As a public school administrator, and a human, I feel tremendous grief for the tragedy generated in the latest school shooting. The impact is devastating and disastrous. Immediately after such a calamity is the public outcry for change and the immediate backlash from others who don’t want to lose their perceived rights under the constitution. Blaming federal agencies isn’t the answer either.
I find it critical to recognize that school shootings are not isolated events. Despite the outcry and current tug-of-war, stricter gun laws will only serve as a Band-Aid to one aspect of a major debilitating world problem. In just over 15 years of serving children and communities as a school administrator, I have witnessed extreme violence, rape, racism, walkouts orchestrated by teachers, administrators engaged in illegal behavior, parents abusing children, bullying, decay, outrageous political power struggles, and more.
Public schools are a microcosm of society; they are not stand-alone programs independent of the larger world. Truthfully, I am sometimes quite taken with how successful school programs are across the nation in spite of these immense pressures and misguided criticisms. Increasing student achievement in math and the English language arts is our charge; sometimes the realities and tragedies of life make this very difficult. But, that isn’t the point of this conversation.
I believe the center of the full-size problem is the over-culture of patriarchy. The deeply embedded mindset of hierarchy and power over others at any cost is the big problem. This problem, thousands of years in the making, has generated many symptoms which causes activist movements to faction; for the last several decades, attempts to put out individual fires with a variety of retardants with a variety of methods have happened while the whole forest is burning. Examples of the symptoms of the big problem include violence against women, heinous acts against the environment, the oppression of those in poverty, taking away the rights of LGBQT identified people, hatred of other, and school shootings; just to name a few.
The over culture wanted us to stay separate and not see what would happen when we united. The over culture wanted us to stay small and to not see the similarities we have with each other as we battle the multiple inequalities present on every level. And yet, the patriarchy is crumbling. I am confident we are witnessing the birth of a new paradigm as evidenced by many cultural shifts that are happening simultaneously across the globe. In the last twelve months, I have seen and participated in collaborations between government agencies that have never existed before.
I have listened to people, previously unforgiving of others, embrace individuals with different belief systems, and I have participated in the Women’s March; the largest organized activist event ever. I sincerely believe the election of President Trump has spurred the downfall of the patriarchy. His divisive actions and outright denial of protected rights have motivated many to action, to register to vote, and to come together. We know the patriarchy is not going to dismantle quietly. Every single action, even small, is the pebble in the pond making outward ripples of change.
The same year I began teaching in public school programs my education in Goddess Spirituality fully initiated. I consider this to be a true synchronicity. Early on, I needed the wellspring of women’s circles, earth based spirituality, plant wisdom, art making, and the Divine Feminine to simply survive the school year. In fact, the rejuvenation and inspiration I found in the Goddess was about the only thing that could counter the exhaustion of holding a container in the public education realm.
I realized early in the experience that I was clearly on a quest; a seeker of the mystery and I can see aspects of the Heroine’s Journey in my voyage. I used to view these two very different paradigms as two sides of the coin; opposite of each other. Now, I see that studying Goddess Spirituality has created a consciousness and with it a lens in which I see the world. Therefore, I put forth the concept that Goddess Spirituality is a women’s leadership model which can be used effectively in many capacities of guidance and decision making. Here is my list to date of the important aspects; I am sure there are more.
- is inherently collaborative
- uses circle governance allowing every person to be seen and heard
- recognizes the Sacred in everything
- uses mythology and Goddess archetypes as metaphor for life
- seeks fluidity in society by using the symbol of the Divine Feminine as inspiration
- sees that divinity is within
- actively encourages other ways of knowing such as art, poetry, music, and intuition
- recognizes other belief systems are critical for change
Goddess Spirituality is deeply rooted in the Feminist movement which means it is a powerful form of activism working on behalf of all marginalized peoples. I also believe that is reflective, fundamentally peaceful, and righteous. It also can invoke acute reaction from many people in part because it is very far from standard social norms. I took an oath many years ago to help bring the Divine Feminine back to Her rightful place as sacred in our society just as I have pledged to do the best work I can on behalf of the children in my school sites and education programs. I commit to raising awareness about social justice issues such as violence against women and children and the oppression of poverty through art as peaceful activism and working with women in transformational circles. Goddess spirituality as a leadership model has provided an interesting framework for my work in the world.
Jessica Bowman holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology, a Master’s Degree in Women’s Spirituality and Creative Expression as well as California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Science and English and Administrative Service Credentials. She is an Associate Superintendent for a rural high school district focusing on support for underrepresented students. Jessica is also an artist, healer, and seeker. She is a doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies researching Social Justice and the application of Goddess Consciousness as a Women’s Leadership Model. For more information on some of her work please see www.creativityandthedivinefeminine.com and www.magicalapothecary.com