In 1999, I attended a week-long residential training with the National SEED Project. SEED, an acronym for Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, was founded by Dr. Peggy McIntosh at the Wellesley College Center for Women to train teachers to be leaders in social understanding and change. I became a leader in SEED education for parents at several local DC schools, something I did for 10 years, with my brilliant and dear partner Sau Yang.
The SEED training gave us masses of resources, experiences, exercises, questions, filters, and concepts through which to view people’s lives. Out of that raw material, Sau and I created curricula for our monthly seminars, 3 hour sessions which ran 9 months of the year.
We were explorers and listeners and facilitators and makers of safe places for powerful things to happen. We studied gender, ableism, classism, homophobia, racism, white privilege, and more. Everything was alive and real and open and unexpected. We had to be fully present. We were constantly aware of what we called our “learning edge,” the terrain we couldn’t yet understand. It was heart-opening and deeply humbling.
We had many tools we used for learning, and here is one.
Segments of Self-Knowledge
K – You know. You know what you know.
KDK – You know what you don’t know. (Studying yet to do.)
TIKBDK – You think you know but you don’t know. (Misunderstandings already filed away.)
DKK – You don’t know you know. (Buried so deep. May lead to a-ha! moments when uncovered.)
DKDK – You don’t know, and you don’t know that you don’t know. The largest segment.
SEED work is largely in the TIKBDK and DKDK categories. In the course of our seminar discussions, it was common for someone to quietly comment, “DKDK.” Eyebrows would raise around the circle. Ah, yes… That’s where we are… These concepts helped us in digging deep; or put another way, in pulling the words out of the air — things felt, and perhaps deeply known, but unheard, unsaid.
What do you think you know, but you don’t know?
What don’t you know, that you don’t know you don’t know?
You can keep an eye out for these.
One purpose of the SEED seminars was to create a space for each participant to do his or her own next piece of learning. Safety and encouragement, provided through careful listening, was crucial to the process. When we began each year, we created our own set of rules, asking participants to share what would make them feel safe. Confidentiality… leaving space for others to share… and so on.
I always added a rule to the list: suspend disbelief. People would look puzzled, and as I let the words hang in the air, a few would make a soft sound of acknowledgement and nod, smiling.
Do you know what I mean by “suspend disbelief?”
Our first year as SEED leaders, a handsome African American dad (who had a PhD, an excellent job, car and watch) shared his feelings about being followed in stores. Over half the group of parents listening were white, and many almost reflexively began saying, oh, no… they couldn’t have been following you! You must be mistaken. No one would suspect you.
Not only had this man been followed in stores all his life, but now his peers were disregarding his experience. Because they didn’t want him to be hurt, to be sure, but denying his experience, and thereby disrespecting him.
Sau and I said, each in our own way, “You can’t deny someone’s experience. It’s their experience, the way they felt it and heard it and saw it. Listen. Be present to their experience. Take that in.” After that, I created the rule: suspend disbelief.
And that’s DKDK. Sometimes we encounter things we don’t know we don’t know, when they do come our way, with disbelief. We can also open our hearts and greet them with curiosity, gratitude for the sharing and truth telling, and simple warm human compassion. Better yet, as Michael Singer recommends in his exquisite book The Untethered Soul, just keep your heart open. How to do that? Just don’t close.
I hope you’ll play with the Segments of Self-Knowledge and see what you see!