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What Teachers Need to Know: Topics in Diversity and Inclusion
Date Reviewed: January 22, 2018
What Teachers Need to Know (Etherington, 2017) is a substantial text defining the diverse and inclusive experiences of contemporary education systems. The book is a compilation with three major parts: “Ethics,” “Inclusion and Teacher Management,” and “Worldview and Story.” Each chapter provides reading questions for use in a classroom setting or for deeper reflection. This is well-suited for an audience in higher education, especially for readers who could share personal experiences with diversity and inclusion topics after a practicum or time teaching. I would recommend this book for a post-graduate education library.
The first part, “Ethics,” includes works by Sherick Hughes, Martyn Rouse, Jonathan Anuik, Chet Bowers, Eva Maria Waibel, the editor, Matthew Etherington, and James Dalziel. There is quite a range of topics in this section, but the Wabash Center reader might be particularly interested in Anuik\'s essay on faith-informed discourse. It is a study about the influence of missionary education on Indigenous beliefs, and how that reaches into Canadian public education today. It compels the reader to contemplate whether church and state can truly be separate in an educational context when there is such a significant inheritance of practice and values from a period dominated by religious influence.
Part Two, “Inclusion and Teacher Management,” includes works by Peter J. Froese, Ken Pudlas, Lucinda Spaulding, Karen Copeland, Bruce Shelvey, and Ken Bradley. Spaulding\'s essay reflects the current shift of attention to patterns of bullying and puts forward the mechanisms school communities can provide for the resiliency of the students. Other essays in this section discuss topics such as mental health, special needs, and even bring in the parents\' view on these issues as they exist in the educational system. This is an exceptional collection of essays on inclusivity.
The third and final part, “Worldview and Story,” includes works by the editor, Matthew Etherington, Edward R. Howe, Adam Forsyth, Leo Van Arragon, Christina Belcher, and Cynthia à Beckett. This section has the most obvious correlation to religious studies within educational contexts. Topics include: tolerance, science and religion, and epistemology. This section could serve as an excellent initial reading for students in a practical theology or other contemporized religious studies capstone course.
This book might not be a comfortable read in a public classroom, but maybe that is exactly why it should be read. Etherington\'s compilation offers academic theological reflection for secularized educational contexts. This book could be useful in a range of contexts. It may be particularly helpful to new teachers, parent associations, pastors of students, and community leaders.
Teaching Interreligious Encounters
Date Reviewed: January 22, 2018
As many of the contributors to Teaching Interreligious Encounters point out, interactions with people of diverse religious commitments are becoming more frequent in the workplace, in civic affairs, and in many neighborhoods. Consequently, there is a need to help individuals develop the attitudes and aptitudes that will enable them to conduct those encounters in an informed, respectful, and personally satisfying fashion. This volume argues that education, particularly in the undergraduate classroom, can make a substantial contribution to preparing individuals to understand and participate effectively in a religiously diverse society. To that end, the contributors offer an array of resources, comments on course and assignment design, and concrete strategies to show students how to conduct themselves in and learn from “interreligious encounters.”
Precisely what is entailed in such encounters and how they are to be enacted and understood receive a variety of answers throughout the book. At times, whatever lines might separate interfaith engagement from interreligious encounters, and either from comparative theology, and all of them from comparative religion do not appear in sharp focus. Some authors appear to use at least several of those terms as rough equivalents, while others strive to define their terms very clearly. For example, Eboo Patel and Cassie Meyer propose that “interfaith or interreligious studies is concerned primarily with the interactions between lived religious and nonreligious actors and communities” (300). Thus, they differentiate it from “comparative religions, comparative theology, and world religions” which they see as being less concerned with actual relationships and interactions. But several contributors cite with approval Francis Clooney’s statement that comparative theology “entails the interpretation of the meaning and truth of one’s own faith by means of a critical investigation of other faiths” (see 45), which would bring it closer to Patel and Meyer’s understanding of interfaith and interreligious studies.
How to construct courses, course modules, and individual assignments to promote what Patel and Meyer call “interfaith literacy” receives a lot of attention. Joshua Brown, for example, describes and analyzes a course on political theology that uses examples from Christianity and Chinese religions. Jonathan Edelman provides a detailed consideration of the Bhagavad Gita as a theological text. Other authors focus more on pedagogical strategies. In one of the more interesting contributions, Devorah Schoenfeld and Jeanine Diller describe how they use the Jewish process of hevruta to encourage students to disagree with each other in their interpretations of texts while still remaining in conversation, recognize disagreements within and among religions, and value interreligious disagreement. Emily Sigalow and Wendy Cadge make a clear and strong case for the value of using case studies in teaching about interreligious encounters, something that several other contributors also mention.
Most of the contributions emphasize that students can learn something personally valuable and meaningful from studying and especially participating in interactions with people who have religious commitments different than their own. This volume offers a rich set of suggestions about how to design and structure such learning opportunities.
It has now been over a full year since the 2016 presidential election. Yet, I still remember vividly the dark and raw thoughts I had the morning of November 9, 2016. When I woke up and learned of the election results, I was horrified that so many people had made a conscious decision ...
Multiculturalism on Campus: Theory, Models, and Practices for Understanding Diversity and Creating Inclusion, 2nd Edition
Date Reviewed: September 15, 2017
The Introduction to the second edition of Multiculturalism on Campus states that the book’s purpose is to provide “a comprehensive resource for students, faculty, and higher education administrators about multiculturalism and diverse populations on college campuses”(1). In addition to that goal, the second edition sets out, successfully, to give “greater voice to students who are not part of the dominant cultures” (1). The format includes clear and succinct case studies that assist in revealing the experiences of each group of these students on college campuses. Authors include discussion questions at the end of their essays to assist in processing the material and to move the conversation forward.
