The other official question for September 23

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Fisher discussed the ways that consciousness-raising "may make us uncomfortable and if faced alone, can lead to helpless rage or shame and a profound sense of powerlessness." On the other hand creating a space which only allows "safe" ideas is sterile and does not push people far enough out of their comfort zone to encourage what Fisher calls a "shift in attention."


How can we create classrooms which are characterized by what Fisher calls "Nonjudgmentalness" while cultivating political judgment and shifts in attention?


(I'm especially interested in how to discuss privilege without alienating the privileged group to the point that they disengage. Also how can we avoid what Fisher identifies as " the common assumption that politics required a single analysis and the political talk meant a competition among activists about whose analysis was correct?")

3 Comments

It terms of discussing privilege without alienating the privileged, it may be helpful to draw on what Elenes says about "moving to the same side of the river" (695) by finding a common language around the philosophical aspects of an issue. While I believe the personal is indeed political, I think that taking discussions out of the personal realm is effective in that it removes the tendency for individuals to focus on their truth alone. This allows us to gain an understanding of the bigger picture and understand what is at stake for others with a given issue. It also helps those of us with strong opinions to name them as such.

Shrewsbury's article is also helpful in that it talks about this idea of the liberatory classroom where we "learn to respect each other's differences rather than fear them" (6). I love this idea of creating a safe space where we are free to focus on critical thinking and working toward shared goals...a place where this alienation and disengagement are not given the power to flourish. In a nutshell, it's all about relationships, the longer I am in education the more I believe this to be true.

Whew, tough question for the first week.

A classroom space of nonjudgmentalness is one that I have tried (and frankly failed more often than succeeded) to create in my own classes. I found that it required weighing what students say and my interpretations of them, as well as others’ interpretations, and all this required attending to listening skills and meaning-making. Crabtree et al, refer to an example from a chapter by Julia Wood. “While Wood’s chapter reports an analysis of gendered conversational patterns as they manifest in the classroom, the techniques she uses to guide students through active and reflective listening can be used by any instructor in any classroom. “ (12)

I think that creating a classroom climate where discourse required all students (and the instructor) to participate through active and reflective listening could promote nonjudgmentalness. At this point, I cannot envision how to support this in a step-by-step manner, but realize that it would require respecting different voices, allowing emotions to be expressed and explained, and participating, as Wood puts it, “as a facilitator who enables students to discover their own ‘truths’.” (Crabtree, p. 139). Much care and practice would be essential to listen to all voices and yet not disenfranchising the students in the privileged group. For the discourse and course to be effective, all students should feel empowered.

Shrewsberry talked about feminist pedagogy as empowering. She stated, “Empowering pedagogy does not dissolve the authority or the power of the instructor. It does move from power as domination to power as creative energy. In such a system the teacher's knowledge and experience is recognized and is used with the students to increase the legitimate power of all.” (9) To me this sounds like an ideal, and perhaps a difficult ideal to achieve, however I think it mirrors Fisher’s concept of a creating a discourse where nonjudgmentalness and conscientiousness-raising can occur.

I'll admit that I haven't yet read everything for this week (I am a late night person), but I wanted to share my in-process connection here as I am afraid that I will lose it otherwise.

I couldn't agree more with Bobbi that education is about relationships. As a former high school social studies teacher and having had the opportunity to TA here, my experience has indicated that those most fully engaged are those who learn the most. Creating safe classrooms is the primary goal of the teacher as the rest cannot follow if students don't feel safe enough to take risks, make trouble, ask questions, and sometimes even just take the time to feel what it is like to not understand right away. One of my former teachers was famous for saying, "Confusion often results in learning." Her primary goal was to make all of us confused at least once about something and, in retrospect, if we were just given the answer or didn't feel safe expressing our lack of understanding, we wouldn't have been empowered enough to think differently enough to figure it out. I wonder if she would have characterized herself as using a feminist pedagogy?
These relationships and this trust are strongly connected to care. I am excited to get to that week to see how it is conceptualized in feminist pedagogy, especially since Fisher gives us a glimpse into her reluctance to Nel Noddings. I haven't read much Noddings, but one of my officemates is using her work as the theoretical foundation for her dissertation on working with future social studies teachers. From what it looks like, there is so much more to come.