CE History

I’ve spent the morning following references related to the Rebel Wisdom Summit, posted by Jenny Mackness, exploring the war between what’s being called the “authoritarian left” and “safe conversations” about racism and equity (rather than invoking them as weapons). I’ve been learning about Ian McGilchrist’s update on the bicameral mind in a pleasing RSA format, the case of Brett Weinstein and Heather Heyling at Evergreen College, the issues surrounding their pedagogy, Jordan Greenhall’s Medium article from 2017, and Heyling’s own post on Grievance Studies. All together, quite an education for a morning when I’m supposed to be marking papers and reading discussion posts!

But the notes I took weren’t directly about any of them. I began to think (as I am wont to do): “all of this has a history — I wonder what would happen if we studied it”. It seemed to me it would be interesting for all parties to step back and examine in historical perspective the issues they were fighting about in real-time. Because that’s what’s missing, of course — perspective.

I am teaching an on-site modern US History class in Fall, and if I’m lucky I’ll have an intern. This will be a new experience, teaching someone to teach while I’m teaching. I expect it to be quite wonderful, and educational (especially for me). I naturally feel a responsibility to improve my ability to articulate my pedagogy. At the same time, I’m hoping to do some workshops on equity and history in my department. Combining that with all this “rebel wisdom”, what I began to do is map out class potentials.

                                                                                      From Historical Association

At first I thought, I’ll gather resources appropriate to demonstrating the national social conversation from 1865 to the present: what the issues are, what arguments were used, where violence ensued and why, etc. Then I realized, of course, I already have this, in my set of primary sources (mentioned in my analysis of the “new agenda”). So it becomes a matter of reframing, of making the resources a conscious set, rather than a collection students later realize were “activist”.

For now I’m calling this Conscious Equity, an effort to showcase the discipline of History, privileging the underprivileged not just because that’s what we do,  but saying that we’re doing it. Whatever rules the “authoritarian left” wants to make to control the conversation, it must still take place, in classrooms and in a spirit of inquiry rather than fear and personal emotion. We still set the tone in our classroom. We can try to establish an environment that demonstrates the peaceful sharing of ideas, concern for each other’s learning and the opening of minds, and privileges modernist scientific rationality as a method for developing individual interpretations. Every historical document is a fact, and we can use the advantage of time to step back and use perspective as a tool.

So onward to read some research and develop some methods for Conscious Equity as a tool for US History.



5 comments to CE History

  • Great to know that the Rebel Wisdom Summit sparked off some thinking about pedagogy. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your thinking next month 🙂

  • John Mackness

    A pre-requisite for the use of ‘generative conversations’ in your pedagogy will be ‘group sovereignty’ according to Greenhall. I think he means by this that individuals feel confident about contributing within a group.To build sovereignty, you need a healthy body, the capability for creative thinking an good sense-making tools. It’s a lot to ask!

    • Lisa M Lane

      That is very true – I have already begun looking for techniques to encourage this sort of environment in my classroom. I think the room itself is an advantage in that it is physically in some ways “apart” from the world, a sort of enclave. I know a bit about what not to do (for example, I do not like the “covenants” mentioned by Weinstein – I prefer to assume that all discourse will be civil unless something happens). I’ll look into Greenhall further, so thank you!