Empathic Intelligence In Practice

Knowledge is power – and I’m not sharing it!

Knowledge is Power

“…I feel like education is a way of keeping knowledge from the students. That it’s used to teach them how to be powerless, how to lose their power.”

This past November, I was an organizer and presenter for the 2015 North American Systemic Constellations Conference. I focused my presentation on the Expanded Knowing Project – my topic: “Education, Justice and Social-Change: Investigating Complex Systems with Constellations.” (A video interview discussing my presentation is below – scroll down if you’d like to see it)


What I want to share here is an excerpt from the session:

The distortion of “Knowledge is Power.”

A comment about the workshop set-up. 

After a brief silent sitting, participants were asked the question, “What is the purpose of education?” and invited to let their body respond (if that’s a foreign concept, here’s a short primer on the felt-sense.) As facilitator, I started the constellation with three representatives: Student, Mother and Father. The “Student” was a high-school student representing herself (serendipity brought her to the group!); the “Mother” was the student’s mother representing herself; and the “Father” was a participant representative. The rest of the participants were asked to stand in the room according to their felt sense. Four people remained seated (two men and two women) but reported themselves as in the constellation. There were a total of 19 participants.

“Knowledge is power, and I’m not sharing it.”

Once the constellation exercise took shape, I asked the representatives to report, starting with those standing on the perimeter and spiraling into the center. The fifth representative, the rep for “father,” shared the following:

“Father”: I feel like I’m in the power position. That knowledge is power. I feel like I have a lot of power, I feel like education is a way of keeping knowledge from the students. That it’s used to teach them how to be powerless, how to lose their power. But I hold the knowledge and I’m not sharing it. I’m aware that so far going around the perimeter you have only spoken to men.  The men are at the perimeter and the women are at the center. But I feel very powerful, very knowledgeable.

Indeed, after his reporting, I saw that in fact, all of the men formed an outer ring. The first six people to report, circling from the outer perimeter in towards the middle, were all men; all of the rest of the people on the inside were women. The two other men in the group were seated outside the circle. Two women were also seated outside the circle.

Two of the women representatives also reported on this theme of power:

“Power”(female): I felt like I had to enter. I knew I had to be here, what I’m going to call center. Not so much as a person, but as a thing – I am looking from very very very high. I notice that my arm is very warm. Almost feel like there’s something here. It was interesting when you started talking about power, because I feel I have power, I have power here. I’m here – here is my space – I don’t feel like looking or connecting to anybody. I just have to be here and stand tall.

“Representative M”(female): In the beginning, I got that education was a dumbing down of people. I felt drawn to her heart (pointing to the mother). There’s no cognition to it, other than to be here. There’s a piece around how education separates family – a mother from her own wisdom, and what she knows is best for her family. And so I’m supporting them.

Later, the female representative who I’m calling “Power” said:

“Power” (female): No, I don’t feel like person. I don’t care about anything, I just care about her (pointing to “Student”). In the beginning, I cared not about the mother. In the beginning, I was just being here and not aware of anyone else. Then I made contact with her (“Student”), and she was the only one I was seeing.  Through her I could see to the mother. I don’t want to move out of here, this is my space, but I have to keep an eye on her wherever she goes.

This is just a tiny excerpt of a very rich session. Rather than analyze it, I have been sitting with the questions that it raised. Here are three that I’m thinking about:

  1. What is the role of testing – and the structure of the educational system in general – in reinforcing knowledge as power-over.
  2. How has the current system of education used in the “separation of a mother from her own wisdom” – and what is the role of the system of separating us all from our own wisdom?
  3. What is our relationship to our own power?

Here’s an interview I did with Constellations Facilitator Linda Comeau about my presentation at the 2015 North American Systemic Constellations Conference.

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