The Conversation in the Classroom

Recently, one of our SLC undergraduate classmates wrote an interesting piece for Even If Your Voice Shakes, the blog created by the Diversity and Activism Programming Subcommittee (DAPS) of Student Life. In “Can I Speak?” (10/17/16), Lizza Rodriguez ’17 invited us to think about our classroom experience and make change:

         It is clear to everyone who considers themselves members of this campus

         community that Sarah Lawrence is meant to be a place where critical thinking

         and social action are mediated among all of us here—a branding of neoliberal

         pedagogy that treasures collective understanding as well as individual growth. It

         is this very curriculum structure that helped me decide on Sarah Lawrence over

         three years ago. After some time here, upon reflection, I ask that we question

         how inclusive our own classrooms are, as academic circles here can become

         extremely inaccessible sooner rather than later. [italics added]

In her essay, Rodriguez reminded us of how classmates can monopolize class discussion with certain perspectives and leave fellow students who do not share their perspective unheard. She encourages us to: “[p]articipate in inclusive conversation. Scale back your contributions in class whenever you begin dominating discussion.”

As women’s history students, we are not inherently immune from monopolizing the conversation with a particular viewpoint. The public discourse on history isn’t impervious to it either. History is written and shared by people. We’re human and have biases. However, we can take responsibility for our mistakes and be cognizant of how we approach class discussion and our contributions to the public discourse in the future.

Have you experienced this challenge in the classroom (whether here, in high school or undergrad)? Have you noticed moments when the floor needed to be opened up to other voices? Have you taken action? Are there particular parts of history that you want to study and depart from the dominant perspective?

We’d love to get your comments and feedback to continue this discussion that Lizza Rodriguez started.

*Disclosure: I am a member of DAPS. Also, thank you to Even If and Lizza Rodriguez for allowing us to share a bit of the blog.

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