The Re-emergence of Healthy Masculinity: A Necessity in these Times

In this unusual historic moment, when public figures can ascend to powerful political positions, despite evidence of heinous impropriety in their private lives, it is important to discuss the antecedents to these troubling cultural trends, and to outline our school’s commitment to healthy emergence within ourselves and our students. 

During my trip to Bioneers Conference with the high schoolers on their last expedition, I attended a number of powerful workshops. I heard one particular presentation by author Kevin Powell, which was transformative for me personally. Powell is a graceful and beautiful man who has a commitment to challenging the toxic masculinity of North American culture. Upon my return to Manzanita, I felt a renewed commitment to examining my own life, and to considering the ways in which I listen (or fail to listen) to the women and girls around me. 

Since its inception, Manzanita School has been committed to disrupting the cultural outgrowths of empire, including anthropocentrism, which views the human to be above all other life forms. It is this false perception of the supremacy of the human that has caused the ongoing devastation of the natural world. Other behaviors related to empire, domination, and unhealthy expressions of power are patriarchy, colonialism, and misogyny. One of the more general definitions of misogyny is, “ingrained prejudice against women.” During MNZ’s first courses in Human Growth & Development this year, students in grades 8 thru 12 were taught about misogyny, and it’s impacts on North American culture. My lessons to the 8th through 12th graders reviewed the statistics on violence against women, including the fact that 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime. This is compared to 1 in 71 men who will experience sexual violence. We also learned that over 90% of sexual assault and rape victims are women, and that every 9 seconds a woman in the United States is beaten. This means nearly 10,000 women are assaulted every day. While at Bioneers, I heard the term ‘rape culture’ used again, an expression that had previously felt too strong to my ears. It doesn’t feel that way anymore. 

Wikipedia tells us that, “Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.” The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention at Harvard University concludes that, “rape culture… manifests in the print, music, and film media we consume, the language we use to talk about sex and relationships, and the laws that govern our public and private spaces. Rape culture promotes sexual objectification and coercion, lack of agency over one’s body, and dismissal of feminine-presenting or gender nonconforming individuals.” 

Wikipedia also states that, “Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.” 

The Manzanita Parent-Student Handbook includes this language: “The students of Manzanita are taught…to have mutual respect and tolerance, and to understand the value of cooperation….Bullying behavior is unacceptable at Manzanita, including verbal or physical abuse, teasing, ridicule, and any other mean-spirited behavior targeting a student.” (page 14). 

At Manzanita, we believe that many of our north-American cultural attitudes towards women and the female-bodied, and the behaviors which emerge from those attitudes, are central to the perpetuation of ‘rape culture’ and support the ongoing violence against women and girls. We also believe that young boys in America, very early on in their lives, are exposed to attitudes which, though seemingly inconspicuous at times, are in fact toxic and lead to behaviors that seed the conditions for the prevalence of violence against women in our culture. Furthermore, at Manzanita, we believe that the teachings of contemporary nature-based peoples, in particular the Odawa of Michigan and Ohio, offer healthy and ancestrally-validated alternative to cultural beliefs that feed rape-culture. For example, the Odawa prioritize male-bodied social responsibilities as being those related to protecting and providing. Domination of others, especially through greater size or strength, is antithetical to their world-view. 

At Manzanita, we will continue to pay special attention to any kind of aggression or bullying among students. We will be uniquely sensitive to bullying by male-bodied students against female-bodied students, as it recapitulates inequitable power dynamics faced by women in social, political, and cultural spheres of our country. Such bullying is often facilitated through perceived power differentials between men and women related to gendered physical size as well as cultural preferencing of males. 

Bullying and aggression by male-bodied against female-bodied, in schools and in society, is an especially pernicious form of domination, as it is taking place within a historically patriarchal society infected with the dynamics of rape culture. Each such act of bullying can be seen as representing another stone in the foundation of rape culture. Stated differently, each time a male-bodied person resists the temptation to aggress against or bully someone who is female-bodied, he is disrupting patriarchy, and every time he protects or defends someone who is female-bodied, he is dismantling rape culture. This is a collective necessity of our times; the interrupting of empire, colonialism, and the misogyny born of these historical traumas. The cultural expressions of empire are neither healthy nor organic to human beings, and their unraveling is as inevitable as it is imperative. We are all implicated in this vital work. 

