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Today, I taught John Scalzi

19 October, 2010

Today, I taught John Scalzi

No, I didn’t actually teach the man himself. Really, it was more that he taught my class. Or maybe he just made it possible for me to teach. No, I don’t teach science fiction, but this wasn’t science fiction. It wasn’t history either, as it happens. Instead, it was my Freshman Seminar on an incredibly cool topic. But one of the outcomes for the course is that students develop multiple perspectives and global awareness. We were supposed to be discussing an article on a 17th pseudo-Utopian community, but instead, we started with Scalzi’s post of this morning, “Things I Don’t Have to Think About Today.”

I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. I saw it and just decided it was worth talking about. So I walked in, and asked how many definitions of the word ‘privilege’ they knew. A couple had heard of race and/or gender privilege, or class privilege, but no one really knew what it meant. So I said I had something we could read that might help to explain it. The makeup of this class is interesting in that it is majority white and male. Most of my classes are a bit more heterogenous, or at least more gender-balanced. But whatever. So we went around the room, each one reading a line aloud. Sometimes the lines were especially sad, because the student reading them probably *had* had to think about the ones they read. Next time, I will probably give them all a list and ask them to check off the ones they have or haven’t had to think about. Anyway, after each one, we took a minute to discuss what they meant, some more than others. So, for example, more than half the students didn’t understand why someone would have trouble hailing a cab after midnight. But enough did that they could explain. Some didn’t understand why a prescription might be difficult to get. We talked about that, too.

Fortunately, it happened that the reading for class also had some interesting race stuff. So we were able to relate the two readings and to talk about different ways of excluding people or othering them. And this is where I start to worry about fail. Because this is ADM talking, and ADM is pretty white. Yeah, there are lots of sorts of privilege I don’t have, but white privilege is something I’ve got. And so I feel a bit weird talking to students of color, or gay students, or anybody else who really knows about what it’s like to have to think about all of the things that Scalzi and his commenters mention, because I’m also the person in the classroom with the most power and privilege in this situation. The dynamic are interesting. Today was a bit more interesting than usual, because I started my day with Dr Crazy’s post on feminism in the classroom and was hoping that I create such a space when I teach. I think I probably do, but sometimes it’s a clumsy space. Because I’m me. And sometimes I show my ass. But that’s the risk you have to take, I think, because this shit is important to talk about. Still, I do hope I’m not screwing it up.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 October, 2010 3:38 pm

    Screwing up? By introducing some real-life relevance into the liberal arts?Relax. You can never be sure what effect you are having anyway.

  2. 19 October, 2010 4:08 pm

    Hadn't thought of it that way đŸ™‚

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