn some things—related to medicine—from that white-belt student.

    However, if the white-belt student is fixated on trying to assert some self-proclaimed “equality” to the instructor in terms of knowledge and ability in that particular martial art, then he probably shouldn’t be studying under that instructor. And THIS inappropriate attitude is what’s driving most of those “Can adults learn from teenagers/elders learn from juniors?” questions and/or statements.

    It doesn’t diminish a person to give people their “props.” Modern AAs are too arrogant and insecure to give people their props. Which is why they have a fixation on trying to “prove” that nobody is superior to them in skill, knowledge, or length of observation. About anything. Which is why they can’t listen to anybody.

    Expect Success!

    • Zoopath says:

      @ Khadija, you said: And it would be insulting for the white-belt student to ask the instructor whether or not the instructor feels that there are things about that particular martial art the instructor can learn from the white-belt student. Probably not. Yes, if the white-belt student is also a doctor, then the layperson martial arts instructor could learn some things—related to medicine—from that white-belt student.

      ITA!!! Thanks for clarifying the unseemly message that can lie beneath (not that Hodan was) the whole “learning from young people” question. It really annoys me when people think that because they’re an expert in their fields that they automatically have to know every damn thing about another completely different field. Soooo annoying. I’m like Bones from Star Trek: Damnit (whomever), I’m a doctor, not a (whatever the occupation we’re discussing). I’m completely fine just knowing how to do my job not everybody elses! Also, I find that I can preemptively decrease any feelings of animosity that someone may have towards me because of my blessings by acting or being genuinely interested in what *they* do for a living and asking questions. This technique works best with people who actually work for a living because they take pride in their work and want to talk about it. I have a bit more trouble being relatable to my cousins who aren’t self sufficient and/or 3rd generation WIC recipients. In that case I just coo over the cute babies.

      • ZooPath,

        Yes, that “parents are teachers too,” and “as a white belt, the instructor and black belts can learn from ME” behavior IS annoying.

        Expect Success!

  10. Professher,

    May God bless you for having the patience to continue to reach out. I would have been totally through with the young woman after the Step 1 caper. {shaking my head at what you described}
    ________________________________________________

    ZooPath,

    Like I said above, depending on what it is, there are things that older people can learn from younger people. Some people are younger in chronological age, but yet more advanced in their mastery of a particular skill set.
    _________________________________________________

    KarenR.,

    You said, “Many of the examples listed above reinforce for me the idea that many of our youth are lacking in basic insight and are uncouth ie. awkward and clumsy in manner, ie boorish!!!”

    They weren’t properly raised; which is the fault of their 40-something and older parents.

    You said, “It used to be that one could assume that a person with a college degree had some semblance of manners and could appropriately “read” a situation and behave appropriately professionally, relationally, etc. Those days are LONG GONE!! What we have now is a situation where youngsters aren’t willing to submit and who don’t know that they don’t know. As a result, they constantly shoot themselves in the foot, sometimes with permanent negative consequences.”

    I think there’s been a cultural shift in terms of Americans in general. A shift that misconstrues ANY recognition of differences in rank, level, or skill as somehow an assault on the less-skilled or knowledgable person’s self-esteem. There’s a widespread, hysterical desire to believe that “everybody’s the same.” In some ways, everybody’s more or less the same. In other ways, people are NOT at all “the same” and people are not “equal” in skill or knowledge.

    That affirmation of this “Being uninformed is just as valid as being informed” notion is a large, overt part of the appeal of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Modern AAs have our own twisted version of this type of thinking.

    Expect Success!

  11. Parents are teachers too.

    OMG. I had to read that twice to make sure I read it correctly. What on earth are they thinking? The most interesting element of this is that they’ve turned something that’s basic commonsense into an empowerment slogan. Of course parents are teachers: We teach our children everything from table manners to how to ride a bicycle. But we are not trained educators and I would never insult my son’s teacher in such a manner. I actually taught my son to read and write starting when he was three. I bought a curriculum from an actual education firm and went for it. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. If I hadn’t had immeasurable respect for educators before then I certainly did afterwards. I consider myself my family’s doctor as well, but I certainly wouldn’t imagine that my skills are equal to someone who has spent decades learning the profession. That’s insane.

    These type people are one of the reasons I had to get out of social work. I’ll never forget a situation where I had a foster child who’d disrupted every placement she’d ever been put in. And the advocate turned to me and said, “Well we know a disruption is a system failure.” What could be more crippling than that? To say, in front of this then 17 yo, that no matter what she did it was a “system” failure. Telling these people that their teaching skills are equal to those of a trained educator is setting the whole community up for failure. It’s inviting a level of disrespect that will undermine the school system irreparably.