The DNA Journey

Enjoy this interesting and provocative ‘reveal’ about DNA testing with a group of participants in a project run by the Danish company Momondo.

We asked 67 people from all over the world to take a DNA test. It turns out they have much more in common with other nationalities than they thought ...

It’s easy to think there are more things dividing us than uniting us. But we actually have much more in common with other nationalities than you’d think.

At momondo we believe that everybody should be able to travel the world, to meet other people, and experience other cultures and religions. Travel opens our minds: when we experience something different, we begin to see things differently. Share this video, and help us spread the word – and open our world.

Quote of the Day from Aldo Leopold

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949

Some Musings About Systems Theory

In this video, Dr. Paul Astin, founder and head of Manzanita School discusses systems theory as it relates to our trimester I unit of study on Earth Systems Science.

Three years ago, in October of 2015 (during Manzanita’s second year), Dr. Paul gave a Speaker Series talk on “Systems Theory.” This important field is closely linked to our understanding of Earth System Science, and how our living planet and the biota regulate the atmosphere on earth. Systems thinking is an emerging field with tremendous implications for how we live and how we solution crises we are facing. Dr. Paul covers this area, as well as exploring other new ideas in this comprehensive presentation. Please enjoy.

Excerpt from Documentary “Mother Nature’s Child”

A small group of high school students explore the wilderness of the eastern United States during a 6-month semester at Kroka Expeditions. Led by Kroka founder Misha Goldman, they discover peer connection, self-sufficiency, and themselves.

We have posted this video before. It is an excerpt from the remarkable documentary called “Mother Nature’s Child,” and this clip profiles a small expeditionary school in New Hampshire called Kroka Expeditions. The connections between and among this small community of adolescents is visceral and inspiring. Manzanita has two alumni from Kroka, and a third student is currently there. 

Quote of the Day from Walt Whitman

“When I heard the learned astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; Till rising and gliding out, I wandered off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Looked up in perfect silence at the stars.”

- Walt Whitman, Poet

Beyond the Anthropo-Scene

The renowned “anthropologist under Amazonian influence” and indigenous rights activist Jeremy Narby, author of such classics as The Cosmic Serpent and Intelligence in Nature, considers the intelligence of living beings and wrestles with his own culture’s anthropocentric concepts. In his view, constantly affirming the centrality of humans gets in the way of respectful living in the biosphere. Rethinking human-centered concepts such as “nature” and “anthropocene” can cast light on our relationship with the living world. Because the words we use influence how we think, we gain from examining them with care.

Please enjoy this talk by the brilliant Canadian anthropologist, Jeremy Narby. In his 20-minute presentation, from the 2017 Bioneers Conference, Dr. Narby discusses the ways in which indigenous peoples in the Amazon experience the intelligence of the more-than-human world.

Quote of the Day from Jeremy Narby

"The Asháninka people speak of plants and animals as intelligent beings with personalities and intentions, and who have kinship with humans…Biology has confirmed human kinship with other species, and has shown that all living beings are genetically related. The more that science looks at the natural world, the more intelligence it finds there… There is strong evidence that numerous species think, feel, remember, and plan, and have language-like abilities and systems of communication. This has led some western thinkers to move away from constantly affirming the centrality of human beings.”

- Jeremy Narby, Anthropologist

The Land Owns Us

Belonging to the Land versus ‘Owning the Land’

Bob Randall, a Yankunytjatjara elder and traditional owner of Uluru (Ayer's Rock), explains how the connectedness of every living thing to every other living thing is not just an idea but a way of living. This way includes all beings as part of a vast family and calls us to be responsible for this family and care for the land with unconditional love and responsibility.

How Trees Secretly Talk to Each Other in the Forest

What do trees talk about? In the Douglas fir forests of Canada, see how trees “talk” to each other by forming underground symbiotic relationships—called mycorrhizae—with fungi to relay stress signals and share resources with one another.

