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Is it dangerous to label certain things are being "relevant" only for certain students?

asweeney's picture

Today during the presentations the idea that certain themes are more "relevant" to certain students came up. I'm wondering if this is a fair question to ask? While I too see the merit in quetioning whether or not we are teaching certain topics correctly (civil rights, slavery, and the black power movements were discussed in class), I don't think it is necessarily fair to argue that these topics are more relevant to certain students based on race. Perhaps it is true that a black student might glean different meaning from a lesson on US slavery than would his or her peers of different races, but I'm also sure that students of all races would take something important from the lesson. By suggesting that a lesson would be MORE relevant to this student because he or she is black, however, I think we risk re-inforcing a commonly used concept that being white means being "culturless." I'd like to aruge that EVERYTHING we teach in a classroom is equally relevant to all students----relevant to what it means to be a human, and what is means to understand common human phenomena that are still present today in the world---like hate and prejudice. Students of different races might take different forms of meaning from certain topics, but I think it might be dangerous to suggest that some topics are inherently more relevant to certain students. We wouldn't want to block students from exploring things that they find truly interesting simply because they do not belong to the group to which this topic is truly "relevant."