  12. Roslyn,

    You said, “OMG. I had to read that twice to make sure I read it correctly. What on earth are they thinking? The most interesting element of this is that they’ve turned something that’s basic commonsense into an empowerment slogan.”

    Yes, a cheap, false, and UN-earned self-regard-building slogan.

    You said, “Telling these people that their teaching skills are equal to those of a trained educator is setting the whole community up for failure. It’s inviting a level of disrespect that will undermine the school system irreparably.”

    And it has. This “Parents are teachers, too” mess, along with giving in to activist-parents’ demands for social promotion (passing children despite the fact that they have NOT mastered the material for their grade level) has already destroyed the Chicago Public Schools. I don’t know how many years they’ve been using this slogan. But I found a reference to it dating back from 1998:

    Parent resource center

    The Chicago Public Schools’ Title I Parent Resource Center runs the Parents are Teachers, Too program in 30 schools, offering workshops on topics that principals believe would benefit parents. These include interviewing for jobs, self-esteem, motivating children to learn, conflict management and getting the most out of a parent-teacher conference.

    Workshops are conducted at other schools upon request and may be tailored to students, parents, teachers and administrators. In addition, the center has a lending library and a variety of equipment parents may use, including photocopiers, laminating machines and computers. And it supplies materials for banners, announcements and the like.

    http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/index.php?item=441&cat=35

    It’s beyond ridiculous. But it’s yet another manifestation of the mindset discussed by this post.

    Expect Success!

  13. These include interviewing for jobs, self-esteem, motivating children to learn, conflict management and getting the most out of a parent-teacher conference.

    Wow. Y’all must have a lot more money there than we do here. We don’t have the resources for this type stuff here. This goes back to what I said over at WAOD. You can’t raise grown folks, and even if you could, nobody in their right mind wants to see their hard-earned money go to such an endeavor.

    • Zoopath says:

      That’s what the guys who founded Harlem Children’s Zone (they only black charity I give to because they can show demostrable results) discovered when he was setting up his charity. After 18, interventions don’t really stick and you can’t show long term results. That’s why he focuses his interventions on the children. ITA with what you posted on WOAD, you cannot raise grown folks. One of the primary reasons for that is the topic of this post! It’s like casting pearls before swine, giving CPR to a corpse or wrestling with a pig.

  14. Roslyn,

    You said, “Wow. Y’all must have a lot more money there than we do here. We don’t have the resources for this type stuff here.”

    Not really. What we do have is an entrenched culture of patronage and kickbacks.

    Except for a brief and vivid interregnum composed collectively of the Bilandic (2 years), Byrne (4 years), Washington (4.5 awesome years), Orr (8 days) and Sawyer (1.5 years) administrations, for 42 out of the last 55 years, Chicago has seen a Daley on the Fifth Floor of City Hall. This is because the entire Chicago political apparatus has been set up to accomplish one goal; to keep someone named “Daley” on the Fifth Floor of City Hall until the Rapture.

    . . . Sure, a political ecosystem that stays hermetically sealed decade after decade breeds corruption like uncollected garbage and hot days breed maggots. But for all the yadda-yadda about the corrupt Democratic Party politics in Chicago, it is pure, raw Capitalism that makes it possible. Because the heads of the most powerful corporations, trade groups and civic institutions like the predictability of operating within the reign of a single monarch rather than the messiness that comes with either genuine reform or system-wide power struggles.

    They’re buying stability, and in that transaction the Daley family symbiotically serves the local business community and the Illinois Political Combine in exactly the same way Fulgencio Batista served Standard Oil and the Mob.

    http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2010/07/and-father-runs-through-it.html

    There are also entrenched problems with state politics. Illinois Is Broke.

    Expect Success!

  15. Hodan says:

    Khadija: “Hodan, I’m NOT saying that this motivation is what prompted you to ask that question. But I know how AAs “do,” and that’s what’s usually lurking beneath that particular question when AAs ask it.”

    Hodan: None taken, its hard to offend me most times. I agree that its rare for a young person to have the wisdom and knowledge of those ‘learned’ adults. I would use the example of Ali bin Abi Dalib or Ibn Abbas (both cousins of the prophet PBUH). The latter being a major scholar @ age 10, gifted child so to speak. It was very uncomfortable for many older scholars to be near him, because they often felt he overshadowed them. However, with knowledge must come humility and humbleness. We are after all students of life and knowledge and will go to our grave still seeking to learning and grow, God willing.

