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November 23, 2008

New Course for Spring 2009

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November 4, 2008

Class notes 10-16

Questions:
• How can a caring/safe environment simultaneously promote discomfort?
• How can an environment be safe/caring if it doesn’t promote discomfort?
• Can discomfort be seen as caring for people who have become discomforted?
• What happens when students get past that discomfort? Does it then become safe?

It is a paradox. Discomfort is a way of caring.

Re: Pedagogy of Discomfort
Once students face their own ethical and moral responses, the way they have been conditioned, that is what Boler is seeing as a great positive.

They talk about the different kinds of knowledge. Caring in academic arenas is looked down upon.

Caring is a different model for learning.

Fisher is worried that her colleagues would come in and devalue the experience. It would be seen as not academic.

Can you get past the discomfort? What kind of environment do you have for learning?

The only way there are any stakes to caring is if there is discomfort involved.

We have to complicate the notion of discomfort. There are different registers.
One male student has discomfort with what is being taught –
• Doesn’t engage, doesn’t do good work
• He may be a lost cause
• In contrast, female students frequently disagree with the author’s statements
• Their discomfort is being used analytically
• There can be different kinds of discomfort in any class
• I don’t want them to get past their discomfort because they use it in their analysis

Thinking about social inequality or race, you can engage students but they bring different things to the table.

What is Fisher’s definition of caring?
• I think it is creating a safe space – safe in the sense that you can put forth an idea and it is not going to be a personal attack.

But what happens when a student or professor does say something that is seen as a personal attack on another? Shouldn’t the other student be able to speak and say, “I see your comments as a direct attack on me? in such a way that there can never be an agreement between them.

To one person it might not be a personal attack. To another, they may be so invested in their ideas that they feel personally attacked. How do you negotiate that?

Intentional vs. unintentional attacks.

It may not be a personal attack, but it is a disrespectful response.

It seems to me, in a women’s studies classroom, we have rejected that my ideas/myself are separate. An attack becomes more personal.

As instructors our job is not to be mediators. There is a point between students when hostility is no longer productive.

Doesn’t Fisher talk about shifting focus between the exchange and the needs of the classroom? On page 123 – first full paragraph / page 133 – 2nd and 3rd paragraph

Do you step in as instructor, weigh where you should put your focus? Could it be a democratic moment or too distracting?

If it gets too tangential, you can ask “what does the author say about this?? – get back to the text. The classroom gives us a way to refocus in a way that more people can participate.

If there are 2 students debating, making the class uncomfortable, does refocusing on the text make them comfortable so they don’t have to deal with their discomfort?

Going to the text allows you to say lets look at how you can learn from this, even if you fundamentally disagree.

Where does being uncomfortable slip into being unsafe?

Politics becomes one of those tense things (i.e. A student felt unsafe in class when the platforms of McCain and Obama were examined.)

How much responsibility do we have, as a teacher, to make it a safe space for that one student?

Bringing up these issues could make a professor a target for conservative groups. When we are talking about these experiences we have to think about these things as well – conservative oversight.

What are the consequences of troublemaking outside of the classroom?

What is rhetorical about what we do in the classroom?

Why is pedagogy embroiled with persuasion? What is that relationship?
Why is it that certain bodies of knowledge are seen as requiring persuasion vs. knowledge like math?

Math is more about facts. It is more difficult to say you “don’t get? feminism. It is hard to have a right answer like there is in math and science. That is part of the way knowledge is constructed.

I feel that part of my job is to persuade students, if not of the “truth? of women’s studies theories, at least that they need to examine their ideas.

Boler p. 185 – The purpose of discomfort. We should assume that there are going to be a variety of opinions in the classroom. That is a great opportunity.

Troublemakers require us to have compelling arguments and be able to say why we believe in something.