Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Curriculum and the Geographic Cure

Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Curriculum and the Geographic Cure

Article excerpt

One cannot build the house of the self to suit or kill the mother. One must detach.

--Mary Aswell Doll, Like Letters in Running Water

In 1969, a few months before my 15th birthday, I shut the bathroom door and very meticulously cut my wrists with a razor blade. The desire to actually harm myself was as superficial as the cuts I was making; I didn't want to die, I just wanted to make a statement. Having planned the whole business very carefully, I didn't pass out, didn't make a mess, didn't need to call for help. Once the first wrist was cut, I applied pressure immediately and bandaged it up before proceeding on to the next one. I did this on a Friday night and wore long sleeves all weekend, so that the bandages would not be seen by mother, Marcia, or my stepfather, Derk (pseudonyms). Instead, they were to find out about this after school the following Monday. I had it all figured out: the bandages would disappear on my way to school that morning, and an alarmed favorite teacher would call my house upon seeing the wounds on my wrists.

My objective was the thunderstruck shock and humiliation of Derk and Marcia at being called by a teacher and asked, "Did you know Leslie cut her wrists this past weekend?" With any luck the teacher would alert the police and have them both hauled away for being drunk, lunatic parents. At the very least I would expose, to someone on the outside of our house, that life was a nightmare on the inside.

In my mind it was never about crying out to the two of them. It was about crying out to someone else about the two of them. I simply could no longer function in this outrageously dysfunctional blended family. I was living with two alcoholic adults, three needy step-siblings, and my younger brother Geoff, whom I fiercely loved and was virtually raising. My mother's chronic need for change was what landed us in that situation to begin with. Prior to Marcia's marriage to Derk, we rarely lived anywhere longer than 18 months. My mother was always already thinking of the next thing to change in her wretched life, because surely, moving on was the answer. She knew she would stop drinking and make a new life for us all, just as soon as there was a decent boyfriend, a better job, a less depressing apartment, a city where relatives lived, a city as far away from relatives as humanly possible. Alcoholics Anonymous calls this attempt to look for a clean start the "geographic cure," which, AA adds, doesn't work, since "'wherever you go, there you are'" (Alcoholic Anonymous [AA], n.d., p.1).

Marcia was forever certain that a fresh start would fix everything. Running away from, running toward, it didn't matter; it was the running that counted. Salman Rushdie writes, "What is the most powerful impulse of human beings in the face of night, of danger, of the unknown?--It is to run away; to avert the eyes and flee; to pretend the menace is not loping towards them in seven-league boots" (Rushdie, 1983, p. 209). The menace loping toward Marcia was Marcia, with her parental instincts stuffed like a miniature clipper ship inside of an empty bottle of bourbon. Wherever she went, there she was.

This article explores some connections I see between the geographic cure and currere, defined by William Pinar as "the Latin infinitive form of curriculum, [which] means to run the course, or, in the gerund form, the running of the course" (2004, p. 35). As I progress through my Curriculum Studies doctoral program, I've been engaged in Pinar's autobiographical method of currere: remembering my past (when, for a long time, I tried exceedingly hard not to), imagining the future, and analyzing those experiences to gain a deeper understanding of my "submergence in the present" (2004, p. 4). For this paper I utilize autobiographical writing to frame a glimpse of the impact this "cure" has on children, on the adults they become, and on their own survival and coping instincts. I also bring up connections I see between the geographic cure and education as an institution. …

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