The Pedagogy, Liberation, and Activism Program is developed by Dr. Amir Mirfakhraie at the Centre for Multicentric and Global Education (CGME). The aim of this initiative is to involve KPU Students enrolled in Sociology of Education (SOCI 2270 and SCOI 3270) and other courses to co-produce curriculum materials that focus on important social, economic, cultural, and political issues of our time and deconstruct various forms of oppression. The goal is to provide engaging spaces for students to practice their theoretical knowledge and to become involved in social justice issues. The curriculum materials will be digitally published and will be available on the CGME's website.
We believe that education systems are contradictory spaces and sites of conformity, resistance, and contestations with diverse consequences for their participants. Modern education systems have been considered as the most important agents of nation-building, modernization, and socio-economic-political-cultural change and progress. Education systems have been “heralded” as institutions to “awaken” both Western and non-Western nations from the conditions of tradition, racism, sexism, religious fundamentalism, and dogma. In addition, they are also considered as important institutions in restructuring society based on varied moral standards and ethical considerations such as neoliberalism, neo-conservatism, revolutionary ideologies, and anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic ideals. They are also conceptualized as democratic spaces, where students, teachers, and intellectuals are involved in co-constructing knowledge and developing emancipatory curriculum and attitudes in light of principles such as social justice, multiculturalism, anti-oppression education, equality, equity, and freedom. At the same time, education systems are also hegemonic institutions where the dominant values and cultures are reproduced. The aim of this program is to draw upon post-secondary education system as an anti-hegemonic space and avenue to promote critical thinking and anti-oppressive knowledge.
We ask several interrelated questions as the basis for envisioning and establishing this program:
- In teaching anti-oppression, do we end up oppressing ourselves and our students?
- How do we practice anti-oppression pedagogy and implement our theoretical approaches to teaching/learning about social, economic, cultural, and political events, relations, and structures?
- How do we make spaces in our classrooms for students' involvement as co-producers of knowledge?
- How do (should) we practice student-centred pedagogy, and involve students in the process of decolonizing knowledge and ways of knowing from the perspectives of subaltern and indigenous peoples?
- How do we include the voices of marginalized peoples as part of our approaches to critical thinking?
- Whose voices of marginalized and subaltern peoples do we rely on in formulating our curricula?
- What are some of the pedagogical practices that will create emancipatory and critical spaces for the marginalized voices in teaching/learning about controversial issues?
- How can we involve our students in affecting change in local and global levels, and in the creation of new forms of emancipatory and liberatory curriculum?
- What are some of the ways through which we can collaborate with other teachers, grass-roots organizations, and students from various disciplines and ideological backgrounds and standpoints?
- What are some of the structural, technical, aesthetic, and political aspects and conditions that need to be changed in promoting social justice through critical and student-centred pedagogy?
This educational program is developed based on an integrative multicentric approach to several key
principles (Dei, 1996, p. 27-35). We:
- account for the social manifestations of the intersections of factors such as “race”, gender, class, ability, and sexuality as material, ideological and categorical relations and structures, and how they are downplayed in elite’s discourse and social policy;
- question White hegemony, ethnocentric views, religious fundamentalism, and patriarchal, homophobic, and androcentric relations and structures;
- problematize the marginal positions of subaltern and seek to include their voices and concerns;
- view the world within the context of “collective responsibility and human spirituality and values”;
- conceptualize social actors in light of an inner-self and outer-self, and connecting them to the wider community;
- confront the challenge of diversity through promotion of inclusive schooling, community and social responsibilities;
- view schools as sites of social, economic, and cultural reproduction of inequalities and oppressions based on factors such as class, “race”, ethnicity, religion, culture, and sexuality (i.e.: class reproduction);
- conceptualize education in the context of students' homes, neighbourhood and work experiences; and
- interrogate pathological explanations of family, home environment, or communities as sources of the problems of social actors.
- We also account for the following two interrelated issues:
- how social differences are articulated in the discourses of power and how “the dynamics of social difference[s] [are] related to issues of identity and subjectivity” (Dei, 1996, p. 60); and
- how “power is used to differentiate, discriminate and establish material advantage and disadvantage among and between peoples and groups” (Dei, 1996, p. 64).
In developing student-centred curriculum, our aim is to move away from establishing a hierarchy of difference and an exclusive and problematic concern with the “other”. To transform the education system, we argue that it is important to develop inclusive curriculum that addresses questions of representation and multiplicity of perspectives (Dei, 1996, p. 78). In order to construct an inclusive curriculum, Dei promotes the idea of deep curriculum, pointing to “the official and hidden aspects of the school curriculum” as well as the intersections of the school culture and relations of power. He (Dei, 1996) also introduces the idea of balance curriculum, which is based on students’ experiences and cultures so that they can relate to the system in social, cultural and political ways (p. 79).
