Saturday, May 10, 2014

Geography and Mother's Day

"Pardon the randomness of this question.  Does India celebrate anything akin to Mothers' Day?" was the question from one friend in an email.  My neighbor, who has healthily rebounded from a Code Blue emergency when she was hospitalized, asked me yesterday whether India has something similar to Mother's Day.

In both these situations, I was tempted to launch into a spiel on the very concept of cultural diffusion that we discuss in human geography.  It was a wonderful opportunity to engage them on the constructs we use, like contagious diffusion, relocation diffusion, and hierarchical diffusion.

But, better sense prevailed. Especially when only a day earlier I had been reminded about effective teaching by Steven Pinker in this interview in the Harvard Gazette:
[Important] is an ability to overcome professional narcissism, namely a focus on the methods, buzzwords, and cliques of your academic specialty, rather than a focus on the subject matter, the actual content.
Pinker goes on to add this, in which we can easily substitute "the public" in place of "students" and "Mother's Day" in place of " the workings of the human mind":
What students are interested in is not an academic field but a set of phenomena in the world — in this case the workings of the human mind. Sometimes academics seem not to appreciate the difference.
Thus, when the two friends asked me about Mother's Day in India, I managed to focus only on the content and did not bring in any jargon whatsoever.  It was a presentation on "diffusion" but stripped of all things academic.

To me, this was yet another reminder of the advantages of being in Geography--to be able to discuss a wide variety of topics, from an informed position, because of the discipline's strength in the breadth of intellectual questions that are explored.

So, on this Mother's Day, engage your mothers, and your children, on all things geographic, but without the jargon. For all you know, that might turn out to be a memorable Mother's Day.

I wish you all a happy Mother's Day.  Special greetings to the latest mother in the group ;)

The family enjoying their time ... Willamette River, Eugene, Oregon

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