Inclusive Pedagogy

After reading the excerpt from Shankar Vedantam’s book, it made me start thinking about my childhood and how I had been impacted by my parents and the culture I was raised in. Race was not something that was discussed much or really thought about, but I noticed as I grew up that I did start to think that me trying to be colorblind wasn’t necessarily a positive thing. During undergrad I was participating in a training prepping for orientation when colorblindness around race was the main topic of conversation and there was a heated conversation going on. The professional didn’t do anything to stop the conversation, but let both sides and perspectives be heard in the room and I think it was that moment that several people in the room finally understood that it was better to have productive conversations versus trying to act like everything is perfect and there aren’t still racial issues happening everyday.

This connects to the implicit bias tests slightly as I had the RA’s that I supervise take a few of the tests and discuss their results with each other. They were shocked by some of their results and a little frustrated when some of them did not get the positive results they were expecting. Unfortunately, at first they did not want to embrace the conflict and have those conversations, but found that they learned a lot about each other and themselves from having those conversations. While listening to some of their conversations, it made me think of my sister and some of her experiences after she got married and took on a new last name. Her maiden name is Cheatham, but her current last name is Ching, so when people came to find “Mrs. Ching” they were expecting to see my sister. I don’t think my sister realized what the impact was going to be until after she experienced some of the different looks just based off a last name, especially since she teaches at an elementary school that is not diverse at all.

Katherine Philips brought up a great thought and presented a great question that I have heard many people talk about in that they don’t know what good diversity does us and ask: what is the upside?  I have had to have many conversations with new students about the importance of diversity and trying to get them understand what diversity actually means to them. Once they start to understand what diversity entails and we can unpack some of their beliefs and reasons for their beliefs it is easier to discuss the positive impacts of diversity on the world as well as the negative impacts not respecting others who are different from you. Working in Higher Education, this is going to be a constant challenge that we as professionals are going to have to continue to work at and try to help as many people as possible understand the importance of diversity.

6 Replies to “Inclusive Pedagogy”

  1. Thanks for the post! I often have had conversations with people related to “what is the upside to diversity?” As you mentioned, it is often easiest to start from a perspective of what diversity can do to benefit those in the majority. But I hope that we can get to a deeper understanding of systematic issues and barriers and work to challenge our own understanding, biases, and beliefs (for those of us who are in the majority) and work to create environments where diversity is valued not just because of what it can do for me. Thanks for the post!

  2. Matt, thank you for your post! I can definitely relate to your comment about how your last name can be perceived one way but your actual physical appearance is another. I don’t think many people really take the time to assess their own biases and the times they do and realize they they do have some biases, it can be a bit of a challenge initially. However I think that with the right facilitation of a discussion around this, it can be very beneficial for some people, and it seemed to be that way with your staff members.

  3. Matt,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree that diversity and inclusion are topics that we as higher education professionals must focus on in our classrooms and functional areas. We must challenge the “norm” and the status quo. We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable and also get comfortable bringing our students along on this journey with us. In our discipline, we often talk our positionalities and what impact that has on the way we read and disseminate information. For me and for most I believe that it plays a large role. By understanding our positionalities and creating a brave space in which conversations surrounding race and racism are encouraged, we can begin to dismantle the system.

  4. Great comments Matt. I share some of your angst about our generation’s upbringing in this regard: we were taught our whole lives to be “colorblind” (whatever that really means) and to not discuss race, gender, sexuality, and class because they were “not nice to talk about”. It is amazing to me that we are so surprised when many individuals and collectives today are fighting for the ability to be heard discursively and politically. Being able to decide what should and should not be discussed is a massive red flag regarding privilege that has rarely been acknowledged until recently. Your sister’s experience is indicative of some of the biases latent in what many consider to be “harmless” assumptions of language and stereotypes. These problems are deep and many disturbing, with your family’s experience appearing to be one of those “ah-ha” moments where we are forced to think about them.

  5. Good evening Matt,

    LOL…..your sister’s last name experience is very similar to my first name experience. When I apply for a job people first instinctually think the name is for a woman in Hawaiian (or some sort of Polynesian ancestry). Then when they talk on the phone they realize I’m a guy. Then when I interview in person they realize I’m a 6’3″ white guy. LOL…..perceptions and biases are very intriguing and definitely something I’m studying in my Ph.D. program. I have ALWAYS balked at the corporate management saying “perception is reality”. No, “your perception is your reality” and we all know perception can be filled with misogyny, racism, and homophobia.

    Thanks!

    Cheers, Lehi

  6. Thanks for your post, Matt. I can relate to your sister. People in the past have seemed confused when they meet me based on my appearance. A parent of one of my high school friends even said to me “oh, I thought you would be a tall blonde girl.” I was not sure what to think, but what I felt at the time was that she was disappointed that I wasn’t like her daughter.

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