Our approach to a balance curriculum centers on eight key understandings:
- to account for multiplicity, sameness, and diversity;
- to consider collaboration as a major goal;
- to follow through what is learned;
- to lead students to critically evaluate their positions and act upon it;
- to present a collective approach to the contribution of all groups to knowledge;
- to be familiar with appropriate resources and have access to them;
- to view students, parents, and communities as partners in education and social production of knowledge; and
- to address issues of exclusion (Dei, 1996).
The objectives of this program is to provide an avenue for students to link their identities to other collective identities and experiences by:
- accounting for how differential power and privilege work in society;
- acknowledging their privileged positions;
- becoming inclusive of global, cultural, political, economic issues in their selection of teaching styles and curriculum; and
- acknowledging that their personal experiences “affect [their] ways of creating knowledge” (Dei, 1996, p. 63).
We conceptualize our approach as a Transformation and Social Action Approach through which we encourage the involvement of students to account for diverse ways of knowing and in making important decisions, to become “activist” and to solve social issues (Banks, 2003, p. 18, Figure 1.4). The end result is the creation of an environment in which the mainstream and other views are approached from critical perspectives that promote a holistic view of the world (Banks, 2003, p. 20). We want them to be transformed and as a result transform others. We want to move away from pedagogical approaches that only consider students “in the world, [and] not with the world or with others” (Freire, 2001, p. 90). We do not want our students to be “spectator[s], [and] not re-creator[s]” (Freire, 2001, p. 90). We want our students to be conscious beings, and not simply as the “possessor of a consciousness”.
Fall 2012 Project
In this year's project, Dr. Mirfakhraie and Dr. Whittington-Walsh are collaborating with Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women's Support Services (BWSS). Sociology of Education (SOCI 2270) and Sociology of Women in Canada (SOCI 2240) students will be involved in editing and revising the Empowering Non-Status, Refugee, and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence manual published by the BWSS organization (to download this manual, visit the following webpage: http://www.bwss.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/NSRIW-MANUAL.pdf). Their task is to re-write, edit, and re-organize this annual in light of the mission statements and organizational goals of BWSS for youth of British Colombia, so it can be used as an educational material by BWSS in their youth initiative programs to teach about the effects, causes, and social, cultural, economic, psychological consequences of violence against women and girls, especially Aboriginal, immigrant, non-White and refugee women. The aim is to encourage students to draw upon their theoretical and personal knowledge in innovative ways to develop a critical booklet on violence and gender that adheres to the framework developed by BWSS in fighting and eliminating violence. This framework is based on a Women-Centred Approach. As the authors of this manual state (Empowering Non-Status, Refugee, and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence, p. 16):
This manual seeks to present a woman-centred model. This is a transformative model that examines and responds to women’s needs in the context of her family and community and advocates for systemic social change. The strength of a woman-centred approach is based on working toward women’s liberation through an end to oppression. Specifically, this ideology must serve to inform and direct efforts to manage and support the complexity of needs presented by NSRIW who have been exposed to and are still at risk of intimate partner violence. Dealing appropriately with the spectrum of unique challenges facing NSRIW springs from a commitment to and an understanding of woman-centred values and social justice. A women-centred approach is not necessarily about providing multicultural services. Instead it is about putting women at the centre and recognizing that violence against women is about patriarchal power and control, racism, anti-immigrant prejudice and discrimination and classism.
In light of this model, the aim of the Pedagogy, Liberation, and Activism Program is for students to collectively apply their critical understandings of pedagogical, gendered, racialized, political, economic, and curriculum issues in developing student-centered frameworks to rewrite and edit the Empowering Non-Status, Refugee, and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence manual. It is our goal for students to become involved in the world and with the world by communicating their knowledge about violence against women and how it is informed by various other forms of oppression from local and global perspectives to high school students. In this project, students can introduce new ideas, chapters, concepts, and theoretical and historical frameworks that they deem necessary and important to educate youth population about the effects of the intersections of various forms of oppression, culminating in the violence against women. In short, we strive to develop engaging, critical, practical, and transforming teaching material that is produced by youth for youth.
We pose the following pedagogical questions to student to guide their approaches to revising the Empowering manual in this project:
- What/who is a feminist? What are the characteristics and assumptions of different kinds of feminism? What are their similarities and differences? How do they view and attempt to resolve violence against women and girls and marginalized groups?
- How can we get high school students and youth to identify with feminist issues and to better understand the consequences and causes of violence against women and girls?
- What does a feminist pedagogy look like? What are its basic assumptions? How can we practice it?
- How can you illustrate for youth some of the concepts, ideas, and theories that are discussed in the manual, so they can better relate to these issues?
- What kinds of information, activities, and critical questions can you pose for them to become involved in critically analyzing issues of violence from multiple standpoints?
The revised version of Empowering Non-Status, Refugee, and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence manual will be launched in January of 2013 and will be available in print and digital formats for educators and organizations.