in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
year, progress in the field of social justice education takes a jump forward
with the release of Diane J. Goodman’s Promoting Diversity and Social
Justice: Educating people from privileged groups. This outstanding book,
with its understated title, serves to provide both broad and deep insights into
an emerging area of educational work: pedagogy for the privileged.
on the political necessity of such work, and recognizing that most educators
have not been aptly trained for this practice, primarily relying on their
intuition, Goodman’s contribution provides extraordinary insights for
pedagogical practice with privileged learners. The transformative potential for
this practice is considerable, since with success, privileged learners would
come to understand their role in sustaining unjust power relations and be
motivated to create change.
book may appear modest but great wisdom is embedded within. In fact, she is
etching out the creation of this new pedagogy. She pieces together reflections
of her own practice and an extensive synthesis of the literature. Although
various authors have addressed theoretical and practical elements of a pedagogy
for the privileged before the publication of this volume, Promoting Diversity
and Social Justice is the first work that both extricated and compiled this
emergent perspective in a single location.
stops short of synthesizing this work as pedagogy. She identifies many elements
of such practice yet chooses not to attempt a synthesis. This is perhaps wise as
the field is so new that such integration would likely be found to fall short.
This leaves the book as offering considerable insights – akin to giving us the
pieces of the puzzle without putting them together for us. Pedagogical
recommendations are embedded in each section – as she addresses issues of
resistance, motivation, and challenges for educators in working in such
of this contribution
is the political significance of this work? Within the academic arena, the new
field of “whiteness studies” emerged during the nineties as a significant
attempt to examine the agency of whites as both agents of oppression as well as
potential forces for ending racial dominance. This field broadens the focus of
social justice education from an exclusive emphasis on the emancipation of
racial minorities to one that includes the role of whites in unravelling their
racial identities. In many communities it is possible to find workshops on
anti-oppression or dismantling privilege, as part of serious cohesive attempts
to deal with privileged learners and their roles in ending racism. At the
practice level, this field is very fertile, with many organizations and
educators performing well ahead of the theory.
work connects clearly to that of social justice education. She was, in fact, a
student in the social justice program at the University of Massachusetts
(Amherst), a program at the growing edge of this area and responsible for
generating serious scholars and practitioners. Indeed, social justice education
is becoming recognized as a distinct field within adult education. This advance
has been generated by some texts that preceded Goodman’s book, like Educating
for Diversity and Social Justice (Adams, Bell and Griffin, 1997), Teaching
for Social Justice (Ayers, Hunt and Quinn, 1998) or Educating for a
Change (Arnold, Burke, James, Martin and Thomas, 1991). Working largely
within this framework, Goodman provides the much-needed customizing of such
pedagogy for privileged learners. Required is much more than the “adding on”
of issues – in fact, it appears that the needs of privileged learners are so
significantly different from those of marginalized learners that a different
pedagogy is called for. Although not articulated in this manner, Goodman is
implicitly calling for specific educator training in this field, for educators
to recognize the unique learning needs of privileged learners, and for their
curriculum, methods and strategies to reflect these needs.
many, this will undoubtedly sound like there is a revision of Freire’s Pedagogy
of the Oppressed in motion. More than a revision, this is an expansion of
the model, extending the onus of social change beyond the oppressed to the
privileged, and in doing so adding another significant force to the toolbox that
educators for social change already possess. It is critical to acknowledge the
significance that Freire’s popular education model has had on adult education.
He has impacted the field like no other in the last 50 years. Freire’s work
has provided educators with a handle to remedy unjust power relations. His
framework has stimulated social movements to embrace this educational approach
as the vehicle through which to create social change. Freire’s approach has
focused on the marginalized to raise their awareness of the structural forces
that oppress them, and to undertake actions to challenge such oppression. A
Freirian-based popular education approach has contributed significantly to
social change in some countries during the twentieth century, but it may not be
sufficient to address certain contemporary social realities like the education
of privileged groups in countries like Canada or the USA.
considering a remedy to this situation, what would an action-sensitive pedagogy
for the privileged look like? At this juncture, the approach taken by Goodman is
to frame such behaviour as that of an “ally.” Goodman’s perspective is
that allies “make intentional choices to support of work for the rights of
those from disadvantaged groups of which they are not a part” (p.164). This is
a crucial issue that is increasingly discussed in popular education circles, at
least in the ones I am part of. The dilemma is usually put forward in the
following terms: should all the popular education efforts be put in supporting
movements to end oppression, or is it as important to develop allies among
privileged groups who could actively work at dismantling privilege? While they
may be two sides of the same coin, the two approaches usually point to radically
different organizing work and to pedagogical/political strategies.
work is a form of political education. Working from a top-down approach, rather
than Freire’s bottom-up approach, a pedagogy for the privileged offers hope
that social and political imperatives can be built to compel the privileged to
dismantle systems of domination. Popular
education also compels us to nurture praxis, the integration of reflection and
action to complete the learning cycle. Hence, appropriate curriculum for the
privileged should integrate action with this learning. Followers of Freire’s
work may be disappointed with the relatively scant attention (p.163-66) that
Goodman gives to the action side of the praxis. This may be the reason that
there has been little attention to this book beyond academic circles. It may
also simply be due to poor marketing efforts.
