How reflection promotes a deeper learning

Why have a mission statement? Mariam-Webster defines a mission statement as something that states the purpose or goal of a business or organization. That seems like a great idea, a simple document to outline the values of an institution. Geneseo’s mission statement highlights the importance of education and how the entire college is routed in that goal. The mission statement states that “[the communitty] works together to advance knowledge and inspire students to be socially responsible and globally aware citizens who are prepared for an enriched life and success in the world.” However, Biola University’s mission statement is much more pointed. Biola’s statement suggests it is “to be identified among the world’s foremost Christ-centered universities — a community abiding in truth, abounding with grace and compelled by Christ’s love to be a relevant and redemptive voice in a changing world.” Biola’s mission statement is much more poignant in terms of a grander world goal. When reading Geneseo’s mission statement in context, it appears incredibly bland. Of course, an institution of higher education would be focused on learning. This line of thinking is incredibly similar to how the character Gan thinks in Olivia Butler’s Bloodchild. Through Gan’s growth, readers can see just how important it is to reflect on the agreements we make between academic institutions.

Before it is possible to understand the role of reflection in Gan’s journey, one must understand the world Gan lives. Gan is a Terran, a group of human-like individuals that migrated to a different planet in order to escape prosecution. The planet is already inhabited by the Tlic, a people that have been having problems reproducing. Eventually, an agreement was made that the Tlic government would handle keeping then general Terran population safe and the Terrans would allow some of there children to be given to the Tlic for reproduction. Gan is his family’s side of the deal, he is the child that is given to the Tlic, specifically T’gatoi.

Originally, Gan is pretty happy to be with T’gatoi. He discusses a working relationship where he would describe how he was treated to other Terrans. He would talk about his own upbringing “when they ask whether I was ever afraid of her.” This also goes both ways, as he would talk to other Tlic about making their choice. From these interactions, it can be deduced that Gan has some knowledge about what he will be doing. He must know that he is will be fulfilling some sort of contract. This is similar to the SUNY Geneseo Mission statement. The vague language is important. It is to entice you into a basic understanding of what the university is about: learning. You can also see why the specifics seen in Biola’s mission statement can be offputting to some. If your goal is to better society through partnership -as the goal is between the Terran and the Tlic – you would not want to the separation that is inherent in a strong message. By discussing the partnership in terms of gaining mutual benefits through working together, you’ve just explained to goals of any partnership. However, things change when the partnership breaks down.

Gan is unfortunate enough to watch T’gatoi perform emergency surgery in order to save

an impregnated Terran named Lomas. At first, Gan is not concerned. He recalls that T’Gatoi “  had shown me diagrams and drawings. She had made! sure I knew the truth as soon as I was old enough to understand it.” Those diagrams and drawings are like the Geneseo Mission statement. They are pieces of premade propaganda that are made by the institution. They were designed to be looked at once, vaguely understood, and never questioned. However, Gan is about to see what the partnership really looks like.

The simple diagrams turn out to be incredibly incorrect. He says that “I have never heard such sounds come from a human.” Throughout the experience, Gan witnesses some appalling things, such as T’Gatoi licking blood vessels, Lomas getting torn open down the middle, and Tlic larva crawling out of Lomas. Gan was clearly not prepared for this, as he immediately vomits afterward. This shows how the partnership has broken down. The defined terms of the agreement were clearly broken. Gan demonstrates this later when he talks to his brother, Qui.

Qui does not respect the agreement between the Terran and the Tlic. Gan describes his brother as someone “who had grown up to fear and detest the Tlic.” From that description, Qui does not see the point of the agreement between the Tlic. Part of an agreement is mutual respect and understand, clearly not seen in Qui. Gan talks with Qui after T’Gatoi sent them both out. During the exchange, Gan repeatedly thinks to himself that he may have been lied to. After every exchange, Gan thinks to himself a variation of uncertainty, such as “was it?” This is similar to when a student begins to start classes at Geneseo. The Geneseo mission statement claims to value a liberal arts education, but there are barely any art, music, or performance classes. This seems to violate what Geneseo stands for. Similar to most Geneseo students, Gan was incredibly angry. 

Gan rather quickly feels the betrayal. He proceeds to grab a gun, load it, and “brought the barrel up diagonally under [his] own chin.” He has to now make a choice. The only way out of his partnership is death. However, he begins to truly think about his decision. Can he go back to the partnership knowing that the terms are different now? He ends up deciding to go back to the partnership on one condition that Terrans know the truth about the procedure. This goes back to the idea of accountability. This is seen often at Geneseo. Students request knowledge. They are requesting the whole truth. The partnership needs to be defined more than just a partnership, it needs to define how it will function.  Does that mean Geneseo should adopt a mission statement similar to Biola? Should all institutions make rigid statements about what they are about? I don’t believe so. Then ending of Bloodchild makes it clear that partnerships are fluid. The dynamic is forever changing in order to meet the goals of all parties. It would be neglectful to make strong definitions. But what does this mean to a college student? I believe it means to focus on communication and honesty. That way terms and conditions can be free to adapt and change, giving everyone the best benefits.

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