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October 12, 2008

October 1st Class Discussion

Question posed: Some of the activities may make students physically uncomfortable. Are we oppressing the oppressor with these activities? (Friere 46-47)

For example:
-making students uncomfortable (touching) holding hands
-asking them to violate cultural boundaries
In doing this, do you turn it around and use the same oppression of the people that have oppressed you?
Although, there is a big difference from the oppressed becoming the oppressor and the oppressed becoming a part of the system of oppression.
-the classroom has always been an unsafe place for unwhite students
-the ways in which a traditional classroom forces students to feel unsafe, not part of it. Is this different than a activity that is meant to disrupt the classroom and (make is unsafe??)
On the other hand, it is beneficial to intentionally engage in this behavior in order to get students to think about it more critically?
-is that oppressing the oppressors? Or is it engaging critical thought?
-is the uncomfortability worth the learning experience?
Do we have to go this far to get this point across?
• One possible solution: we can give them control and offer them to opt out.
Can we even do exercises like this? It is allowed by the university?

Whose right is it to change the consciousness of someone else’s child? Whose values are being taught?
-Should school teach values? Who owns the knowledge?
• This is one particular way of thinking and learning.
• It's important to consider who gets to decide what is taught. Especially considering variation across cultures

Is it inevitable that values are part of curriculum?
-Remember that college students are active participants/subjects . They can reject and resisit what we tell them.

Bringing the bodies back into the classroom
• These exercises are a way of expressing themselves through their bodies
• Engaging bodies helps students get it
• Use your own judgment
• For example, putting chairs in a circle embodies the students
• using actual bodies or words to talk about them is uncomfortable for us (is that a cultural thing?)

-One way to prepare students is ask students before hand to get ready for some physical touch/interaction

Other things we talked about:
Race
• Do African-Americans learn differently?

Transgender
• Activity on pg 135 and 136: Male-identified and female-identified students walk “like the other?

Children’s literature: It can put students of privilege in situations that make them uncomfortable so that they can learn what life is like for others.
• unsettling is important
• discomfort is sometimes valuable

October 1, 2008

Week 4: Ped Q: Time

This week's pedagogical question was raised by Rebeca M. --How might we begin to think critically about time as both an opportunity and a constraint? By this is meant both class time and the duration of the semester.

What is a valid way to spend time, given the goals and objectives of the course? Many people notice that discussions take up a lot of time, is that a valid way to accomplish course objectives and build knowledge?

Rebeca gave an example of having only 50 minutes to cover an immense amount of material with complicated subject matter. She had students divide up into small groups and condense the material of three theorists down to one crystallized sentence for each that everyone in the small group could agree to. This method forced the students to discuss the material, summarize the arguments, synthesize the material, and compare the theories, all within a short time.

Other people in our class offered suggestions for condensing difficult material and holding students accountable for it. One suggestion was to have a short quiz on the material for comprehension. Another suggestion was that as instructors we may have to at times accept that not every student will master all the material presented and they may come back to it at some point down the line and have another chance to digest what was difficult the first time around.

Are we oppressing the oppressor?

After looking at some of the curriculum designs in Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, I noticed that some of the activities may make students physically uncomfortable - not so much in the sense of facing their own contributions to injustice, but in the sense of violating their personal space. An example is the exercise that asks students to hold hands and move forward while responding to questions (p. 140 exercise 2). Is it necessary to create such cultural and physical dissonance in order to disrupt racism or are we oppressing the oppressor (Freire) with these exercises?

September 25, 2008

Week 3 Pedagogical Question

Last week's question was brought to us by Alison, and she asked: How can we adapt Pedagogy of the Oppressed to teach students of oppressor groups to support a revolutionary coming of consciousness? And how can it be adapted to tend to groups and people with multiple identifications?

Several related questions came up as well. Is this (Pedagogy of the Oppressed) just a specific project? Is it adaptable to different parts of the world/classes? How translatable is it?

In addressing these queries, a multitude of interesting responses and key issues came to the fore.

The facts that there are not just a singular oppressor or oppressed class, and that an individual’s position within a class can be situational are addressed in Alison’s question and are relevant in considering the practical application of Freire’s praxis. These points seem to indicate once again that power and privilege are unstable.

The idea of critically interrogating assumptions seemed to be a particular insightful and helpful way of addressing concerns with students’ problematic generalizing assumptions. At the same time, as an instructor limits on what you are able to do are in place. The class is about something in particular and the instructor is being paid to teach certain material. Is there really space to question?

If there is to be a revolution of education, can this revolution even take place without a complete revolution (or overhaul) of the current education system within the United States? Grades in particular seem to present a problem for Freire’s method, as does the rigid organization of the currently predominant system. Can this rigidity allow for his idea of everyone teaching one another?


Please comment if there is something significant that I have missed or you feel should be added.

September 13, 2008

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.