    Khadija: “I think it’s best if I discuss this in a somewhat roundabout way.

    First, I’ll quote from a writer who expresses my concerns much more eloquently than I ever could. In his book, The Broken Chain: Reflections Upon The Neglect of a Tradition Aftab Malik talks about the difference between:

    (1) the traditional methods and more importantly, etiquette of transmission of Islamic knowledge from learned scholars to their students;

    (2) versus the modern rise of instant, self-proclaimed “internet scholars” who presume to split theological hairs that the medieval scholars left alone. And the chaos and mutual enmity that these “I’ve read an online compilation of hadith [the Prophet Muhammad’s—PBUH—sayings and actions], so now I’m going to give religious verdicts” type of Muslims are creating on campuses and in mosques.”

    Hodan: Man, you touched on an important nerve that is screwing up our community, regardless of ethnicity and nationality. I call them ‘Instant Scholar/Fatwa’ giver, a dangerous and toxic element within the Muslim community. Its like every one is suddenly a learned scholar, something it took 20 yrs or more for real scholars, before giving out Islamic jurisprudence. And let’s not even enter into the ‘Takfeer’ disease, where some take it upon themselves to call people Muslims or out of Islam, a forbidden tradition in Islamic history.

    Khadija: “The author talks at length about “adab” (manners, etiquette). [Similar to the etiquette of training in traditional Asian martial arts, numerous Muslim writers have discussed an overall Muslim etiquette for how one behaves while seeking knowledge.]”

    Hodan: Indeed, Rasulluaj (PBUH) stated in Saheeh Hadith, ‘Haya (def. adab/having humility and a sense of decency or shame) is part of Imaan/Faith’. Whomever have no shame can do and say anything.

    So, yes ‘Adab’ was one of the first thing any student learned under the old tradition of Islamic transmission of knowledge. We really lack that now a days in mainstream society and among Muslims and how we interact with each other. Not to mention, the older person have no compassion for the younger one, and the youngster have no respect for their elders.

  16. Faith says:

    This has been an important post for us to consider. I’ve noticed the know-it-all attitude from many young people in general. The same could be said for the serious conversations we have regarding dissecting and discarding other useless ideologies that many black women hold onto.

    When it’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable how often do people complain or lash out to the point where further conversation is derailed? Aside from the Pavlovian response that Halima specified. Despite the fact many things don’t work people still want to recycle the same excuses as solutions. I’ve remained silent for a few convos simply because it may be a difficult junction in the road but I also know that trying to obfuscate isn’t going to resolve anything.

    I recently accepted what I intended to be a short-term project reoganizing the office procedures for a company. There were a quie a few red flags raised with the way the department was being run but since I wasn’t planning on working with them for long I thought I could grin and bear it.

    Well I was felled by a 20-something employee who complained after 2 days that they felt I was “judging” them as not being qualified for their job and the manager who already lacked professionalism to begin with (i.e warning me she liked to curse a lot and if I couldn’t accept that there’d be a problem) cut the project short.

    Mind you this 20-something’s person’s job was not directly related to overhauling the office procedures and in fact would have been made more efficient by cleaning this up/getting new software/etc they boviously decided they didn’t want any even suggesting a change was necessary. Even though it had been acknowledged it needed to be done.

    I never said anything to this person that could be construed as a put-down. It was her “feelings” that took precedence – which was really about her ego and not wanting to learn anything from someone with more experience. I can reorganize offices in my sleep because I have 12 years experience doing so. I had clearly pointed out ways to reorganize for efficiency but always posed it as a suggestion the organization could consider and let them decide what they were willing to implement.

    This supervisor had a bit of an attitude with me as well and she hadn’t been there! I told her I completely disagreed of course and the only communication failure was in setting boundaries. I was livid but I guess I should have known better. I thought I could function normally (but with caution) in an insance asylum. When someone who’s supposed to be in a supervisory position relies on zodiac signs and Myers-Briggs instead of solid HR-related standards the type of chaos I was initially tapped for reigns.

    Sometimes it is best to be quiet.

  17. Hodan,

    You said, “Man, you touched on an important nerve that is screwing up our community, regardless of ethnicity and nationality. I call them ‘Instant Scholar/Fatwa’ giver, a dangerous and toxic element within the Muslim community. Its like every one is suddenly a learned scholar, something it took 20 yrs or more for real scholars, before giving out Islamic jurisprudence. And let’s not even enter into the ‘Takfeer’ disease, where some take it upon themselves to call people Muslims or out of Islam, a forbidden tradition in Islamic history.”

