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Framing Classroom Discourse

March 13, 2009

The following are the sorts of discussion questions I use to frame my classroom conversations:

  • What social relations does this discourse/rhetoric justify or legitimate?
  • Who benefits and who does not from those social relations? That is, whose interests are served and whose are not?
  • If all parties’ interests are served, do some parties benefit more than others? Do these social relations permit one group to dominate other groups?
  • Do these social relations or practices have a disproportionate impact on some communities? Do they impact some groups more negatively than other groups?
  • Are any of these social relations exploitative, if by “exploitative” we mean a social relationship where one party benefits over the other in an extremely disproportional way?

The key vocabulary here includes: discourses, rhetoric, social relations, social practices, interests, disproportionate impact, exploitation.

The following vocabulary is conspicuously absent: rights, fairness, equality, freedom, individuality or individual freedom, any words from the langauge of “dessert” (such as deserve, merit, reward).

I don’t need the latter vocabulary to get my students to see the things I want them to see—and I think this language often obscurses the things I want them to see.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2009 1:53 pm

    Great points. I teach on issues of globalization and try to frame thinking and discussions in a similar way. Rather than asking, “is globalization good or bad,” a better question is “who benefits and who does not (or who is harmed) by processes of globalization?”

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    March 17, 2009 1:59 pm

    Yes! Asking if it is “good or bad” isn’t enough. Good or bad FOR WHOM and in what ways? Globalization is a great topic for thinking about disproportionate impact.

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