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Forum nameOkay Activist Archives
Topic subjectIt goes deeper than that
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=30834&mesg_id=30862
30862, It goes deeper than that
Posted by Nettrice, Thu May-12-05 09:46 AM
>which extends beyond the study of race. What gives the middle
>class professor authority to theorise on the proletariat, the
>male professor authority to comment on feminism, the English
>professor a license to critically discuss foreign cultures?

I ask these questions all the time, once as a student and now as an educator. Paulo Freire answered some of these questions (for me).

>With respect, I'm not sure if what's written above
>automatically qualifies what's written below. Notwithstanding
>an apparent agenda, of which I am aware, surely all syllabi
>have a limited scope for 'teaching' by virtue of time

Not just time constraints. The Dean, and we got him on tape (secretly), admitted that the canon unfairly positioned white (European) history above all else and this was by design. A many teachers learn, there are standards and teachers-in-training have to learn and adhere to these standards in order to keep their jobs. This is one of the reasons I decided not to teach in public schools. I had a problem with some of the standards, esp. as it related to history, art and culture. College teaching is a lot more flexible. However, there is still an expectation to adhere to a canon.

>this means the experts really aren't
>>experts and the teachers really aren't teachers.

I write this because of this adherence (in academia) to preset standards that position white and European history, art and culture above others. However, it is deeper than that. In not just that white history/culture is seen as the only history/culture. There is a overt agenda that presupposes this superiority and will marginalize or not include the voices, text, and histories of other people. Thus, when white "teachers" (or anyone) attempt to discuss or explore outside of the canon they are only doing so from their position in the social order. They are limited in their ability to teach because they do not realize or are unwilling to admit that they, too, have inherited a reality and view that is far different than some of their students...and even their fellows.

This unwillingness to recognize one's own conditioning (even in academia) is why it is often impossible for white people to relate or relay information to and about people of color (Black people) in a realistic way. Speaking for myself, in school the first thing I learned was that Jane, Dick and Spot lived in a world I was excluded from. It's a slightly different experience for children now but not much. That's 40+ years of conditioning that starts when kids first enter the outside world, as students. This world gets larger as we grow but not the first lessons.

"...my presence in the world is not so much of someone who is merely adapting to something external, but of someone who is inserted as if belonging essentially to it. It's the position of one who struggles to become the subject and maker of history and not simply a passive, disconnected object." - Paulo Freire

As a Black woman (and educator), I recognize the conditions in which we are in generate divisions that make it hard to construct ideas for change and transformation. Like Freire, I know that these obstacles will not last forever. Until then, people have to deal with the divisions and be willing to recognize privilege of the lack of that AND how it effects their views.