Mary Beth Writes

This very small story has been lurking in my mind for decades and I have been thinking about it again, just recently.

One afternoon I overheard my dad complaining to my mom about schoolteachers. I suppose they were having a busy week in the print shop when a teacher from the high school dropped off, late in the day, a print job that needed to be completed in less time than was convenient. I’m guessing it was the school newspaper.

Because the teacher delivered the project “at the last minute” it was inconvenient for my parents to fit it into the flow of work in the shop. Dad was irritated and said that teachers didn’t have to meet deadlines like businesspeople did. Schoolteachers didn’t have “common sense.”

Usually he respected school and teachers so that complaint stuck in the “I don’t get this” compartment of my brain. (It’s a big compartment.)

Common Sense is an enormous phrase in American lingo, and it is as judgmental as hell. We use it to say we understand something that others don’t. It sounds as if we are regular folks here, just doing our job while rolling our eyes at people who don’t know as much as we do about whatever it is we think we know.

I grew up believing that having Common Sense was pretty much the 11th commandment. If a person doesn’t have common sense they better be a child or have “issues” so that we can protect and pity them. Otherwise, to be a full-fledged American adult one better not be a fool. And the person who decides who has common sense and is or isn’t a fool – is us.

I am just realizing that this phrase is one of the masks that Privilege wears.

Male Privilege is what men say about women – “Oh those lovely ladies and their wacky ideas of how to run things. They have no common sense; you can’t put them on the board.”

Privilege is how we belittle immigrants and their inconvenient (to us) accents and their crazy way of celebrating this holidays. “Those people wear clothes that don’t match and their kids study too much/are in gangs and they just don’t have practical American sense.”

Privilege is how we disempower people who are not our generation. “Oh, those kids with all their techy toys and no common sense.”

White Privilege is where we say that we aren’t racist, but the way those Black people are acting isn’t logical, is foolish, they have no common sense.

At my jail job, part of my employability workshops included how to make a simple budget. Sometimes a guy would say that he would never buy secondhand clothes for his kids. I’d point out the obvious problem with his common sense – he was in jail, wouldn’t his kid rather have him around?

Last year I was tutoring a little kid who was wearing new boots that had given to her by her dad who was seldom actually in her life. Her eyes shone. She was as happy as can be about her boots from her daddy. Maybe there is a loving sense in new clothes that is different from common sense.

Common Sense is a fraught phrase that allows us to judge others. We should be very careful hearing and using it.

 

Comments

I was able to receive your post just fine. So some things worked as planned ... thank goodness.

One of your best!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks, Jack! Len is so intrigued that you say you like it... that he's going to read it now... Hah.

I read this last night. It is food for thought. I guess this is like the cultural bias that exists in many “ intelligence tests”. I know about that but never considered that what I thought was “ just common sense” could be biased, too. Thank you.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

The Badlands

4/29/2022

The Lakota call this land "mako sica" which translates into "badlands." They and many other wanderers and settlers named it this because it is so hard to travel through.

Wade in the Waters

4/28/2022

This is a small announcement that could be a lot of fun for some of you.

For the past two years Len has been a volunteer Wisconsin stream monitor. Once per summer month Len and another guy (with whom he has become friends) check water quality and stream-bed life at a few local sites. Before they started, they received clear but uncomplicated training in order to understand what is being looked for and how the testing equipment works. And they received hip waders!

Who's in the Mirror? Representation Matters

4/19/2022

Who’s in the Mirror? Representation Matters

Old story, I’ve probably mentioned it before: In 1977 I was visiting a friend in Ohio for a weekend. We went to her United Methodist Church on Sunday which is in itself amazing since we were two single 20-something women who had been out drinking the night before.

In just spring

4/13/2022

We know what the “Signs of Spring” are, probably because we did so many "Signs of Spring" art projects in grammar school. We know what to notice. Green shoots. Birds singing. Kids playing outside with kites, jump ropes, and jacks.

Why do we celebrate Signs of Spring but not Signs of Winter? Hmmm? Maybe Winter ought to look into this and make a complaint?

