First point: I am a teacher. This is a role that bestows on me power and control over others.
Second point: I am white, male, heterosexual, educated, and middle-class. This is an identity that inscribes within me a particular world-view.
Third point: I teach film and media studies. This is a discipline which is inherently linked to the neoliberalist agendas of globalisation, consumer culture, and corporate-political power.
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Neoliberalism fosters a complicit and compliant consumer citizenry, and much of this is based on the marginalising of non-dominant voices in the public sphere, and the exploitation of the owners of those voices to perpetuate power structures and the ‘global’ marketplace (Gorski 2008, p. 518). The goal of most protocols or policies concerning multicultural or intercultural education seems to be the furthering of these neoliberalist agenda, at least according to Gorski (p. 519). The other alarming characteristic of most attempts at cultural inclusiveness within education is a lack of awareness of the wider sociopolitical context; in essence, an ignorance of the wider world.
As educators, both Gorski and Holladay (2013) have worked through a neoliberalist understanding of what multicultural education should be. For Gorski, this involves ‘the facilitation of intercultural dialogue, an appreciation for diversity, and cultural exchange’ (p. 520). For Holladay, it means working with elementary school children through a limited perspective on historical events. Both of these educators, too, have been complicit in allowing the trivialisation of important events to occur on their watch — case in point: Taco Night.
To reject neoliberalist agenda in intercultural education, Gorski suggests that it is not learning activities or lesson plans that need to change. Rather, an entire intellectual and philosophical shift must occur within the educator. Part of this is acknowledging that ‘cultural awareness is not enough’ and that ignorance of the sociopolitical context further marginalises those already non-dominant voices in the learning space. Holladay takes it further: by infusing multiple perspectives into learning, what the educator is doing is converting ‘consumers’ (the neoliberalist student-subject) into socially-aware critical thinkers. The biggest problem facing both novel paradigms of education, from my reading, is that critical thinking is not seen by the neoliberalist conspiracy as a marketable skill.
As a media teacher, I am aware that the industry into which I am sending my students is competitive and is also linked to very old structures of power. However, I see that I have a responsibility to ensure that all my students can survive in this world. Part of this is ensuring that they are aware of those structures of power, and a further part is demonstrating ways in which those monolithic frameworks have been defied, or even ignored. The wonderful thing about film and media studies currently, is that many who were long silent now have access to production and distribution technologies. I have a responsibility to ensure all of my students can harness those technologies themselves.
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First point: I am a teacher. I have a responsibility to ensure that all my students feel valued, and to offer and encourage them all to share their voices.
Second point: I am white, male, heterosexual, educated, and middle-class. This does not absolve me from the responsibility identified in the first point; it should, in fact, inspire me to work harder to ensure equality in the learning environment.
Third point: I teach film and media studies. This is a discipline which has the power to break down perceived social barriers, to allow non-dominant voices to express their views, and to widen a student’s perspective on the world they share.
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Gorski, PC 2008, ‘Good intentions are not enough: a decolonizing intercultural education’, Intercultural Education, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 515-525.
Holladay, J 2013, ‘Multiculturalism in the modern world: Jen Holladay at TEDxDenverTeachers’, TEDx Talks, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5rKgDOs33U>. [6 May 2015].
[this text was submitted as an assessment for a professional development course I’m completing on cultural inclusiveness in teaching]