engaged pedagogy

Students do not become critical thinkers overnight. First, they must learn to embrace the joy and power of thinking itself. Engaged pedagogy is a teaching strategy that aims to restore students’ will to think, and their will to be fully self-actualized.
—  Bell Hooks, “Critical Thinking,” from Teaching Critical Thinking (2010, p.8).
Progressive, holistic education, “engaged pedagogy” is more demanding than conventional critical or feminist pedagogy. For, unlike these two teaching practices, it emphasizes well-being. That means that teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students.
—  Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress
I am a black woman. I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I cannot go back and change years of believing that I could never be quite as pretty or inteligent as many of my white friends—but I can go forward learning pride in who I am… I cannot go back and change years of believing that the most wonderful thing in the world would be to be Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife—but I can go on and find the strength I need to be the revolutionary for myself rather than the companion and help for someone else. So no, I don’t believe that we change what has already been done but we can change the future and so I am reclaiming and learning more of who I am so that I can be whole.
—  A student in a course on Black Women Writers, an excerpt from “Eros, Eroticism, and the Pedagogical Process” in bell hook’s book Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
Progressive, holistic education, ‘engaged pedagogy,’ is more demanding than conventional critical or feminist pedagogy. For, unlike these two teaching practices, it emphasizes well-being. That means that teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students.
—  bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

my program in college is modeled around and focused on engaged/critical pedagogy. but the white people in my class are so basic it’s infuriating. i am so mad at school. because like, our readings and our work centers around marginalized peoples but students of color are still decentered in class. my education is put on the back burner so that white students can be coddled while learning about privilege and oppression. i am learning a lot less compared to my white peers. i feel like i should be paying less tuition than them. honestly, i’ve learned more just reading on my own and listening to people’s lived experiences than i have in class so far. if i didn’t want to go to grad school, i would never have finished my bachelors. i just wish that there was a university that decentered whiteness completely.

I had never imagined that we would be so starkly confronted with the horrendous effects of these representations. I want to acknowledge that the press has turned Rodgers into a celebrity, while the families have been subject to constant reminders of the tragedy. I also grappled with how much to quote his manifesto, as I do below. I haven’t read the entire manifesto. I can’t. Since so many people on our campus haven’t been able to read it either, I thought making direct reference might demonstrate some things. I don’t want to contribute to his celebrity status here; I do believe that this shooting and his statements about his motivation teach us important things about the operationalization of things like the model minority myth or American masculinity and pathology. I offer a cultural critique to see what sense can be made of this tragedy and what sad sense this tragedy makes of critical theory and its continued relevance.

For scholars and students of Asian American Studies, the case of Rodger makes three things clear.

As I told my class, first, minorities can still be invested in whiteness…

Socially, there are unearned benefits and advantages to those invested in whiteness, which often but does not always mean exclusively white people. This possessive investment in whiteness crosses racial lines. Other racial and ethnic groups can also invest in whiteness by supporting practices that uphold racial hierarchies.

In this case, as we learned from the manifesto, Rodger was deeply invested in whiteness and sought to distance himself from men of color. He was a young Hapa man who felt not quite white enough…

Second, Rodger’s own self-hatred demonstrates that his possessive investment in whiteness fueled his desire to transcend “second place” and to aspire to the top of the racial order as a white man by denying his own Asianness…

—  Imagine. You are a professor teaching a class on Asian-American identity race, and politics at UCSB and the abstract becomes real via Elliot Rodger. This is a powerful reminder of how intellectual work is political work with implication for the “real world”. 
I love to dance. When I was a child, I danced everywhere. Why walk there when you can shuffle-ball-change all the way. When I danced my soul ran free. I was poetry. On my Saturday grocery excursions with my mother, I would flap, flap, flap, ball change the shopping cart through the aisles. Mama would turn to me and say, ‘Boy, stop that dancing. White people think that’s all we can do anyway.’ I would stop but when she wasn’t looking I would do a quick high bell kick or tow. I didn’t care what white people thought, I just loved to dance-dance-dance. I still dance and I still don’t care what people think white or black. When I dance my soul is free. It is sad to read about men who stop dancing, who stop being foolish, who stop letting their souls fly free… I guess for me, surviving whole means never to stop dancing.
—  O'Neal LaRon Clark, 1987. An excerpt from “Eros, Eroticism, and the Pedagogical Process” in bell hook’s book Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom