Dolana Mogadime, Brock University, Member of the Federation’s Equity and Diversity Steering Committee
One cannot help but notice when walking through the corridor of a university setting that the student body attending Canadian institutions is becoming increasing diverse. As such, university professors have an ethical responsibility to respond in relation to both curriculum resources and teaching approaches in ways that engage learners where they are. The concept of intersectionality (Shields, 2008) provides theoretical insights into how social categories (e.g. race, class, gender, sexuality) operate in everyday life experiences along the axes of both oppression and domination. For the past ten years I’ve been teaching graduate level courses in both Curriculum Studies and the Social and Cultural Contexts of Education that assist students in problematizing what that means to them.
For example, students consider Peggy McIntosh’s (1998) ‘Unpacking the invisible knapsack’- a classic reflective piece for examining a sociological understanding of the interactions between race, the individual and society. However, an intersectionality approach requires the inclusion of ones lived experiences in relation to diverse and complex social categories which means that McIntosh’s operating principle of ‘whiteness as privilege and domination’ becomes troubled for my white students who are also gay, lesbian and bisexual. My point is, student’s experiences with troubling the social construction of gender causes them to revisit the uses of such well-known texts that focus singularly on race with greater levels of complexity at the intersection of sexuality.
More recently I have become an advocate of integrating the Federation’s Diversity Series into assignment options for my courses. Students are asked to respond to current issues about discrimination based on minoritized identities or oppression featured on the Federation blog’s Equity Matters series. The Equity Matters series assists students in gaining insider knowledge about the field, major policies, equity issues and the debates of today. It provides a means for students to engage with the field and develop a sense of community building through their presentations on discussions brought forward by leading researchers. Moreover, examining these issues allows for the development of criticality within the rigor of student’s analysis.
'The 3Ds of the Canadian Women's Movement: Delegitimization, Dismantling and Disappearance', ‘Status of Women in Canada on International Woman's Day 2010’ and ‘Controversial Issues in Diverse and Multicultural Classrooms’ are examples of some blog posts that were taken up by graduate students. Intersectionality allowed for revisiting the single issue approach that focus on gender or those that discuss race toward consideration of complex identities that reflect the lived realities of diverse students today.
Brodie, J. (2010, January). The 3Ds of the Canadian Women's Movement: Delegitimization, Dismantling and Disappearance. Retrieved from http://www.ideas-idees.ca/blog/archive/201001
Essed, P. (n.d.) Towards a methodology to identify converging forms of everyday discrimination. Retrieved from: www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/essed45.htm
McIntosh, P. (1998). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In E. Lee et al. (Eds.) Beyond heroes and holidays: A practical guide to K-12 Anti-racist, Multicultural education and staff development. Washington: Network of Educators on the Americas.
Shields, S. (2008). Gender: An intersectionality perspective. Sex Roles, 59, 301-311.