Blog Post

Valuing Diversity in Teaching, Even when Others Don't

Recently, a friend and I commiserated on social media about students in classes feeling like there is too much focus on queerness. In her course on media and sexuality, she reported after a class that students did not see value in studying queerness and trans issues, expressing that this goes against their religion (something like, "This makes God sad.") I have similar experiences with students. In my own Digital Culture class (an intro level Digital Humanities course), students report that the class feels too much a feminist studies class because of my approach to studying ideologies and cultural values in media and technology. I even got a scathing review for attending to social injustices and systems of inequality in this class.

I'm sure many of us in humanities fields have had similar moments where students questions our decisions to focus on non-privileged existences (assigning texts by bell hooks, watching films/TV with LGBTQ characters, talking about the gendered barriers that keep women out of the tech industry, focusing on digital protests to deportation of families on the US-Mexico border, to name only a few), and express a cognitive dissonance with the text for some reason rooted in oppressive/colonized thinking and prejudice. 

And yes, part of the issues is that many of us share these very experiences we want to teach about, and because it matters to us, the ignorant responses in the classroom hurt that much more. So as educators, how do we engage students who do not value diversity and inclusion, or at least do not see the value is studying diversity and inclusion? We could call them out, shut them down, etc. And yes, there is a time and a place for this, particularly if such ignorance is directed towards another student or students. But how do we challenge them to think through their ignorance and implicit bias to start thinking through how they are reifying systems of inequalities.

Ironically, soon after having this conversation with my colleague, I watched this episode of  Adam Ruins Everything, "Why Proving Someone Wrong Often Backfires," and it points to why saying your student's belief in God is wrong and heterosexist/cissexist will not improve the space of the class. As educators and classroom instructors, we need more tact in challenging students, particularly those who "don't see the value in studying [marginalized walks of life] in class," to see why diversity is important to their development in school and in society. 

My queer rage has taken over, and I have put towards curating resources for educators to highlight and value diversity in the classroom, particularly when engaging students with heavy biases. Below you will find my working list of resources, and I will update it as I find more. Additionally, I ask all who read this to send me for your methods and recommendations for pedagogical materials to help educators combat these mentalities in the classroom: WHY diversity and inclusion are necessary at all pedagogical levels, and not just in HUM 301: [marginalized existence] in [media/tech related subject]. You may tweet to me at @MichaelsLore or email me at mdeanda@hawk.iit.edu 

 

Augosto Baol Theater of the Oppressed

Marsha Rakestraw, "9 Resources for Teaching About Unconscious Bias"

Adam Ruins Everything, "Why Proving Someone Wrong Often Backfires," 

Media Focusing on the Import of Representation

BuzzFeed Video, "Queer Men Re-Create Iconic Superhero Moments" 

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