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Philosophical Meanderings

I am a Cultural Tourist. Are you the Tour Guides?

I am sitting at my computer attempting to articulate profound thoughts and the TV show my wife is watching intrudes.

The show is about Kevin Costner’s making of the film Dances with Wolves. Those interviewed claim “authenticity” (as defined by those telling the story) was an underlying concern of all who were involved in the film, investors and actors alike.

My mind wanders to last fall when I attended a presentation by Ernie LaPointe, member of the Lakota Nation and the last surviving lineal grandson of Sitting Bull (you can find out a little more about him here: bio ). I learned, at least insofar as Dances with Wolves is concerned, that he is also a movie critic.

Profundity eludes me. I give up on the chase and take a mental tour.

I am sitting in my living room, speaking with an older man who says, “You look like an Indian.” After the slightest pause, he adds, “It’s because of your hair. It’s getting long.” My mind boggles.

I should not have been startled by dad’s comment. He has known me since I was three days old, and I have known him for quite some time – he sometimes says the oddest things. Still, it seems we do not know one another at all. I bite my tongue.

I continue to gather wool, wondering why I always seemed to be “the Indian” while playing Cowboys and Indians. Perhaps you never heard this politically incorrect joke: The Lone Ranger and Tonto were out gallivanting and the Lone Ranger, seeing savage Indians all around them exclaimed, “We’re surrounded!” Tonto’s reply was, “What ‘we’, pale face?”

I wander off.

I recently recognized my stepsons have amazing vocabularies and are quite articulate. I was surprised. They had resisted the hope my wife and I had that they would go the college route – we were afraid they would turn out “stupid”.

The youngest explained things to me, reminding me that shortly after we had become a family I had given both he and his brother dictionaries – not the pocket or electronic type, but large “I belong-in-a-library” volumes that require one to consider words above, below and across from the definitions. I had also done something the privileged are able to do. I bought books for them.

Every month or so we would take a trip to local bookstores and I would pay up to $100, plus or minus, for whatever they choose. I would leave them to wander about as they picked what that wanted to read. The only caveat was that I would not buy books of the comic genre (I became disabused of my anti-comic bias through a course in semiotics).

I am a tourist of a Brave New World.

I wonder what “the children” sent to “knowledge-in-a-box” places we call schools think about their experiences. Will they be exposed to the culture and knowledge with which they are already familiar? Will they see replication of their home lives? Will they be molded to fit? Will they enjoy their tours?

I slow down to my last stop. I am a privileged tourist of the Coöp and vicariously experience, through the written word, a bit of the culture of teacher-dom.

I wonder if teachers fear they may only be tour guides who will sometimes be ignored as students wander off to view other sights of interest and at other times be listened to intently and questioned deeply. I wonder if the tours they give are scripted, whether the students will be indelibly marked, and whether the students will leave their own imprints on the tour guides.

I am inspired. I wonder if I should become a “teacher” or simply remain a tour guide in “real life” who is busily engaged in unlearning what previously seemed so important for me to learn.


About Brent Snavely

A construct of upbringing and society, holder of a BS and JD and most recently an MA, I have practiced law more than 20 years. It has been said "The Truth shall set you free" -- I believe it will, but only if it is Your Personal Truth. Parrhesia may be humankind's only hope (see,


2 thoughts on “I am a Cultural Tourist. Are you the Tour Guides?

  1. I hope teaching becomes more like travel agency – and less like maintaining a destination resort.

    We should be servants to learners and learning, not masters.

    Glad to hear about the comic book change of heart. Any favorites?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | December 5, 2011, 1:48 pm
  2. Chad,

    I can picture you as a travel agent helping students pick their routes by providing helpful suggestions — a far better approach than offering a single tour package for all. Despite good intentions (and being mindful of what we pave the road with) we adults have no conception of where kids really want to go or where they will actually wind up when we systematize their learning.

    As I become more “for real”, I re-awaken to the power of comic books and strips. I was shocked to recall the impact reading Walt Kelly’s ‘Pogo’ had on me as a youth. There are a large number of powerful and relevant graphic novels out there. Right now, due to the circumstances in the Middle East, I favor ‘Persepolis’ as an eye-opener.

    Best wishes,

    Posted by Brent Snavely | December 6, 2011, 8:02 am

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