In a summer loaded with racially charged front page news items, educators have embraced a new philosophy of promoting learning.
“The old-style goal of promoting critical thinking proved inefficient and didn’t always yield the results we wanted,” said Ani Mulder, professor of philosophy at Walter Wiggins College. “I was alarmed when I saw the students from my Global Ethics class posting statements on Facebook that led me to believe they found the issues involved in the George Zimmerman court case complex. They said they could see truth in all sides. At that point I knew I had failed as a teacher.”
Mulder and many of her colleagues have now taken to Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs and classroom conversations to make their opinions clear.
“I immediately changed my profile picture to a graphic of the words ‘Social Justice’ and wrote 50 posts about how the court case should have ended,” said Mulder. “I unfriended anyone who disagreed with me or posted ideas that could have generated dialogue.”
“I admire the strong stance Ani took,” said Martin Saunders, chair of cognitive complexity at Tahoe Liberal Arts College. “I’ve adopted her methods in personal interactions.”
Saunders explained that he has interrupted campus conversations about the consequences of Paula Deen’s admission of using racial epithets.
“I’ve heard colleagues who should know better saying we shouldn’t see this in dualistic terms – that’s it’s not a clear black and white issue,” said Saunders. “I’m tired of all this critical thinking. Anyone who doesn’t take a firm stance in favor of vilifying human weakness certainly shouldn’t call themselves an educator. Some people had the audacity to say Paula Deen should have the opportunity to go through an educational process. Preposterous!”
Scholars have now introduced a model of education called “Enlightened Divisiveness,” based on the practices of national news journalists, to replace the antiquated process of exposing students to many viewpoints and broadening their ability to see issues as complex.
“Our style of education skips all of the ridiculous game playing and gets straight to the right answers in complicated situations,” said Saunders. “Anti-change agents can keep confusing students with dilemmas that seem to require a lot of consideration, wasting time when we all know there’s only one way to think.”
“Some of my so-called colleagues have started discussion groups to bring people of different opinions together,” said Mulder. “Reconciliation is just a way of accepting the unacceptable. Making a place in your brain for opposing viewpoints stands against our vision of an inclusive academic world. Besides, I’ve been so busy with my committee assignments I didn’t even have a chance to follow any of the Zimmerman trial and I’m sure others didn’t either. Talking about reconciliation without the proper time to learn about the current issues would be irresponsible.”
“I was taught in my graduate school program that imposing my personal values on students instead of maintaining a nonjudgmental stance could hurt my ability to create a safe space for students,” said campus counselor Francine Crosby, from Tarrytown State University. “That was before Facebook, though. I see my colleagues modeling transparency of values and it’s really exciting. Tomorrow, I’m going to post a sign on my office that says ‘I’m Not Racist But You Are’ so students know I model inclusiveness. Anyone who accepts the behavior of anyone who may have done something wrong in the past has no place in this community of learners.”