In our February 19 class, we discussed about the importance of appropriate language that takes into consideration our diversities and the experiences that come with them. I enjoyed listening to people’s experiences, comments, thoughts and appreciated the opportunity to share mine. One thing kept nagging me during the class and I wanted to share a parting comment at the end of the class based on that. I did not at the moment; I needed to reflect and think about it some more and share in my blog posting. One of the reasons I enjoy blogging for class is because it provides a great platform to go back in time (in a way) to address unsaid thoughts. I plan to use it extensively as a professor, too. But back to the topic.
The discussion involved the use of language in class; the various types of privileges that students have or do not; the importance of learning to admit when we err; the importance of speaking up when a comment has a negative impact on us; the various types of discriminatory terms in our languages and many other great topics. At the end, it felt like we tackled one of the greatest societal problems.
But I wondered how much of it was simply an intellectual exercise and how much of it would actually stick with us enough to become part of how we operate in the world outside what we say in the classroom. Do we simply intellectually understand the importance of admitting and apologizing when we offend or do we also practice it without being defensive? Do we refrain from using discriminatory language because we are afraid of reaction or do we truly believe there should not be a place for that kind of language in society? Do we preach diversity in our classroom discussions but stick with our lot outside of school? Unless we practice what we say, discussions like the one we had on Monday will have been simply intellectual exercises that will not have an impact in the real world.
A friend of mine once told me that her sociology teacher who teaches about discrimination against immigrants was the one person who wanted to do the least with immigrants.
In our roles as teaching assistants and future professors, let’s not be like that.
I am really glad that you brought up this point. I think that this is a common criticism of academia and is often very true. People are able to sit in a classroom and talk about issues such as social change and have great, engaging discussions but then leave it all behind in the classroom. As educators I think that one of the key components is to not just have the discussion, but to challenge students to reflect on what behaviors they have that contribute to the problems and what actions they can take to help create change. In my own experiences I know that there can be a disconnect between recognizing that something is a problem and actually doing something to change it.
Very true. It is an interesting challenge each one of us need to give to ourselves: do I practice what I preach? I believe this is a life-long project. As was discussed in the class, we all have preconceived ideas about each other.