Red Queens in Inclusive Pedagogy

Inclusivity is a challenging subject to discuss at times as societal morality presents a constantly moving target. The common playground insults of yesteryear become the room-silencing slurs of today. In turn, technical terms for uncomfortable subjects segue to playground insults and require routine maintenance every couple of years. This is largely great, it’s becoming more and more taboo to label individuals by aspects of their self beyond their own personal choice, and I’m sincerely curious how long it will be until pejoratives describing rural populations fall out of favor. As morality shifts more and more, we suddenly come to view each previous generation as selfish and barbaric, casting ourselves as the temporary heirs of a more civilized age. Inevitably, these positions too are shown to be folly and morality will generally continue forward as we realize and communicate more of our mistakes. As such, any statement specifically anchored to the accepted morality of a given time and circumstance runs the risk of coming off extremely tone-deaf in short order. In writing this, I question if tone-deaf is even an appropriate term.

No matter how woke you may (desire to) be, you have to run as fast as you can to stay where you are. And in a world where real, actual Nazis exist as a cultural force once more we need to keep up the pace. The notable social progress in our discourse in the last five years has triggered an equal if not greater retraction in opposition. Per the cliche, everyone is the hero of their own story, and many find it just so much easier to see oneself as a steadfast hero of free speech, beset on all sides by snowflakes than to see themselves as out of touch with time and society.

The benefits of inclusivity in academia are clear and can be selfishly justified with no presumption of altruism. We take the best and brightest from all over the world and pay them a bare necessities salary during 2-5  of the most creative, most hardworking years of their career. The question then becomes, how do we conduct inclusive pedagogy to reach both sides of the aisle, all the while functioning within our own implicit biases? For this I lean heavily upon two simple rules: don’t be a *jerk, and understand that you just might not get it, and that’s okay.

I take don’t be a *jerk from the Team Rubicon code of conduct. Team Rubicon is disaster relief organization that’s built upon a beautiful lie – that their primary business is disaster relief. While they perform admirably well in serving disaster afflicted populations, their true, unspoken mission is to rehabilitate afflicted service members. Team Rubicon deliberately recruits veterans struggling to re-adjust to civilian life and gives them a high energy, high adrenaline environment where their martial skills and dedication are useful once more. By pairing new members working to get well with elder members who have been there before they create a natural support group for those carrying hidden wounds. Given such preconditions, I was really surprised to see what a memorable and timeless code of conduct they chose to unite under. We might not realize all the ways we’re beings jerks, and no system of rules can ever keep up with our increasing awareness as a society, but if you start simple, it’s easy to maintain and build a solid foundation.

Second, is that sometimes, I just wont get it. This I take from an episode of South Park in which Stan repeatedly tries to apologize for the blunders of his father, growing more and more off-message with each attempt. Finally, after failing in every attempt to understand and right this wrong, Stan finally realizes that he’s failing because he just doesn’t get it, and he never will. There’s a lot of beauty in layers to this. From the ivory tower perspectives of academia, it’s easy to imagine that all knowledge is tangible and may be readily extracted given the right hooks. Falling into this line of thinking with regards to inclusivity risks discounting one’s entire lifetime of lived experience and private struggles. At the end of the day, somewhere in our selves, we all have some deep wound, some pernicious injury, some hole that we will spend the rest of our lives trying to fill. We can never truly understand what experiences one is carrying looking from the outside in, it’s showing that we’re willing to listen, to accept, and that we care enough that we will strive to do better, even though we don’t always get it.

These rules are simple, they don’t cover everything, but they are robust and generalizeable. Following these has led me well as a framework, and they contain a pure and simple enough truth that they may be disseminated readily – please do.

*Not the original wording.