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Week 2 Pedagogical Query

*Here’s a non-definitive representation of our conversation on Wednesday. I know I missed some stuff for sure and would welcome any amendments or additions from your recollections!*

Query:
What is an effective way to teach white students about white privilege without provoking defensiveness. As a female teacher, how to talk to male students about masculine privilege? What kind of credibility do Othered instructors bring to the conversation? How to maintain credibility?

Responses:
A lot depends on who your students are—Grads? Undergrads? Volunteers, hostages? Consider you audience. Rebecca is planning to be very concrete with Intro students: eg, why would Black communities question Obama’s identity as Black? Concrete but distant, “getting away from the bodies in the classroom?. Specific but safe.
Allison says try using media examples. Specific narratives can spark conversation.
Sara says MacIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack? is a useful starting point. MacIntosh gives a good list of concrete and personal examples. (Kaia agrees the article can precipitate “aha? moments, remembering “flesh? colored band-aids.) Sometimes students react emotionally, and the teacher wonders how she ought to respond. Sometimes it’s important to let discomfort occur (TSJ), but sometimes this makes the instructor uncomfortable and sometimes they shut down.
Rebecca says crying is not uncommon in women’s studies. Notices that sometimes students affect a vulnerable (victim?) behavior like crying in a partially unciounscious strategy to deflect blame or culpability for their participation in white supremacy, As a corollary, subaltern students might not experience the same effect of feeling safer for having expressed vulnerability (cried).
Sara wonders how much time can we give for emotions? And when are emotions assertions of /strategies of privilege that we need to critique?
Erica-- But it can be hard to interrogate a student, especially a crying one, critically. Maybe it’s a way into talking about white guilt?
Sara suggests it’s a good moment to let them write in class
Rebecca tries to think of strategies in advance to diffuse controversial material and thinks short writing exercises are good “Bring it back to the text? Think through the author’s approach and give “3 points to support and 3 to refute? students’ interpretations.
Sara had a professor at Emory who would make the whole classroom stand up and swivel hips—and call out students for not swiveling enthusiastically enough. Sarah’s not sure if it’s productive, but good way to in-corp-orate the process. But it can be problematic to pick on particular students. She also remembers being nervous about teaching feminism before the fact, but says a lot of these fears of resistance and controversy go unrealized.
Kaia says she’s a vocal person with strong opinions and sometimes got into heated exchanges as a GWSS undergrad. Some instructors didn’t step up, but she thinks they ought to. She sometimes felt attacked or like she was attacking someone else. It wasn’t productive. Undergrads, young people can be easily offended.
Sarah—It’s hard for lots of us to hear criticism.
Mary Jo—These flashpoints can be critical. It’s too bad if teachers take themselves out of the exchange. Instructors can paraphrase and manage the volley in a useful way.
Kaia—Others in class are thinking about it even if they’re not talking.
Mary Jo- Its what democracy’s all about. I teach argumentation and so this comes up a lot. We’re working with American Exceptionalism this week (coming up on 9-11). Last week we were looking at a cartoon about the lack of critical thinking in education. As the instructor I reminded the class that two of the students actively discussing were taking opposing positions. This created a palpable tension in the room
Kaia—I’m facilitating a disc section for the first time this semester and I’m afraid of what will crop up around discussions of racism. Maybe I’m unnecessarily anxious.
Theresa—maybe because I’m from a different culture, I notice that it’s not socially acceptable to be confrontational. Spanish people, Latin American people go for confrontation, and it’s good. But sometimes we feel like we’re doing something wrong.
Rebecca—It’s kind of a Minnesota thing. “Oh, isn’t that interesting!? And the conversation stops. It shuts down disagreement. Maybe not a US thing so much as an upper Midwest thing.
Sara—It’s a passive aggressive thing. We eat our feelings. This institution is mostly MN and WI students. I think we’ll keep talking about these ongoing tensions and unresolved conflict. But, yes, we’re about radical democracy, but how to negotiate this in the context of sensitive and personal issues around identity. Thinking about resistant students, how to deal—particularly with male students?
Kaia—Men in women’s studies usually say very little. Maybe skeptical men don’t feel safe enough to even speak.
Erica-- Tried to spark a class discussion about “His Gril Friday?’s treatment of women’s negotiation of workforce participation. A woman student minimized sexist content, and a man student spoke up to argue against her. The two got into a dialogue, and it was engaging for the rest of the class.