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Course 4, Chapter 3 - Developing a Sensitive Eye

Module by: Fred Mednick. E-mail the author

Figure 1: Sometimes patterns emerge; at other times, we can create patterns
Notice Patterns
Notice Patterns (geometricfenceBW.jpg)

A Teacher's Story

A college student was thinking about changing her major from literature to the study of world religions. The student's only hesitation was that the religion department's mode of inquiry was to look at each tradition through the eyes of those who practiced that religion. This was a stretch for the student who was used to the academic model of "breaking it down and breaking it apart; comparing and contrasting to find inconsistencies, etc." She was not used to "looking at the world through the eyes of another" as a mode of inquiry.

One day, the student went to see the world-religions professor during office hours. With trepidation, the student ventured, "I'm thinking about changing my major from literature to the study of world religions. I am concerned, though, that if I do, I will lose my critical eye."

"Maybe you will lose your critical eye," said the kind professor. "Instead, maybe you'll develop a sensitive one."

Tools and Approaches

How can we help our students develop "a sensitive eye"?

First, we must understand the culture from which our students come.

The key to the Teacher's Story is that the professor understood the "academic culture" from which her student came: the "break it down and break it apart; comparing and contrasting to find inconsistencies, etc." mode of inquiry.

The professor knew that the very method of inquiry the student had been accustomed to was not a useful method of inquiry for "seeing", appreciating, or celebrating cultures.

The student had to develop a muscle for "looking at the world through the eyes of another" and the student had to experience why and how this was a useful mode of inquiry.

The Believing Game

In many ways the model of inquiry that the professor was suggesting in

A Teacher's Story is aligned with what Peter Elbow calls "The Believing Game." Peter Elbow's believing game "emphasizes a model of knowing as an act of constructing, an act of investment, an act of involvement..." (p. 173, Writing Without Teachers). It is about "understand[ing] ideas from the inside."

Whether offering feedback to students about their writing (as Elbow does in his book) or in studying about cultures, we can take the route of "the doubting game" - the predominant western model that includes "argument, debate, criticism, and extrication of the self" as a way of knowing - or we can take the route of the "believing game," which challenges us "to listen, affirm, enter in, try to put ourselves into the skin of people with other perceptions and asks us to share our experience with others."

Breaking Through

What does it mean to "listen, affirm, enter in" when we speak of multiculturalism?

For starters, the important thing is to encounter other cultures either in person (through our students); through reading; or through technology. Then, we must ask curiosity questions (not killing questions) and we must listen with a "sensitive eye"; that is, in a way that helps us to see the world "through the eyes of another."

To take it one step further - to truly "listen, affirm, enter in" to another culture - we must eat their foods; dance their dances; sing their songs; learn their stories.


Usually, you just click "Next" to go to the next page. When you finish a section, however, (as you're about to do when you finish reading these two paragraphs), you need to click on the "Outline" button, which is on the bottom, right-hand side of the page. Look underneath the blue bar and click on the word "Outline."

When you click on "Outline," a screen will come up that will show you the outline for Course 4. Look for the next section to read and click on the first topic in that next section. For example, when you get to the outline now, look under the next section called "To Know as We are Known" and look for the first topic in black lettering called "Overview." Click on "Overview."

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