“When you are accustomed to privilege, equity feels like oppression.” -Clay Shirky
Our last area of direct teaching was the Community. It was important that students understood that they are a part of many communities, just as they are a part of many families. There is the community of the school, the town, the region, the Province, Country etc. Each one of these spheres is just an extended community. We are responsible to it, and it is responsible to us. We wanted to the students to particularly look past those people in the community whose voices had experienced silencing, so we went through a variety of pieces that focussed on the teaching of equity and equality. We had them participate in the paper toss for equity: Paper toss to teach equity
We had them think about their perspective and question how they see the world based upon what they are looking for: Awareness Test
We had them consider what privileges they had in there own backpack of privilege. Backpack of Privileges
We worked together to help see the world with equity glasses to look at perspective: Check Your Perspective not your Privilege
The students used their iPads to further investigate privileges, perspectives, to find TedTalks and Vimeos on these subjects. To find blogs, websites, books, and to talk about why it matters, how to use personal power when we have it to strengthen others. How to be an active ally. It is remarkable the stages people go through when they take off the blinders of hegemony for the first time and look around to wonder how they are being aided, how they are benefiting where others are not. Many of the students were immediately in shock, they had never imagined they were “privileged”, they never thought about what it looked like to not be able to find a bandaid that didn’t look like a bullseye when they put it on darker skin, but many were angry, at us. So we remembered the words (that we soon taught them) of Clay Shirky, and we opened up Pandora’s box.
Debates reigned, students argued from all sides, politics, education, social worlds, family, nothing was safe from dissection as the students worked through these concepts. None of us were expecting such polarizing view points, and it did not end neatly wrapped up in a bow. It was constant long term discussions, opportunities to discuss, new examples to consider, it was difficult real work. Many students changed and grew and began questioning everything they thought they knew, but some students are not there yet. They could not recognize that privilege isn’t always earned. However, it opened doors and planted seeds. For some students this work was paradigm shifting, they began seeing what had been there all along, what was hidden in plain sight. They noticed that their school often divided along racial lines, that entrances to stores made it difficult for people in wheelchairs, that homeless people truly had nowhere to feel safe. They had had the blinders taken off and could not look back, and were now intent on change.