Monday, 9 May 2016

SOLT engages with Black thought

Reflections on the 2nd SOTL @ UJ round of conversations with members of Black Thought
SOTL @ UJ organised a second engagement with members of Black Thought on 5 May 2016 in the Post Grad Centre. 

The conversation was attended by about 15 members of Black Thought and 15 academic staff members. These conversations are motivated by a desire of academic staff to understand and engage with subjugated perspectives as part of the investigation of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning into socially just pedagogies.

I find the views of these students refreshing and challenging. Their ‘frank talk’ is not apologetic or politically correct. The perspectives of Black Thought are valuable for an understanding of socially just pedagogies since they arise from the experiences of ‘blackness’ that is associated with hunger, poverty, marginalisation, inferiority, deprivation, academic exclusion, limited social power and constrained living conditions. These perspectives are representative of the many who are excluded from society and failed by the education system. It is against the context of deprivation of necessities to sustain life that the desperation, frustrations, anger and violence should be understood.

An interesting perspective is given on the nature and aims of education. The view was expressed that education should address the conditions of poverty and social risk by developing the ability to self-organise. This is a shift away from an education that transmits knowledge and skills. In this I read the need to form structured associations where views could be articulated and powers mobilised to challenge forms of oppression. These perspectives should be explored further since they point to educationally valuable ideas of self-governance, freedom, autonomy and agency through which a sustainable life could be created.

What became clear in the discussion is the need to develop pedagogical virtues that would enable engagement across differences:

·         Educators should be able to listen to subjugated views. Although black anger is likely to come as a shock, we need to listen carefully to the underlying desires and frustrations that are authentically expressed. This listening is not an agonistic search for deficiencies and inaccuracies, but a search for novelties, common interests and shared concerns.

·         The authenticity of these views is validated when they are engaged with critically. Such engagements take up the concepts, desires, fears and concerns of students and assist in articulations, in the deepening and broadening perspectives, and in critical self-reflections, etc. One such engagement took place around conceptions of land. It was pointed out that access to ‘land’ signifies the ownership of the means of production that is essential to protection and survival.

·         An educational and academic vice is the ‘pedagogical attitude’ which does not really engage with student views, but rather aims to ‘teach’ them what to think and do. This pedagogical attitude suppresses the emergence of ‘self-organisation’ and is experienced as irrelevant since it claims to know how the world should be renewed.

I detected an impatience among these students about the lack of change and the futility of many conversations. The opinion was expressed that the issues students struggle with have been well-known, but very little has been done to address them. In order to further engage meaningfully with these students a commitment is needed to bring about real changes.

While these kinds of conversations with various marginalised groups on and off campus are essential to ‘reinventing education’, they have to be part of an activism for change.

Dirk Postma
9 May 2016

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