What do trees discuss? In the Douglas fir forests of Canada, trees talk to each through underground symbiotic relationships called mycorrhizae, where fungi relay stress signals and share resources with one another. The new discovery of these communication networks is teaching us more and more about the intelligence of the more-than-human world. Enjoy this video, and may it inspire our growing biocentric (versus ‘anthropocentric’) worldview.

Quote of the Day from Ralph Metzner

“The idea that the spiritual and the natural are opposed or that spirituality must always transcend nature is a culturally relative concept not shared by non-monotheistic religions or traditional societies. In indigenous cultures around the world the natural world is regarded as the realm of spirit and the sacred; the natural is the spiritual. From this follows an attitude of respect, a desire to maintain a balanced relationship…-in short, sustainability.”

- Ralph Metzner, “The Psychopathology of the Human-Nature Relationship,” 1995 

BBC Earth's Life Story, Courtship, Pufferfish

The most extraordinary display of all is created by a tiny, drab male pufferfish. He builds a spectacular submarine 'crop circle' in the sand. It's the most perfect and complex structure created by any animal. The crop circles were only discovered in southern Japan in 1995 and the fish architect was only identified in 2011.

The Pufferfish (order of Tetraodontiformes) has a truly majestic kind of courtship, creating a massive ‘mandala’ on the sea floor with its fins. This project takes nearly a week of non-stop effort in which it works day and night. The result is evocative. Please enjoy this short video on an incredibly artistic fish.

Quote of the Day from Alfred North Whitehead

“There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays to the devil…Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude.”

- Alfred North Whitehead, Mathematician, 1929

How Quantum Biology Might Explain Life’s Biggest Questions

How does a robin know to fly south? The answer might be weirder than you think: Quantum physics may be involved. Jim Al-Khalili rounds up the extremely new, extremely strange world of quantum biology, where something Einstein once called “spooky action at a distance” helps birds navigate, and quantum effects might explain the origin of life itself.

This is very much worth watching! Dr. Jim Al-Khalili is a noted quantum physicist, and has been recipient of several prestigious science awards. He is an important contributor to public discourse within the emerging scientific field of “quantum biology.” His work is helping to open new frontiers around the role of quantum phenomena in our understanding of the question “What is life?” This 16-minute TED talk is beautiful and profound. 

Quote of the Day from Dr. Lisa Lattuca

“Disciplines, it now seems clear, are powerful but constraining ways of knowing. As conceptual frames, they delimit the range of research questions that are asked, the kinds of methods that are used to investigate phenomena, and the types of answers that are considered legitimate.”

- Dr. Lisa Lattuca, Creating Interdisciplinarity: Research and Teaching among College and University Faculty

World-Class Explorers Help Scientists Collect Elusive Data

Adventure Scientists equips partners with a global network of trained volunteers — from mountaineers to surfers — who collect research-grade, hard-to-reach data in extreme environments.

We had an inspiring day of learning and tending in Stewardship this past Thursday. We had rich discussions about microtrash and it's impact on the watershed both locally and worldwide. Students helped serve the land by spreading out to their stewardship zones and picking up as much trash as they could. We ended the day with some fun skits about microtrash impact and we started the day with the video above. Please watch this quick 2-minute video. We hope it sparks a conversation with your child about their impact on the world. 

Excerpt from Documentary “Mother Nature’s Child”

A small group of high school students explore the wilderness of the eastern United States during a 6-month semester at Kroka Expeditions. Led by Kroka founder Misha Goldman, they discover peer connection, self-sufficiency, and themselves.

As noted above, one of our beloved high school juniors, Rubey-Grace Carey (who also happens to be Ms. Jennifer’s daughter), is traveling to Ecuador as part of Kroka Expeditions, based out of New Hampshire. Watch this excerpt from the documentary “Mother Nature’s Child,” which featured this segment about Kroka’s Vermont Semester. You will get a strong sense of the deep community this program generates for participating youth. Enjoy!