“What Makes Our Teaching Anti-Oppressive”: Presentation by Dr. Kevin K. Kumashiro

I was lucky enough to see Dr. Kumashiro’s presentation regarding anti-oppressive education at the University of Regina. Dr. Kumashiro is the Director of the Center for Anti-Oppressive Education. The following are some of the highlights of the presentation, from my point-of-view. I realize that I never came CLOSE to capturing the thoughts of this presentation … but for those looking at a VERY sketchy and possibly inaccurate representation (with my apologies to Dr. Kumashiro), read on.

After wonderful and thoughtful introductions by my colleagues Dr. Carol Schick and Dr. Meredith Cherland, Kumashiro started his presentation off with his personal background, a personal story and this fascinating quote:
“[A]ll modes of address misfire one way or another. I never ‘am’ the ‘who’ that a pedagogical address thinks I am. But then again, I am never the ‘who’ “that I think I am either. (Ellsworth)

“A space between who I think my students are, and who they really are … and what I want my students to learn, and what they will really learn.” The ‘space between’ is what is important.

Four common approaches to anti-oppressive education were given.

A common approach for anti-oppressive education.
(1) Education for the ‘Other’
– Spaces that Welcome Differences
– Pedagogies that tailor to Differences
(both cases are problematic because both make sweeping generalizations)
– Resources that Empower the Different
(what does ‘Empower’ mean)

Delpit’s “The Culture of Power’ was brought in at this point. Very interesting … I Googled this reference quickly. The culture of power is often ‘the unspoken rules that you need to know to succeed in society’.

(2) Education About the “Other”
– What: Study Differences Within and Among Individuals and Groups
(critique: these lessons do not occur in a vaccuum … there are already stereotypes and misrepresentations)
– Why: Challenge What Already Learned and How Unintentionally Teach
– How: Add New Lessons and/or Integrate throughout the Curriculum.
(With any approach, this has also has limitations). “These efforts, though well intended, perpetuate teh exoticization and Othering of populations they aim to ‘include'” (Lie & Grant). We must also be

(3) Education that is Critical of Othering and Privileging
– Examine Structures/Ideologies at Societal Level (Examine the ideologies around rascism and sexism in cultural, social, economic, political, legal, historical … processes. How these hiearchies are perpetuated.
– Examine Processes of Marginalizing and of Privileging (e.g., if something is ‘normal’ then something must be ‘abnormal’)
– Examine Effects of “Common Sense” (What is ‘normal’ or what is ‘natural’)
We need to not only focus on the effects of rascism, but to also understand the hidden ways they play out.

“Until we look beyond the dichotomies, the only people represented in the women’s movement or the gay rights movement are those fortunate enough to possess the luxury of a simple and uncomplicated oppression. Furthermore, the dichotomies upon which we base so much of our identities will continue to reinforce systemic oppression. Unless we transcend the dualities, we prevent ourselves from effectively challenging the barriers that exist for all people in our culture.”

(4) Education that Others the Self
– Learning that Centers on Discomfort and Crisis (e.g., learning things that challenge what we already know is very uncomfortable … learning may come through crisis. We don’t want to learn uncomfortable things.)
– Learners that Examine Own Lenses (Is purposefully leading students into crisis unethical? What is perhaps more unethical is pretending crisis is NOT happening, and leaving them there. Examine what we are desiring, and what we are resisting. Everyone has a very different lense.)
– Teaching that Makes Use of Uncertainty, Partiality, and Paradox (Dr. Kumashiro explained a wonderful story about teaching about Hawaii through music, and examining stereotypes. Two stories were given about Hawaii, same music was used, and the song invoked different responses depending on the story that was previously given. Students were also given a chance to critique the lesson as well … limitations of the lesson. We must recognize that any story that we tell is going to have its gaps.)

There are too many great thoughts from the presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed this … and wish I had a chance to represent this more fully in my blog post. I will thoughtfully be following Dr. Kumashiro’s work in the future.

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