Suzanne Ross

* Teaching on Monday 12th

Institution: The Raven Foundation - Professional Experience: education

I have spent my career in education following undergraduate work in sociology and anthropology. While my children were young, I received my training as a Montessori preschool teacher and taught preschool and kindergarten for 5 years. Maria Montessori developed her theory of education at the turn of the twentieth century, decades before René Girard was born, but her methods are rooted in an understanding of the mimetic natures of young children.

Absorbent minds
Maria Montessori famously said that children have “absorbent minds” and absorb language and culture from the world around them through immersion, repetition and play. Teachers are trained to model behavior rather than deliver content through the spoken word. While this training prepared me to be quite receptive to mimetic theory, it also did wonders for my parenting skills.

Encountering mimetic theory
After teaching, I worked as a training consultant for businesses, writing manuals and developing training programs. All during those years of mothering, teaching and consulting, I was also attending novel writing workshops, honing my writing skills and indulging my passion for fiction. The first time I encountered mimetic theory was when we called a new pastor and he began preaching sermons steeped in the insights that mimetic theory brings to reading the bible. That was in the early 1990’s and I worked with my pastor as a lay volunteer to develop adult and children’s education programs that engaged the congregation with mimetic theory. Upon his death, in January 2004 I became our Director of Christian Education, carrying on that work as part of the staff.

Ivy-covered walls of academia

As my involvement with mimetic theory grew, I attended COV&R conferences and became better acquainted with the Chicago contingent of mimetic theory enthusiasts, in particular Andrew McKenna and Sandor Goodhart. They began to articulate a shared hope that mimetic theory leap the ivy-covered walls of academia and become part of the conversations going on around kitchen tables and online. This captured my own and my husband’s imagination. Not being academics ourselves, but having been affected in personal ways by mimetic theory, we wondered how we could make a contribution to the work, and this seemed to be it.

Wicked Truth
We decided to expand the work I’d begun in my local congregation into the Raven Foundation, which we founded in January 2007. I left my job at the church a year later to devote myself full time to developing curriculum, resources, and online content to increase awareness of mimetic theory among non-academic audiences. I have written two books as part of that effort –The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things, which examines myth, scapegoating and forgiveness in the hit Broadway musical Wicked and The Wicked Truth About Love: The Tangles of Desire, which uses a conversational style to the explore the mimetic patterns of romantic love.

If you’d like to learn more about the work of the Raven Foundation, please visit us at www.ravenfoundation.org.