“If you can get people to listen, you can get them to become aware of each other’s differences,” says Gary Van Deurse, Student Programs Specialist at Tisch College, about the new freshman course he is co-teaching this fall through the Ex College.
Called Inside/Outside – Crossing the Lines of Race, Class, Culture, and Community, the full-credit course aims to have students explore systems of oppression that may exist within themselves and in Tufts’ host communities.
“We want students to analyze the messages they’ve heard, which they may hold to be true, about race, class, gender, religion. And we want to create a safe place for people to share their thinking, analyze where that thinking comes from and how it affects the community work they’ve done or intend to do,” says Van Deurse.
Co-teacher Ify Mora, who coordinates the Citizenship & Public Service Scholars program at Tisch College, says that learning about themselves in context of gender, race, and class, and exploring those issues in local communities, will get students to see how these issues manifest themselves in everyday life.
“The learning we’re talking about doesn’t happen entirely in one class — people spend lifetimes on that and don’t get it — but starting in the classroom is valuable,” notes Mora.
One approach the instructors are incorporating into their teaching is the idea of asset mapping. In essence, when assessing a community, asset mapping inventories the positive aspects of a community, such as how many locally owned businesses exist, instead of focusing solely on a poor school system or the lack of jobs.
“In a similar way, instead of speaking about negative gender messages, we flip it around and discuss the positive impressions students hold around the same issues,” explains Van Deurse.
In addition to assigned readings and in-class discussion, students will produce a digital story, which is designed to help them synthesize what they have learned through the class. Each student will narrate a story based on a prompt, such as profiling their home community through the lens of race, class, and gender, digitally record it and then overlay their narrative with imagery.
“The students are excited, and it’s exciting for us to work with them early in their college careers to get them to think about how these issues play out in their lives,” says Mora.
Originally published November 2006