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.

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A-Z Barbara

Barbara 1/26/2023

A-Z means I’m writing short takes on random topics and I’m going in alphabetical order. I love this quote: “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

That’s the spirit I’m pursuing: Undisciplined, irreverent, and original.

A-Z, Alaska

1/25/2023 

I’ve never been to Alaska. I’m sure I’d love it but going there is not a big dream for either Len or me.

However, this. When our son was around 12 he developed a crush on all things Alaskan. Kid who lives in a ranch house on a Midwestern cul-de-sac wants to get lost in tundra and mountains with moose and wolves. Yup.

At first he just talked, dreamed, read books, and watched shows about Alaska. Then, at 14 he got a part-time job as a janitor at a vet clinic and he kept that job until he went to college. It was a good fit for a kid not drawn to homework.

A to Z

1/25/2023

I am not exactly depressed, but I can whip up a pretty good glum at almost any moment. There have been about three sunny days since Thanksgiving, and four colds, and I’m feeling it. How about you?

We can’t even properly whine. Not with the Atmospheric Rivers of Doom in California, and tornadoes in the south. And all the other glum and hateful news.

Sara Kurtz & Healthcare by Zip Code? Really?

1/22/2023 

Many of you have been very generous in the past. Please think about making a donation to the GoFundMe account of Sara Kurtz. Donate here. 

Who is Sara? She’s a friend of my niece Susan.

Len Explains Fusion Energy

The photo is of Lisa Meitner. The BFF of one of our kids is (quite likely) a great grand niece of this amazing woman. 

...

MB: Len occasionally explains very complicated science things to me or our kids in such a way that we actually understand it. One of our kids asked him what the big deal was about fusion. Len wrote this and I thought some of you might like to read it.

Long live curious people and long live nerds. 

 

Almost. Two Years Later

1/6/2023 

 I remember where I was two years ago this afternoon. Do you?

I was writing. I knew I had another hour to just work by myself and I was happy about that. I love no interruptions.

Len was downstairs. I heard him turn on the TV. We NEVER watch TV during the day so it was weird when he called up to me, “You should come down here. Something’s happening.”

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