Examining Oppressions as a Way of Valuing Diversity: Using a Critical Multicultural Lens in Educating Students for Intercultural Engagement

Examining Oppressions as a Way of Valuing Diversity: Using a Critical Multicultural Lens in Educating Students for Intercultural Engagement

Otrude Nontobeko Moyo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5268-1.ch004
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This chapter shares an example of using a critical multicultural lens in teaching and learning to engage diversity and social justice in intercultural experiences. The author draws on the classroom experiences of the author and highlights instructor-learner perspectives. Emphasized is the use of the knowledge building classroom engaging pedagogy of discomfort, courageous dialogues, and critical reflections in a reiterative process to engage students in “critical knowing thyself” and “respectfully knowing others.” Students are encouraged to use a critical multicultural lens that centers power in societies together with supportive readings, documentary/films, and activities to examine the social construction of race (racism), gender (sexism), heteronormativity (homophobia), class (classism), and (dis)abilities (ableism) at the personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels. The conclusion highlights the need to engage self-criticality and the pedagogy of discomfort to examine the interlocking systems of oppression to support students' learning beyond just cataloging privileges.
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This chapter is premised on the knowledge building classroom as part of advancing the scholarship of teaching and learning. My role as an instructor and scholar in a knowledge building classroom is to share teaching-learning strategies about diversity and social justice, but also evaluate the teaching and learning taking place within the course itself (Shulman, 2000).1 This is one example, not a master narrative! I write this chapter as an instructor and scholar grappling with teaching-learning about diversity and social justice beyond cataloging privileges but most important, this chapter demonstrate through the course design, the pedagogy of discomfort and self-criticality instructor – learner transformative processes.

For over ten years now, I have taught a course titled Diversity and Social Justice using a critical multicultural lens to engage diversity, social justice in our intercultural experiences. Currently, in higher education, these two concepts diversity and social justice continue to receive extensive attention (see, Harris, Barone & Davis, 2015; Gordon, Elmore-Sanders & Gordon, 2017). Most of the prevailing writings on diversity and social justice focus on the university as an institution and a cultural system but fewer scholars share what goes on in the classroom to highlight the cognitive and affective processes of such courses. TuSmith & Reddy (2002) in their edited book Race in the College Classroom share a compelling discussion for scholars to continue engaging the scholarship of teaching and learning within this area. To date there are plentiful training tools that engage diversity and social justice in various educational settings and fields of professional practices. However, these often “one-off” workshops perhaps with the exception of those workshops captured in videos are not able to share material that can be replicated in other classrooms particularly to engage students to examine the interlocking experiences of oppressions as a way to eliminate social injustices. The chapter is written to reflect how the course is experienced.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Oppressions: Is a systematic and structural abuse of power using hierachicalizations of human value. There are varied expressions of oppressions, marginalization, alienation, exclusions, exploitation and direct violence. Oppression manifest itself at intra-personal levels, interpersonal, structural and cultural levels. Examples of systems of oppressions include white imperialism and colonization, patriarchy, militarism, racism, capitalism, heteronormativity, ableism, etc.

Pedagogy of Discomfort: Emerging from Boler’s (1999) pedagogy of discomfort considers self-criticality, critical “other” awareness and engages pedagogical practices and strategies such as critical reflections, courageous dialogues that stimulate discomfort as a way for transformative learning.

Critical Multicultural Lens: Draws from critical theory – focusing on transforming the world rather than simple explaining it. Critical multicultural lens centers the analysis of power in socio-political systems as a way of social action and examines power to dismantle structures of oppression and hegemonic cultural knowledges in everyday experiences.

Diversity: A socio political construct, contextually situated for example, within a capitalist system diversity is used to represent discussions of inclusion and exclusions. Further, diversity in cultural frames is used to share about identities, including demographic identities and relational identities.

Knowledge Building Classroom: Focuses on instructor-learner strategies where students are seen as co-creators of knowledge. The learning environment is structured to facilitate collaborative learning where the instructor is a co-learner.

Social Justice: Within the socio-political context that creates winners and losers (therefore, injustice), social justice is a construct used to challenge communities to be oriented towards fairness. Injustices create differential experience of oppressions resulting in disproportionate experience of denial of rights, exclusions, inequitable distribution of resources resulting in disempowerment.

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