Paradigms for a new "Commonsense" in education
In order for white teachers to resist institutional oppression and our own complacency in white supremacy, we must deconstruct the ways our privilege manifests within both the school environment and classroom curriculum. To that end, social theorists have proposed four new paradigms to anchor a new “common sense” for socially-just classrooms that center the emotional wellbeing of students of color.
The Change in Action
It can be challenging to envision how new paradigms translate to concrete actions that teachers can take in the classroom. Four key actions you can start today are listed below:
Expansion of the Present
The expansion of the present paradigm breaks our current orientation towards a future vision of “progress.”
Rather, this reinvisioned paradigm calls for an expansion of the detail we know about the present. Such detail will be unearthed through documenting the knowledge of those who have been historically silenced within the western worldview.
Even further, the expansion of the present paradigm allows for a detailed analysis of classroom discipline as a “new micro-physics of power.” Such a shift in paradigm will allow teachers and students to fully account for the diverse worldviews and life experiences that shape the emotionally-informed displays of power enacted in acts of classroom discipline.
Explorations of the Past
The explorations of the past paradigm aims to record the knowledges of people of color who have otherwise been positioned within the western worldview on the other side of the "abyssal line."
Documenting these knowledges can unearth seeds of resistance and allow for the past to come alive with its capacity for explosion and redemption. As greater humanity is able to expose histories of nonconformity in the past, it becomes possible to envision socially-just nonconformity for the future
Ecologies of Knowledge
This ecologies of knowledge paradigm challenges the globalization of the western worldview in favor of fruitful diversity of epistemologies.
Scholars have argued that the knowledges of people of color that have been positioned outside that validated within the western worldview of “science” are not ignorant, but rather, rival knowledges. The objective in the ecologies of knowledge paradigm is to form constellations of knowledge. The teacher then serves in a role similar to a facilitator. Thereby skillfully weaving constellations of knowledges in critical dialogue to discover rich, complex, and fertile stories of survival, reinvention, and self-discovery.
hooks (1994) argued that education for social justice demands a holistic “engaged pedagogy” thereby cultivating practices that prioritize emotional wellbeing. She further proposed that engaged pedagogy requires critical thinking as the means for a person to learn, change, and grow.
The white teacher’s commitment to the emotional discomfort of critical dialogue provides the foundation for shifting the paradigms that frame our “common sense.”
In critical dialogue, each participant’s knowledge is cultivated through the process of action/reflection. Action/reflection (otherwise known as praxis), is the practice of learning and challenging our ways of knowing through shared discourse thereby positioning our own worldview within the broader ecologies of knowledge.
Further, critical dialogue allows students to name their personal counterstories as these stories emerge through their experiences of “racial microaggressions, racial battle fatigue, and/or internalized racism.” (Matias, 2016, p. 129). The pedagogy of critical dialogue is painful for teachers as it requires the reconciliation of our position as historically oppressive agents. However the emotional pain should not deter teachers from the practice. These are the reconciliations that allow for the possibility of a better, more socially-just, world.