This morning I, Will Heck, was on my way to the Rec Center when I heard a report on National Public Radio about terrible floods taking place in Paris. As I listened to these Parisians discuss the troubles they were facing I thought about a question I have asked my self a few times in new language, “Why is it a prevailing cultural narrative that the French hate people from the United States?”
Now, before this class, (and to be honest a few other classes, and podcasts about white privilege) I would have both asked, and answered this question very differently then I would today. I would have asked, “Why does France hate us?” My answer would have been somewhat incoherent, and probably included something about George W. Bush and Freedom Fries. Currently, I would attempt to look at broader social context and the idea of “American Privilege”.
I use this example because it relates to a Postmodern practice of critiquing and examining culture and institutions that I would like to incorporate into my future classroom. This process entails looking at specific practices, traditions, and values within ones cultures and asking deep probing questions about them. Questions like; Why do we do this, what is the history behind this, why do we value this, who decides that we value this, is this normal, and who gets to decide what normal is? These are just a few questions that need to be asked in a quest to get students to critique their own culture and institutions. The goal of this critique is broaden perspectives, as well as point out discrepancies and inequalities.
Within my future classroom I will strive to incorporate this method. I would like to spend the beginning of at least one class a week asking these types of questions about existing institutions, and our broader culture. I would later like encourage students to present their own examples to be critiqued in such a fashion. This is a method that will promote critical thinking, as well as help train students to believe they can change the world. It will be a difficult task to start out with, but I am a strong believer that Middle Schoolers are competent enough to engage in such practices.