I began this semester hoping to have a space to discuss and listen to ideas about what multicultural education meant. As the semester began, I was fresh out of my 360 on Global Health, missing the educational perspective on the issues we had been discussing the entirety of the fall semester, such as neoliberalism, imperialism, and globalization. I think after this course and this semester, I feel like I have expanded my “edge” of learning, or my zone of proximal development. Through various means, such as the readings, class discussions, small group discussions, and other class activities, I have challenged myself and been challenged by and with my classmates to expand upon my learning.
For me, the readings were especially helpful in creating a more complex theoretical framework than “oh, this could be problematic” and “oh, this is cool.” For example, Tuck’s idea of desire and damage-based frameworks for approaching situations in general was helpful in putting a nuance on my previous framework of deficit-based and strengths-based approaches. Similarly, many of the other readings helped me expand my already-existing ideas of multicultural education. To get the most out of these readings, I found the small group and blog group discussions extremely helpful, and wish we had done more of these. The activities we used during class to get the most out of the readings as well as our personal experiences, such as fishbowls, barometers, carousels, and silent discussions, were extremely helpful in being able to choose when I wanted to listen and when I wanted to speak in the larger group.
I feel like none of our discussion are ever finished nor should they be, so it is hard for me to pick a handful of topics that still raise questions for me. For example, after the enactments, such as the “I’m more Transylvanian” skit, I was left with several questions about the skit itself and and the discussions following it. We addressed a question about the value of studied knowledge as compared to lived experience, and it would have been interesting to hear what the perspectives of the rest of the class were on this topic. After my group re-enacted the scene with the reporter from the Black Lives Matter demonstration and die-in between Bryn Mawr and Haverford, I left with many unanswered questions, or questions for further discussion, in relation to how the “elevation” of voices worked in spaces like that where there were external factors, such as the reporter. I am glad, however, that we left with room to grow, because even that gives me a starting point for the future, and also the assurance that I can participate in discussions like those we had in class that force me to understand several viewpoints.
I think that of all our modes of communication in the class, I benefited most from the small group discussions we often had. For me, this was definitely because we had such a big class, so it was nice to have a smaller space to think out my ideas before trying to articulate them to a larger group. I think I really made use of these smaller group spaces in the best way I could, and listened and contributed to the best of my abilities. This semester I think I focused more on when I was listening depending on who was speaking, and trying to figure out when it made sense to speak, rather than continuing to listen to what was being said.
This course has given me a lot to take with me into the world, and I am so excited about that! Our discussions and activities are so important to continue having, and I do not think it will be too hard to continue at Penn. I am excited to take what I have understood about multiculturalism and apply it to an education program focused on “urban education,” as I simultaneously find out what that means. I am so glad that I was able to have this class as a space for discussion about and listening to such important topics as culture, community, and how education fits into that picture.