Engaging in the inclusive pedagogy literature this week I was most struck with the manner in which academics, instructors, and even students have attempted define, problematize, and brainstorm ways in education is and can be more ‘inclusive;’ namely, approach(es) to teaching that pays attention to the varied background, learning styles, and abilities of all the learners in front of us [even the instructor!].
As I mentioned to Dr. Faulkner when she visited our class, ways in which we as young instructors attempt to be more inclusive is inherently personal, and difficult. This is due not solely to our own lack of realizing our positionality but the overarching structures and cultures established thereof that have historically discriminated, whitewashed, and dismissed true attempts in diversifying perspectives and demographics.
As an American historian I regulalrly try to do this every semester in simple principled ways. For one, I ask as an easy ‘A’ grade that each of my students submit to a 200 word introduction of themselves, why (honestly) they are taking the course, what past experiences they have in college/ high school-level history coursework and what they enjoyed/ hated from those experiences, and what they hope to learn more about throughout the semester. This is important to me as it fosters a more, to quote Katherine Phillips, democratize the learning the experience–the students, in aggregate, are just as much a part of designing my curriculum as much as me. As someone who does not assign textbooks, I typically assign readings and materials that are unorthodox and eclectic. The result are usually fantastic. For instance, I had a student in my US History since 1877 course last semester saying he did not like history courses because of their redudant “read, write, memorize” models, that are topically boilerplate and banal. He told me he is an amateur DJ, and I similarly noticed how others students in their responses mentioned their past music backgrounds. As a result, when discussing post 1960s race relations, (with the hope to connect to things like Black Lives Matter) I designed a course lecture that looked at responses after MLK’s murder in 1968 through musical history:
They loved it for the uniqueness in showing why rap emerged, its political discourse, and then show how its directly connected to the embedded racial violence that the country is plagued with today. Most important, the majority of my students said they never recalled being taught about events like Rodney King, Watts Riots, MLK Riots ever. As Shankar Vedantam tell us, this is unconcious and a part of our selective teaching and more so selective awareness and attention. Inclusivity in the 21st century to me means exposure, perspective and diversity of means. Rather than cherry picking elements considered ‘diverse’, it is more important that we remeber the day, age, and background of our students and ourselves when forming our curriculums.