Estrangement and Community: Teaching in a Multicultural World
Friday, December 25, 2020
Embracing Change: Teaching in a Multicultural World is a practical chapter. It shows us how to build an inclusive, critically aware classroom. It’s based on a simple premise. A professor embraces individual students’ multicultural experiences as central and significant. This fosters a climate of free expression. The climate at present is murky. Schools treat minority students as objects, not subjects. The premise, for the most part, is solid; the implications for me, at the moment, not so much.
Step one. Define a classroom as a space of constructive confrontation and critical interrogation. Why? A critically unconscious professor, works from a political point of view. This oversight requires two things. Confrontation (constructive or otherwise) and interrogation (if not requests for clarification). Why? Because teaching, she says, is not politically neutral. A while male professor in a university art department (me) discusses work made by great men. That's a political decision. Fair enough.
hooks dreams of a reconfigured learning space. It offers a democratic setting. Here, everyone feels the responsibility (might it be an obligation?) to interrogate biases of conventional canons, to decenter the West. This is a lot to digest in an introduction to art course. Not that I can't manage it. For the moment, though, I’ll let the idea hover meta-like above my digital classroom.
Step two. Realize that a paradigm shift makes for a rocky ride. That. There. Will. Be. Pain. (See constructive confrontation and critical interrogation, above.) She wants to build a community that values individual voices. This community’s goal? Intellectual development and fuller-lived lives. That, I would hope, is our goal, too.
She admits that critical pedagogy’s a challenge for professors and students. Professors, for their part, must forego immediate gratification. I like the idea of the metaphor of the professor as a constant gardener who plants flowers, in a rocky soil, no less. I’m not sure how that fits in with bureaucratic necessities, though. Things like PTEs, graduate school and job recommendation letters, and financial aid. Nor can I see how this reflects students’ own desire for immediate gratification. Finals, done - grades now! We do, after all, operate with term-mandated time parameters. Quantitative metrics, not existential contingencies, drive these parameters. She adds that such a pedagogy may create estrangement. This estrangement is the m.o. of a community that interrogates ideas and ways of being. To my thinking, she implies that estrangement is a necessary evil. Please convince me that induced estrangement is not a desired outcome. Even in an aware classroom.
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