    All of this is yet another reason why I’ve become estranged from most Muslims. For me, it’s just not worth the stress and aggravation to be around most of them. It’s a shame, but the situation is what it is.
    ________________________________________________

    Faith,

    You said, “This has been an important post for us to consider.”

    I believe so. With the next post, I’ll take a probably unexpected, but related, detour. 🙂

    You said, “When it’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable how often do people complain or lash out to the point where further conversation is derailed? Aside from the Pavlovian response that Halima specified. Despite the fact many things don’t work people still want to recycle the same excuses as solutions. I’ve remained silent for a few convos simply because it may be a difficult junction in the road but I also know that trying to obfuscate isn’t going to resolve anything.”

    Indeed. This post is an example of the (misdirected) lashing out. This woman had to chase down her absentee baby daddy for child support. But yet, her irritation is directed at BWE bloggers’ views about how so many AA women end up becoming baby mamas instead of wives. The mind boggles.

    You said, “Well I was felled by a 20-something employee who complained after 2 days that they felt I was “judging” them as not being qualified for their job and the manager who already lacked professionalism to begin with (i.e warning me she liked to curse a lot and if I couldn’t accept that there’d be a problem) cut the project short.

    . . . I never said anything to this person that could be construed as a put-down. It was her “feelings” that took precedence – which was really about her ego and not wanting to learn anything from someone with more experience.”

    {groan}

    You said, “I thought I could function normally (but with caution) in an insance asylum.”

    The inmates usually won’t let anybody function normally inside the asylum walls. {sigh} Good luck and God bless on a speedy escape from there!

    Expect Success!

  18. Faith says:

    Excuse my typos from the last entry. I removed myself from the insane asylum since I had voluntarily checked myself in, lol.

    The post you linked to from the unmarried mother blogger was a “wow” moment. So she’s read the BWE blogs but rejects the message because she “can’t” learn anything. Then why even bring it up?

    Not to mention the fact no one has condemned unmarried mothers..or overweight and obese black women either. These are just very touchy subjects for any number of reasons. The same as calling into question black people’s fascination with position and high profiles versus having real authority. The same way you specifically discussed the “hair flippers” and made distinguishing points about AAs and other blacks. I still call into question that other blogger’s true motives after she went into attack mode over it.

    Whatever we decide to with information after it’s introduced is up to us. I’d much rather have these conversations than not when the purpose of having them is to improve the overall quality of our lives.

  19. Faith,

    You said, “I removed myself from the insane asylum since I had voluntarily checked myself in, lol.”

    Thank goodness! LOL!

    You said, “The post you linked to from the unmarried mother blogger was a “wow” moment. So she’s read the BWE blogs but rejects the message because she “can’t” learn anything. Then why even bring it up?”

    Guurl, wasn’t that crazy? She brought it up because she’s angry with BWE bloggers. And I suspect the reason she’s seething over BWE blogs is because we’ve been dissecting the scams that so many AA women have bought into. It’s painful to realize that you were tricked. It’s more comfortable to lash out at those folks who are disturbing your slumber/coma.

    Expect Success!

  20. tertiaryanna says:

    Khadija,

    Thank you for highlighting my comment, but I’m sorry to admit that I had to learn that lesson the hard way! A person whom I esteem very highly told me that, although she cared for me and my welfare, it was often difficult to advise me because I appeared so defensive against her advice.

    The sad thing was that I really did value her insight, but my demeanor didn’t show that at all. It was a hard critique to take, but why should someone fight or beg me to listen to their valuable input?

    It also made me wonder, if this is what I’m showing to the people I truly admire, what must I look like to the people I don’t know well (but may need one day?)

    I was lucky with her: our relationship was strong enough that her critique wasn’t made in anger, but in correction. But that really was luck, and it’s not a mistake I’d like to repeat.

  21. Tertiaryanna,

    You’re welcome, and thank you for providing a lead-in comment to this chapter.

    I think it’s fair to say that, at some point, we’ve all inadvertently done things with mentors/potential mentors that were UNCOOL. I know I have! 🙁 There are always mistakes. My hope is to keep moving forward. To advance into making new and more subtle mistakes, instead of repeating the same old, overt ones.

    Expect Success!

  22. […] Khadija Nassif on February 6th, 2011 The willingness to listen with humility, to accept correction, and to engage in self-correction are qualities that I value. In that spirit, […]