Thursday, October 03, 2013

hooks, Ward, and Ladson-Billings

How do you feel about bell hooks's Teaching community?

With hooks's ideas in mind, my students would have made quick work of unspoken assumptions our campus guest Lee Ward (coauthor of First-generation college students: Understanding and improving the experience from recruitment to commencement) made during his presentation to faculty and staff which I attended over lunch just now. "They don't come to us with less cultural capital," he insisted, and I agree, "they just come with different cultural capital." Again, I agree. "No one is deficient in cultural capital." Uh huh. "But they will need our help in developing the capital that will help them to succeed in college."



...maybe we could instead reexamine the hegemonic assumptions (the, as hooks would have it, imperialist white-supremacist nationalist capitalist patriarchal assumptions) we have made that make college such a daunting experience for these folks? Might we try to overcome our institutional inertia, the academic conservatism that keeps us from making a more inclusive, less restrictive and prescriptive, radically open higher educational experience that helps students to feel like they matter by not so explicitly undervaluing the cultural capital they come to us with? For all of its faults (and I think there are a few), I must appreciate Gloria Ladson-Billings's emphasis on culturally-relevant teaching. (See The dreamkeepers, the last book my students read for HON 479. For the record, I don't think there's anything at all wrong with culturally-relevant teaching; I just think that Ladson-Billings tends to mislabel pedagogical practices, calling "culturally-relevant" teaching practices that are simply salutary for other reasons...take inquiry-based learning, for example.)

To be continued, no doubt.


Maughta said...

Hahahaahaahaaah! The differences between pie-in-the-sky academic theorists and in-the-trenches student affairs professionals.

Pobject said...

...or "pie-in-the-sky academic theorists" (and university staff) and academic professionals of all kinds who are open to institutional change.

Maughta said...

I think you'll find that academic and student-services professionals are for the most part open to whatever gets them higher retention/graduation rates (or whatever their higher-ups have decided is the metric they feel like basing all their financial decisions upon on a given day). I'm not saying that pie-in-the-sky theory doesn't ultimately trickle down, but people like Ward have a different emphasis on student success. Everyone has a focus. You're a leader, you get to have the innovative ideas, we're the managers, we get to implement them.

Maughta said...

I'm not saying that theory doesn't have a place and change isn't good, but academic professionals have to ensure student success with the students they have now and the system they have now.