The Power (and responsibility) of Words

Last week we were able to deepen our conversation again in meaningful ways.  Thanks to Chelsea for a thoughtful and impactful presentation, in which she  weaved some important questions for us to ponder, along with clips from “Blackish” and poignant reflections from her own educational journey.  Chelsea was able to effectively bring to life our readings by thinking of our theory through the lens of both storytelling and her lived experience.

bell hooks on feminism & Delpit on “the Silenced Dialogue”

After our consideration of Freire with Kathryn at the helm, we have turned to Lisa Delpit’s The Silenced Dialogue thanks to Chelsea’s thoughtful pairing with bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress.

These two reading selections help us think further about empowerment and coalition, and what is happening to non-white and poor students in our own national context.  hooks’ definition of feminism is simple and straightforward – feminism  is “the struggle to end sexist oppression,” not “a lifestyle nor a ready-made identity or role.”  She makes us think deeply about the terms of coalition.  According to hooks, the struggle is fundamentally multidimensional, intertwined with other battles against oppression.  It begins with an understanding of domination and with critique of domination in all its forms.  In a similar vein, Delpit’s argument highlights an invisible  “culture of power” and the importance of gaining certain cultural capital.  As a specialist in teaching and learning in multicultural settings, Delpit seeks to provide opportunities for minorities and poor communities to articulate and effect change in the United States’ educational system.  She is also concerned with creating connections and building bridges between teachers of differing cultural backgrounds, between educators and culturally diverse children and their parents, and across the multi-cultural communities that make up our society.   In reading Delpit’s work, we come to see that everyday interactions are loaded with assumptions made by educators and mainstream society.  Delpit helps us see that by developing code-switching literacies and refining specific cultural translation skills, we might start to forge a pathway for certain children to grow and thrive as they continue to navigate a world designed to leave them behind.

Our slides:

I am so glad we were able to close class with reflections stemming from Lebanese writer Lina Mounzer’s beautifully conceived and tightly written essay, “War in Translation: Giving Voice to the Women of Syria.”  Mounzer is writing about her work translating and inhabiting the words of Syrians, particularly Syrian women.  Lina Mounzer discusses the Syrian women bearing witness to the war through writing, as well as her own complicated relationship with the English language, and translation as a symbolic act.  By reading some of this piece together after contemplating the work of Delpit and hooks, we can start to grasp the central role that words and writing play in negotiating both meaning and power.  Mounzer’s elegant and sometimes breathtaking essay cuts to the quick in regards to the ways words can sever and violate, and how they can heal and provide hope.  Ultimately, she makes us feel the weight and responsibility of words/rhetoric in shaping life itself.

Your to-do list:

Please read:

Blog #8 is due before 4/7 (Theme: Grammar & Linguistic Justice);  Your blog post should be a reflection on Jasmine’s reading selections. 

Looking forward to next class!  After Jasmine presents on the Hartwell and Baker-Bell readings, we will spend some time starting to think about your final project.



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