This is a guest post from Dr. Marcus Croom, Assistant Professor of Curriculum & Instruction, Indiana University School of Education
Quick question: Has January 6, 2021 come up in your classes yet?
I wish I could hear what you’re thinking right now. Whatever your thoughts may be, here’s what I’m thinking: January 6th already came up during my first day of classes because I mentioned it when we discussed the interconnections between American society and American schools. Some students in my Books for Reading Instruction course also told me that some residents of their hometowns are debating critical race theory (CRT), wrestling with other political issues, and these future teachers mentioned some additional school-relevant controversies. I fully expected that what many of us have been witnessing this year, in communities and counties across the country, would show up in my own classroom this semester. So, before this fall semester began, I recommitted myself to having a real talk about public issues like race, racism, and politics within the curricular context of the courses I teach.
Whether or not January 6th has come up in your classes yet, I suggest that you begin to make some decisions about how to address controversial public or curricular issues that are likely to arise at some point in this 2021-2022 academic year. Since there are many examples of public issues that might arise in your classes once the semester is in full swing, in this first post of a three-part series I’ll briefly highlight some curricular issues that I’ve been thinking about in higher education instead.
On March 19, 2021 I was invited to provide a SoTL keynote. My talk was titled, Race Is In Your Course. Are You Leaving Out Racial Literacies? [requires IU login] One of the main points I shared during our virtual gathering is that we already know that race is in our courses—regardless of our discipline, department, or discourse community—because of the “curriculum that is embedding/comprising the course” (Croom, 2021). Also, one question that I asked our university faculty to work on is this: “What if your course(s) were designed in a manner that did not perpetuate the neutrality and universality of White(ness), any aspiration to White(ness), or the false notion of White(ness) as above all?” (Croom, 2021). To generate a shared understanding about the question and point above, we read the work of Ramón Grosfoguel (2013) who has demonstrated that Westernized universities are routinely Eurocentric, racist, sexist, anti-Black, and even anti-human. Therefore, unless our disciplines, departments, discourse communities, or our own individual decisions have intensively counteracted the default settings of “the long 16th century” (Grosfoguel, 2013, pp. 74, 86), this reality is already evident in our current curricula and courses in the United States of America and at Indiana University. Recognizing this fact, however, should not lead us to conclusions of inevitability or indifference (Croom, 2021, Chapter 3). Rather, as I discussed in my SoTL keynote, these critical insights can light cressets of de/reconstructive knowledge and practice: Eurocentrism can be displaced by African, Caribbean, South American, world indigenous, non-Western, and even Western histories, knowledges, authors, and texts; racisms can be disrupted by antiracisms; also those proverbial dead, racially White men can be decentered to prioritize racially Black women and many other hyperraced knowledge generators who have long superseded the limited contributions that White men have made to human knowledge and human advancement. In other words, our curricula and our courses can be (re)thought and (re)done in ways that depart from our Eurocentric, racist, sexist, anti-Black, and anti-human past and present in higher education…especially at “elite” universities. Among all that such de/reconstructive work would entail, we could start by:
Planning a real talk about current public issues or our current curricula, then build on that dialogue with meaningful assignments or actions to take that conversation further, for instance. Changing the authors and texts we assign as course readings or sources, whether these items are research or theoretical articles, fictional literature, compositions, artwork, films, blogs, etc. Reorienting ourselves and our pedagogy to advance the post-White turn in higher education (Croom, 2020). Along these lines, here again is one question that I posed during my SoTL keynote: “What if your course(s) were designed in a manner that did not perpetuate the neutrality and universality of White(ness), any aspiration to White(ness), or the false notion of White(ness) as above all?” (Croom, 2021).
Whether January 6th, American (false) notions of racially White supremacy, voting laws in the U.S., police violence in the U.S., international crises, environmental crises, or any other public issue comes up in your classes this 2021-2022 academic year, I hope that you will be prepared to engage in teaching and learning that helps your students (and yourself!) to become better human beings in our shared world.
Croom, Marcus. (2020). If “Black Lives Matter in Literacy Research,” Then Take This Racial Turn: Developing Racial Literacies. Journal of Literacy Research. 52. 530-552. 10.1177/1086296X20967396.
Grosfoguel, Ramón. (2013). Epistemic Racism/Sexism, Westernized Universities and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century. 31-58.