What I found to be most valuable about the course was the importance and centrality given to lived experience. Not only does paying attention and simply listening to others' stories move us toward potential social justice, it brings us closer as human beings. As I am exiting my undergraduate career it was crucial that I remember that although I have read a small amount -- don't get me wrong I consider myself a nerd in many respects and do adore reading -- book knowledge often can come along with all kinds of elitism and exclusion, alienating people from the idea that they might know something because they have lived. Having the opportunity to listen to stories -- whether in watching footage from South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission or visiting homes in the township of Delft -- was extraordinarily powerful. It has made me seriously consider whether or not (or where) I want to go into the academy, which typically (depending upon the department or specialty) devalues knowledge coming from experience rather than books. I've been leaning more and more recently toward education work in my future, but that could of course take many forms. Things may change over time; however I'm convinced that the right kind of genuine education -- sharing the humble curiousity which children so easily employ -- in any case is vital to sustaining respect for others. As Thomas Szasz wrote,
Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily.
and bell hooks:
Thanks to Nate's instruction and openness, in addition to the many people encountered on this trip, I've found the above practices to be ever so necessary in everything we did on this wonderful course. I have come to more concretely appreciate the fact that learning when done right must include everyone's voice, or else we continue moving away from any meaningful relationships and bury ourselves in ego and ignorance.