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Straddling Class in the Academy: Book Discussion Series

DEI Book Discussion Series - Spring 2023

Helpful Readings

Calling Out, Calling In

Comfort, Discomfort & Ground Rules




Discussions in our online Book Discussion series are intended to be a forum for discussion of ideas and for learning about differing viewpoints, not for debate. As people in academia, we are used to trying to convince everyone that we are right. In discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is important to understand that everyone sees and experiences the world differently: what seems "right" in your experience may not be so in someone else's. Everyone is asked to consider different perspectives, for the purpose of sensitivity, learning, and growth. Toward that end, there are some ground rules for participating in the group that we ask that everyone follow. It will be helpful to read and review this document prior to each Discussion to help get people in the right frame of mind for posting our own Reflections and responding to other participants' Reflections.

How to Engage with Content to Learn 
Based on: Sensoy, Özlem., and Robin J. DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal? : An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education.Teachers College Press, 2011.

1. Strive for intellectual humility
Read the assigned chapters in their entirety and with an open mind. None of us knows it all, and we all have things to learn.  

2. Recognize the difference between opinions and informed knowledge. 
Our goal is to learn, so we focus on and engage with the text and the Reflection questions, rather than stick with our own opinions or gut reactions.  

3. Let go of personal anecdotal evidence and look at broader societal patterns.
Focus on and engage with the text, rather than draw conclusions based on our own individual experiences.  

4. Notice your own defensive reactions and attempt to use these reactions as entry points for gaining deeper self-knowledge.
Struggling or pushing back against content? Take a breather and ask yourself  why that content is problematic for you; see also item 5 below. 

5. Recognize how your own social positionality (such as your ability-status, class status, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.) informs your perspectives and reactions to the series content and the individuals, issues, themes covered in that content. 
Struggling or pushing back against content? Ask yourself: Is it possible that, because I am x, y and z, it is hard for me to accept this issue exists, etc.

Discussion Ground Rules

  • Recognize: We recognize that we must strive to overcome historical and divisive biases such as ableism, ageism, classism, homophobia, racism, sexism, transphobia and other biases in our society. This series will not be debating whether classism or other 'isms or -phobias exist.
  • No Blame: We agree not to blame ourselves or others for misinformation we have learned, but to accept responsibility for not repeating misinformation after we have learned otherwise. In the words of Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
  • Respect: We agree to treat other participants' reflections and questions with respect. We acknowledge that we may be at different stages of learning on the content and discussion topics. However, this does not mean we should ignore problematic statements. See information here on calling in and calling out. Both approaches are valid and can be done with care and respect, with the goal of helping each other learn. 
  • Trust: Everyone has come to the table (erm, monitor and keyboard) to learn, grow, and share. We will trust that people are doing the best they can. We all make mistakes and have bad days; when these occur, let's challenge and encourage each other to do better. We acknowledge once again that we may be at different stages of learning on the topic.
  • Individual Experience: We agree that no one should be required or expected to speak for their whole class, ability / disability group, gender, race, or other identities. We can't, even if we wanted to.
  • Not Experts: The facilitators are not experts. They are here to help facilitate the process. They and everyone in the group are here to learn. We also recognize that everyone has an opinion. Opinions, however, are not the same as informed knowledge backed up by research. Depending on the topic and context, both are valid to share but it's important to know the difference. To engage in deep learning, we will want to lean more toward informed knowledge and gain practice reflecting and speaking thoughtfully on difficult topics.
  • Ask for help: It's okay not to know. Keep in mind that we are all still learning and are bound to make mistakes when approaching a complex task or exploring new ideas. Be open to changing your mind, and make space for others to do so as well. 

Ground Rules: Original Sources