Meantime, Karen K sent these photos. Look at these lovely pale-but-not-boring colors and hues.

The Day I Moved Into Chicago

4/8/2022

Franc and I had a conversation about men who won’t or don’t explore their feelings over in yesterday’s comments section. If you want to chime in that topic is still wide open like a swanky whale swimming through swales and swells, swilling for krill. (I don’t know where that came from either. Follow the muse.)

Also, I suggested that if you have photos of Spring where you live to send them to me and I will post them. David sent this from Raleigh, NC. Drying puddle. Yellow aura of pollen. Yup, it’s Spring.

Tag Cloud

9/11 17 minutes 500 Words AARPtaxes AAUW abortion Acadia accident Accountable Advent anniversary antlers apples appointments Arrows Ashland August Augustine baby Badlands balance Baldwin Barkskins Beauty Becky Becoming Esther Berry birthday bistro BLM BookReport books boy scout Bread BrokenDays BuyAngry Cabeza de Vaca Cahokia calendars Canada cat romance cats cello Chicago China Choosing Christmas cilantro Cinnabuns circus clouds Clowns clutter Colonialism comet ComfortZone CommonSense community consumerism Cops Corvid-19 Courage Covid-19 Crazy creditreport creosote CrimeShows death Debate December DecisionFatigue decluttering democracy depression Destination Today Detroit Didion disasterprep dogs dollhouse Dreams Duty Easter eBay Eclipse EmilyDickinson Esquipulas exit polls eyes Fable FairTrade family farmer firealarm Fitness Five Flexible flu Fort de Chartres frame Franc FrancGarcia friends frugal Frugality frustration Ft.Ticonderoga Gannets Garden GarfieldParkConservatory Gaspe genius geode GeorgeFloyd ghosts gifts girls gorgons GovernorThompsonStatePark granola groceries Guatemala gum guns happiness HaveYouEver? hawks healthcare Healthinsurance heart HelleKBerry heroes hike History home HomeRepair Honduras Hope hurricane impeachment Innkeeper integrity InternetPrivacy Interview InviteMe2Speak James Baldwin Janus JoyceAndrews Judy JulianofNorwich justice Karen Lamb LangstonHuges LaphamPeak laundry LeeLeeMcKnight lemming Len Light Lincoln Little Women LockedOut Loki loneliness Love Ludington Macaw macho Manitoulin MargaretFuller Maria Hamilton Marquette marriage Marsden Hartley masks Mayan MayaWorks meme Memories men Middlemarch MilesWallyDiego MindfulChickens Mistakes MLK moon Mother MothersDay mouser movies museums must-haves Mustapha Nancy Drew New Mexico New York City Nomadland Ocotillo OnaJudge OscarRomero osprey Outside oximeter Parade mayhem PastorBettyRendon Paul Hessert PDQ Penny persimmon photos Pi Pies pineapples poetry Preaching privacy Protest Quern quest Questions Rabbit holes racism recipe recipes Remember RepresentationMatters Reruns responsetoKapenga Retirement rhubarb rime RitesofPassage Roses Ruth SamaritanWoman Sanctuary Sandhillcranes Santuario de Chimayo SaraRodriguez sculpture Sermon ServantsoftheQuest sewing Shepherd Shontay ShortStory shoulder sick sickness Slower snow Social Security SofritoBandito solstice South Dakota SpaceShuttle spring square feet staining stele Stereotypes StoryStarts stress Survival swim taxes teenager thankgsgiving Thanksgiving TheBridge TheMaid ThePerpetualYou ThreeBillBoards Three Things ThreeThings TidalBore TimeBeing toddler Tom tortillas Trains travel Traveler Tubing turtle Twilight Bark Tyrone Ukraine UnrelatedObservations Up North urgency vacation vaccine Valentines vanilla Vietnam VivianWokeUpDrowning vole volunteer WalkingAndSeeing Wampanaog war WarsanShire weather weaving wedding whines WhyAttendChurch Willa WillaCather Wisteria
Ad Promotion