Literacy and Liberty

Great Britain Feminist Dissent During WWI
Posted by: , November 12, 2018, 6:22 pm
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I am writing my investigative project on Dissent during WWI in Britain. In Britain before WWI, war was thought of as a game, and a great honor. Most citizens believed the war was necessary, to protect the country from ‘barbaric’ Germans. Two of the most famous women dissenters during the war, were Charlotte Despard and Sylvia Pankhurst. Meanwhile, there were powerful men who were conscientious objectors. These dissenters all had turns in jail. I have several questions that I have to narrow down into a focus. I want to understand how the dissent during the war changed people’s minds. Specifically, did the dissent change the narrative of the war effort in the government? Did dissenting opinions reflect the opinions of the public? How did dissenting opinions target the issue? How did dissenting works change people’s minds? How did the dissent influence the narrative after the war? How did the dissent influence different groups of people? What kind of dissent was most effective? I remember one form of dissent that particularly struck me. During the war, there were two options for writing home. Either have your letter censored, and if it’s radical, not sent home, or circle one of a set of options on a pre-written card. One CO who was being taken to be killed for refusing to fight, chose the automatic card, and circled the letters to spell out a message saying where he was.

Old West Memorial
Posted by: , October 3, 2018, 5:16 pm
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I went to the Old West Memorial Hall, commemorating Dickinson students that died in wars in the United States army. Memorials often seem like a glorification of war to me, which I am starting to think is part of the point. I used to tell people shocking stories of how I was treated when I was a kid, because it was dramatic, and I sometimes turned my sadness into excitement to cope. When I went to the memorial with its beautiful and grandiose metal engravings, and read the names of students that were just like me, who with conviction fought and died in WWII and the civil war, I felt excited, because I am distanced from the horrors of war.

Simultaneously, I feel a great distance from parts of the war memorial, and the United States flag. One of the plaques honored those who served in Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea. These students gave up their lives because they were told that they were fighting for peace. And yet, in Korea Iraq and Vietnam combined, we killed millions of civilians. Where is the plaque honoring them? In the Native Guard, the men were not recognized or buried. I think in both of these situations, the acknowledgement of the non White-Americans is missing.

What does it take?
Posted by: , September 21, 2018, 7:21 pm
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Throughout pre-school, I had very mixed feelings about reading and writing. I liked when my mom told me stories, I enjoyed making swirly cursive letters in my copybook. I had an assignment to free write about my great grandmother who had passed away, and I distinctly remember the experience of feeling powerful. But, when I went to elementary school, my enjoyment of literacy abruptly ended. In third grade, there was a competition to see how many books you could read. Students would ask adults to sponsor them, and the money went to charity. I was excited because of the competition, but I was relieved when I finished the one book I managed to get through. 

At one point I cried because I had to write a paragraph. I remember this because my younger self found the chore of writing so painful. In retrospect this is amusing, but after reading Frederick Douglass’ story, I see a failing of our society. It took me years to see reading and writing as the privilege and gateway that it is, and glimpse the freedom that it creates. How could such an incredible privilege come to be seen as a chore, or even a punishment? Does it take us not having something, or having to fight for something, to be appreciated? 

Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 7:59 pm
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I was apprehensive when I first sat down in the uncomfortable stacking chair that marked the beginning of convocation. Part of the seat was on an incline, forcing a point on my back into the chair. The speech by President Ensign began with the usual rhetoric; how exciting it is that the class of 2022 is here, and how we are the future. I was looking in the other direction, when one of her sentences caught my attention. To my disbelief, President Ensign was talking about truth seeking. She went on to explain the grayness of truth, the difficulty it takes to find it, and our duty to search. Up to that point, I had never heard a speech about truth from an authority member. I was finally in a place that valued the same things I valued.

Later on, President Ensign stated that we have made great world progress, using poverty statistics, as if it was that simple. The Native Americans would be considered way below the poverty level, because of their way of life. Is it progress that their land was taken over by the United States, and filled with an economy and industry? What about the destruction of our environment? As I listened to her argument, instead of anger, I felt excitement. Her speech reminded me that in order to fulfill my duty at Dickinson, I had to say things that Dickinson may not be pleased with. As I put my pen on the paper to sign my name into the Dickinson records, I felt a twinge of nervousness. I was signing a contract not only to the school, but to myself. In that moment, I was promising that I would do everything in my power to move the world further, even if that means going places that others don’t want to.