Arranged into three perspectival parts with substantive essays addressing “Awareness of Cultural Issues,” “Information on Cultural Populations,” and “Critical Consciousness of Cultural Competence,” the book itself is a model of diversity and inclusion insofar as each essay can be understood as a roadmap for those who are just beginning to engage with the topic of multiculturalism on college campuses or it can serve to enrich and affirm the understandings of those who have been working in the area of student development and multiculturalism.
The essays in the section on “Awareness of Cultural Issues” address foundational questions through the application of sociological, psychological, and student development theories. The discussions related to describing multiculturalism and understanding the effects of oppression on student development (Chapters 1 and 2) are filled with insights that can be related to the foundational concepts which have helped to shape curriculum in social justice and Catholic social teaching.
In Part Two, descriptions of the various cultural populations that enrich our college campuses accurately reflect the diverse picture that exists today. Chapters on gender – “Men and Women” (Ch. 12) and “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students” (Ch. 13) – as well as the “Adult Student” (Ch. 14), “Students with Disabilities” and “Religious and Spiritual Diversity among College Students” (Ch. 15 and 16) are extremely helpful in presenting a dynamic picture of the reality that is the American college campus today. The information in these chapters is supported with data and cultural insights. Studies cited in each of the essays in this second section serve as significant entry points for further research while at the same time enlightening the newcomer to the diverse cultural context that shapes the lives of today’s college students. The abundance of information contained in the essays may seem overwhelming at times. However, each essay concludes with recommendations and discussion questions that provide support for the development of action plans that focus on inclusion. The questions assist students, faculty, and administrators with engaging in constructive critical discourse that leads to effective strategizing.
Part Three addresses the ways in which the development of “Critical Consciousness of Cultural Competence” can occur. In this section, we come to understand that an intersectional framework is necessary for successful progress in developing the critical consciousness needed to engage in the work of inclusion and diversity. The work of social justice education is noted as holding the key to effecting change or progress in this area (384). The concept of an intersectional framework as presented here can be of assistance to those of us who are teaching courses in Catholic social teaching or peace and justice, as it demands the same competencies as those expected from the application of Catholic Social Teaching. The mastery of content along with the recognition of intersection of the various cultural contexts that inform the lives of students is something that needs to reverberate throughout the curriculum in higher education if we are to move forward as a society. The creation of inclusive campuses is the first step in bringing about real societal change and Multiculturalism on Campus is a valuable tool in making that happen.
Transforming the Academy: Faculty Perspectives on Diversity and Pedagogy
Date Reviewed: September 15, 2017
As diversity initiatives become more prominent in higher education, this volume features the perspectives of faculty on the progress and challenges of a diverse academy. The first-hand accounts shared through these autoethnographies manage to be simultaneously thought-provoking, memory-inducing, and pedagogy inspiring.
Rather than a superficial treatment on numerical diversity when whiteness and its privileges are normative, this collection focuses on difference, but difference in this sense is not presented one-dimensionally. The editor offers, “When we focus on difference, rather than race, class, gender, disability, or sexuality only, we come to understand how each of these characteristics fits into the oppression/privilege paradigm much more clearly” (4).
The book is organized by two overarching themes. In Part One, “Challenging Classrooms,” the authors describe the multiple ways and meanings of having their credibility or classroom authority challenged or accepted. For example, as the first and only professor, your very presence may be triggering for students, resulting in recognition, awkward expression, and then resistance. Student evaluations may indicate “pleasant surprise” that a Black professor “so smart and articulate” (51), and that the student didn’t really listen at first because expectations of a Black person went unmet.
The chapters in Part Two, “Witnessing Protest,” acknowledge that college professors often teach life lessons in addition to the subject matter and that we may undergo transformations ourselves as we guide and mentor students through life situations, and as we bear witness to the experiences of students and colleagues. The contributors not only share their experiences as teachers, they also recall memories of being students themselves, including the impacts of shifting individual and collective identities. They describe resilience in the face of presumed incompetence, unwelcoming classroom environments, and unfavorable course evaluations.
Challenged by their own recognitions, authors allowed their heightened awareness and sensitivity to inform self-reflection. For example, a student’s persistent inquiry about a contributor’s background and the kinds of schools that she attended resulted in the importance of recognizing her own “class privilege.” However, with that recognition came the worry that she “unconsciously wielded” that “privilege in order to combat racial stereotypes.”
Another contributor raised the issue of the reluctance of embracing disability as diversity in the academy, offering that as “abject other,” disability is “viewed through frameworks of pathology and abnormalcy rather than those of identity and human diversity” (115). An accommodation as seemingly simple as making sure that the classroom community angled their bodies so that a student could read their lips created a richer learning environment for everyone.
Throughout the narratives, there are pedagogical recognitions that lead to suggestions and models of small adjustments making meaningful impact. Students come with their own perspectives and should be encouraged to see themselves as “co-creators” of their educational experience (58). In a demonstration of the power and subtleties of language, one contributor instituted the “ouch” rule, whereby an offended person can say “ouch” and then pause for analysis of the offense (61).
Some pedagogical insights arose from the students’ interpretation of and engagement with assignments. For example, in a photography self-portrait assignment, one student proactively cast herself in three stereotypes of Black women that she had often confronted, prompting visible discussions in effort to “redirect misperceptions” (78).
The audience that may be reached by this book is wide-ranging, from graduate students to administrators and board members. All may benefit from the profoundly vulnerable, yet honest viewpoints offered.