Writing the Walk/Talk – Toward Publishing a Multicultural Learning and Teaching Philosophy, or…

Now that I’ve Designed the Presentation, Selected Images for Slides, Outlined the Key Principles / Points, the Hard Work of Writing the Philosophy as a Document / Script Begins…

So, here’s a first draft of core ideas:

I have made critical multicultural teaching and learning (MCTL) my life’s study and work. I have lived my entire life in the midst of domestic and international diversity, a statement sometime surprising my urban university colleagues, given my southern-Minnesota, farming-oriented, college-town roots. But my parents peopled our home with first generation college student boarders who were women from nearby towns or international men, with activist cousins who as students helped in creating ethnic and women’s studies departments, and with people and books opening my eyes to our community:

Mexican-American blue collar workers, African-American professionals, Asian-American families whose Midwest location kept them from internment camps but not local prejudice, Arab-American merchants, Jewish professors, gay and lesbian teachers, first-wave southeast Asian immigrants, biracial family members and our professional, blue collar and working class neighborhood.

Pivotally, when elementary teachers ignored American Indians within the Minnesota State History lessons, my grandmother took me to the library to research the US-Dakota War brought on by government treaty breaches so I might complexly comprehend the multiple dynamics culminating in the 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota men in my hometown.

Now, I cultivate students’, peers’ and my own skills from this learned willingness to become a cross-cultural ally: listening for, seeking out, being in the diversity that shapes our worlds, however constituted, however complicated culturally.

As an “education specialist” at the University of Minnesota (which means I combine teaching, program development/workshop planning, and research in my day-to-day work with learners who are undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, teaching staff and tenure-track faculty and administrators) I have contributed to the teaching / learning life of the University of Minnesota through lectures, seminars, teaching, mentoring, individual and program consulting, writing, and provision of multiple workshops to foster teacher professional development based on mindful self-awareness and respectful awareness of student learning and life processes. I contribute, too, by making sure that I participate in a full world of thinkers, teachers, and learners whose writing, conversations, teaching and leadership (whatever the forums or formats or locations they choose for this work) pushes me to think more, further, deeper; pauses me to reflect about integrity, integration, intention; and persists in requiring me to talk back, to give back, to have their backs as we challenge worlds of education.

When not presenting MCTL-specific work, I infuse what I do – and the meta-discussions of what I do – with the rich philosophies and practices of multicultural teaching and learning in higher education. I build my work on interconnected theories about adult learning, cultural studies, universal curriculum/course design, feminist and critical pedagogies, engaged learning, and locally-based activism; in this way, I can attend to dimension of human identity and daily life – such as ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexuality or other personal, social and cultural identities – as strengths students and teachers bring to classrooms.

In building my work, I draw on four primary foundations:

1. The life, teaching practices and graduate school writing of seven teachers who both accepted and encouraged me as a dissenting learner who came to first grade already with preference for learning that was interdisciplinary, collaborative, multimedia, diversity-informed: Margaret Courts, Lynn Pierce, James Hanneman, Martin Wiltgen, Scott Shrewsbury, Suzanne Bunkers, and Carolyn Shrewsbury.

2. The life, work and writing of Myles Horton and Septima Clark, the founding director and educational director, respectively, of Highlander Folkschool.

3. This idea at the core of the Women’s Studies graduate program I helped build as a student at Mankato State University: identities are multiple, simultaneous, interlocking, intersubjective, and non-hierarchical – therefore, in learning and teaching, research and problem-posing/problem-solving, my practices must make room for worlds of learning peoples.

4. And, most of all: My parents and the multigenerational Alexander-Stafford-Evans branch of adults who expected that the kid at the family table to be seen at and heard in conversations about current events – local to national to international events/news, books, art, politics, and to have considered opinions about family life and favorite avenues of entertainment (music and movies especially).


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