principles for constructive engagement
1. You don’t know what you don’t know. Strive for intellectual humility.
- Read the material closely and carefully. Look up new words. Re-read if necessary.
- If you don’t understand a concept, talk about it in class.
- Focus on understanding instead of agreement. Sometimes “I disagree” means “I don’t understand.” Also, understanding does not mean you have to agree.
- Practice asking questions. Most of us have been taught to get the right answers rather than asking thoughtful honest questions.
- Opinion is the easiest and weakest form of academic discussion.
- Opinion does not require that we know anything about the topic or read the necessary materials
- Work with a partner or small group and read the texts together, ask each other questions, make connections, look up new vocabulary, discuss favorite or challenging passages.
- Most anecdotal evidence comes from limited personal experience or rumor.
- Our goal is to understand how social inequality and power systems work which requires a deeper study that examines larger social patterns.
- Focusing on personal experiences and exceptions prevents us from seeing overall social patterns.
- How does thinking about this person’s viewpoint challenge the way I see the world?
- How have I been shaped by the social issues we are exploring?
- What about my life (race, gender, class) might make it hard for me to understand this perspective?
- If I accept this point of view, what ethically will be required of me?
- Practice naming your social position and reflecting on how it informs your response to the class content. This is an ongoing exercise.
- Try to identify with the perspective of the texts you engage with.
Adapted from: Sensoy, Özlem, and Robin J. DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education. New York: Teachers College, 2012. Print.