work moves beyond the context of whiteness (where the vast majority of
privilege-based theory and practice has evolved) and incorporates various forms
of privilege, including gender, class, disability, sexual orientation, age and
religion. One query the reader may have is whether this is possible – although
Goodman asserts that there are generic features of the transformation process
(such as its hidden nature, its normalcy and the resistance that learners
embody) that transcend the various forms of privilege. Goodman has clearly
avoided the pitfall of placing these forms of privilege in a hierarchical
relationship and clearly recognizes the multiplicity of factors interacting in
Poststructural and postmodern theorists may have problems with the author’s handling of the theory on privilege. Relatively little effort has been made to define privilege and Goodman recognizes that the use of categories to define the agents and targets of oppression may, in themselves, “promote dualistic and dichotomous thinking” (p.7). Yet as inadequate as they may be, categories reflect the manner in which “society views and names individuals, not necessarily on the basis of how people define themselves” (p.7). Tying this issue to pedagogy, Goodman recognizes that all learners typically have an array of privileged and oppressed identities. To address this, she advocates for educators and learners to “temporarily narrow the lens to focus on [one] dimension of one’s experience” (p.9).
text is organized to cover a few specific elements of the unique learning needs
of privileged learners. Following an introductory chapter that builds the
rationale for the book, chapter two addresses the specific context with which
privileged learners come to learning environments is addressed. These can
loosely be referred to as the unique baggage (drawing from McIntosh’s concept
of “unpacking white privilege”) that privileged learners carry with them
such as the invisibility of privilege and the normalcy with which superiority
and domination function. Chapter three is essentially a literature review of the
various contributions made to understanding individual change and development on
this theme. An array of individual learning models are presented, including
Hardiman and Jackson, Helms, Brookfield, and Kegan. Following the lead of Adams
(1997), Goodman draws in Perry’s model of intellectual development and
overlays this lens of intellectual capacity on other change models. For the
reader, the cumulative effect of these change models is sobering to the
impatience and frustration that so frequents the learning environment.
four and five cover the topic of resistance and how to overcome it. These
chapters illustrate Goodman’s keen sense of attention to the lived realities
of the privileged learner. It underscores the need for patience in responding to
the difficulty privileged learners have in this change process. The next three
chapters focus on the vehicles through which privileged learners are motivated
to go through this process. One chapter is dedicated to the losses that the
privileged learner incurs in living with systems of dominance. This chapter is
an extraordinary offering to the educator. It stands to provide us with
non-traditional ways to engage the privileged learner in social change. By
pausing to consider the harms that come to the privileged from oppression, it
creates lifelines that we might throw to these learners – an emancipatory
lifeline that might liberate their social identity, both individually and
collectively. As educators, we can now offer them clear benefits from being
engaged in this transformation process. This might also point community-based
educators towards new forms of social marketing of these concepts and workshops.
nine is a powerful one, written with authenticity and critical self-reflection.
It models tremendous courage to face difficult subjects, such as the judgments
that educators have of their learners and the times we fall into segregating
some as the enemy, or even evil. Illustrating this self-in-process becomes
encouraging for the reader, to embark on our own journey of discovery as
educators. Also in this chapter, Goodman profiles unique resources to help the
educator through difficult times. The mindfulness meditation of Kabat-Zinn is
profiled as an aid to help us respond to our triggers and judgments. Buddhist
mediations are also drawn upon to promote our compassion towards difficult
learners. Martin Luther King, Jr., is also a resource to help us connect to the
power of loving our enemies.
last chapter focuses on hope and possibilities, with Goodman drawing forth
concepts from Eisler’s Chalice and the Blade that serve to profile the
status quo as the dominator model and the alternative being the equality-based
partnership model. This closing chapter provides hope for broad societal change
although obviously curtailed by the power and pervasiveness of systems of
domination that exist throughout society. It may have been a wiser choice to
focus on the hope for what pedagogy for the privileged could bring us elites
with a social conscience, whites whose liberation is tied to that of racialized
communities and peace processes that problematize privilege, not just
sum, what are the elements of the new pedagogy proposed in this book? The
primary foundation is that privileged learners have unique needs in coming to
understand the nature of this privilege. From a place of principles within adult
education, Goodman calls forth our capacity for empathy and acceptance
(explicitly) and patience (implicitly), owing to the scope and difficulty of the
transformation tasks that face the privileged learner. These shine forth as her
text is written from the perspective of unravelling the needs of privileged
learners from those learners who are oppressed. Falling short of the task of
re-ravelling, and considering the application of the pedagogy to mixed learning
environments (a typical situation for many transformative educators), it is
still very worthy to have a comprehensive understanding of the transformative
terrain that faces privileged learners. Objectives for the field must include
the task of re-ravelling the learning needs of privileged and oppressed
learners. There are some very initial writings on this topic (Bell et al, 2003)
as they document some of the competing needs of privileged and oppressed
learners in the classroom.
The final question we must pose is whether such an approach to educating privileged learners is overly sympathetic to them and if the patience being advocated serves to thwart the urgency for social justice, or as a colleague recently noted, “hunger is in a hurry.” While we know that the answer must develop as this educational effort is put into practice (and we will grow into an answer), Goodman has made a convincing argument that the transformation process for privileged learners is significantly different from that of oppressed learners. These tasks include making the invisible visible, working through considerable resistance, dealing with the emotional fallout of recognizing the complicity of oneself and one’s kin in oppression and staying motivated to work all this through. If this transformation process is, in fact, unique, then our pedagogy must reflect that reality. Goodman’s book provides the first comprehensive step in understanding that social reality and in guiding educators towards their educational tasks.
engaged in this practice must support the assertion that this transformation
process differs for the privileged learner and accordingly must dedicate the
required time and resources to the task – a political choice that may or may
not be embraced by social movements (this is an easier task for
academically-based educators). Accordingly, pedagogy for the privileged stands
on fragile and contested ground. The embedded tensions will likely surface in
the years to come.
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Ann Curry-Stevens (OISE/UT), 2004
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