In preparation for Andrea and I's adventures in community education with younger audiences I sought out the wisdom of Paul Kivel, a well known anti-violence educator who some of you might have gone to see speak at the Universal Truth's conference this last spring. Kivel worked as part of the Oakland Men's Project developing curriculum and a practical guide for educators, parents and counselors around the issues of interpersonal violence. The guide which is a "multi-racial step by step program which empowers young people to resist abuse and prevent violence in their relationships" has been really useful in preparation for Helensview. One thing that I wanted to share with everyone is Kivel's essay on why the Myth and Fact activity in DV and SV presentations can be problematic.
He writes that "This method of teaching, although popular, has several serious problems. First, it immediately makes the participants wrong and the facilitator right and the expert. Second, it assumes that misinformation is the root of people's poor choices and experiences of being abused, and that giving people new information will allow them to make changes, ignoring the emotions and structures that hold their beliefs in place. Third, this method makes it difficult to connect the scattered myths into a coherent analysis---to show, for example, how sexism and racism don't exist in isolation but are part of a social framework of power and violence. Finally the use of myths and facts can mask the racism of the facilitators and make it difficult to deal with such complex issues as sexual violence and racism in effective ways".
This was the first time that I had read criticism of this type of activity and found his insight useful in thinking about alternative ways to deliver this information and to explore it in presentations. He writes that "A good alternative to just giving me new information would be to explore with me how I have learned a whole set of information". Kivel makes the point that it's not just the information that we have to explore around certain sets of thinking but the emotions that help to maintain the set of beleifs. Some of the questions he offers up in order to facilitate a larger conversation and to move toward processing the information are: How have I learned a whole set of information? Where and when and from whom did I learn it? How has it hurt me? How is it used to oppress us all? What fears are attached to letting go of these beleifs, and how can I get support for continuing to work on this after the facilitator leaves?"
If you want to read the whole article, just let me know and I'll make you a copy.