constructed nature of knowledge visible and to challenge the claim that any knowledge is neutral


constructed nature of knowledge visible and to challenge the claim that any knowledge is neutral

Yet ironically, that naming is often used to reinforce the idea that social justice content and those who present it are driven by personal agendas and special interests, and thus less legitimate.

Because instructors who teach critical social justice courses often belong to minoritized groups and because they name these groups, they can be perceived as having a personal bias; they are viewed as if they only teach these courses because they are “minorities” and have an “axe to grind.” Because the instructors are seen as simply pushing their personal agendas, students often feel more comfortable to explicitly disagree with the curriculum and pedagogy. Indeed, this challenge further illustrates how unimaginable our example of the astronomy student is. The instructor in our scenario is most likely a White male, as is the vast majority of higher education faculty (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2009). White males overall hold more social authority and are seen as more objective, and thus students are less likely to argue with them (Rudman & Kiliansky, 2000). That, along with the presumed neutral content of a subject like astronomy, means students respond to this instructor and the course as though they were value-neutral. In contrast, because the positionality of a woman of Color professor who teaches a social justice course is named, both she and the course are presumed to be value-driven.

Ultimately, one or two courses in our college or university schooling are not enough to brainwash us or deny us the ability to think freely. In fact, the opposite is true: The more depth, perspective, and complexity we can bring to bear on how we and others view and understand the world, the clearer, more nuanced, and ultimately freer our thinking can become.

Returning to our astronomy student, it isn’t necessary for his positionality to align with the instructor’s in order for him to consider the framework the instructor is using.

The following practices support Guideline 5:

Identify your social positionality and stay attentive to how it informs your response to the course context (e.g., your race, class, gender). What limitations of awareness might you have as a result of that positionality? What are the things you can and can’t see based on the social positions you hold or don’t hold? Recognize the perspectives embedded in all texts (such as textbooks, newspaper articles, and TV news), especially those that don’t explicitly name them. Are the ideas presented as if they have no perspective and apply universally to all people, regardless of social positionality? If so, practice seeking out and considering alternative

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