Paving A Way For Change
What? In high school, I was able to work with special needs students every week as part of my job when I joined Leadership. These students needed help with class work; but of course, it was a bit different teaching kids with special needs. We needed to understand how each one learns because not everyone learned the same way. We needed to gain an understanding of how to help these students through experience with them one-on-one. However, to go beyond that, theory took place because I needed to know the base of what is happening during practice to be able to see what is working and what is not. For change and structural equalities for the marginalized groups of people to occur, we must not be so quick to act and instead educate ourselves with what is happening within the groups first. Social transformations of a society happen when teachers and educators understand the way people speak, act, and think to learn what they know. To be able to do this, Freire explains that “Without practice there’s no knowledge; at least it’s difficult to know without practice” (p. 98). One cannot have knowledge unless they experience it firsthand through practice. Theory then comes into play because teachers and educators should be able to know “theoretically what is happening in the people’s practice” (p. 98). Theory derives from practice and knowledge then develops, becoming a reflection of social experience. Freire and Horton wants us to gain an understanding through each other’s experiences. Similarly, the topic of dialogue that the WOKE presenters brought up meant for us to give each other the opportunity to share our experiences because that is how we will learn about one another.
So What? Neutrality is a problem for both Freire and Horton; however, how the two speak about it is not the same. According to Horton, “Neutrality is just following the crowd. Neutrality is just being what the system asks us to be. Neutrality, in other words, was an immoral act” (p. 102). He is saying that to stay neutral, we are not opposed to the injustice and would rather side with what is popular. One must be able to take a side and be able to justify this or else we will just be agreeing to whatever the system is telling us even if it is wrong. On the other hand, Freire states that “in being neutral, you are just hiding your choice because it seems possible to be neutral in a relationship between the oppressors and the oppressed, it’s absolutely impossible” (p. 103). In other words, he is saying that to remain neutral is to stay quiet and not voice out one’s choice or side. But similar to Horton, he is saying that neutrality is still favoring the dominant in society. To me, remaining neutral to the structural inequalities towards the marginalized groups of people is saying that one does not care enough to think beyond the injustice and would rather sit and watch the “others” sink even more in society. Being ignorant and ignoring that fact that the most vulnerable groups in society are targeted even more should be looked down upon because the world will not be a better place if there are people who are not willing to help each other out and build one another. It is a selfish act to be neutral and unfazed by the suffering of the oppressed; therefore, I do agree with both thinkers that being neutral is problematic. In Kids Club, closing the achievement gap is the goal for the kids in Canal. Choosing to stay neutral will open this gap even more and the kids will be even more behind on their reading level as well as hinder them from having equal opportunities for a better education and future. If this issue is not addressed, then there will be no room for change.
Now What? My entire college experience has been about working with others, whether it has been with community partners during the three semesters I have been doing service learning or when I engage with patients during my clinical rotations in hospitals as a nursing student. These exposures have shaped my passions and desire to continue my work with communities and others. Taking this colloquium class has made very aware of the injustices that happen not just in my community, but problems that minorities face across the nation. For example, the recent topic of police brutality targeting mostly African-Americans has very much enhanced and impacted the way I think about this issue. Hearing about a first-hand experience with police brutality and becoming more informed about it has struck my curiosity and enhanced my passion about this topic that I never thought would. Other themes in this colloquium class, such as working closely with undocumented immigrant families through Kids Club or stereotyping groups of people and how becoming culturally aware and sensitive is important, has opened my eyes to the different issues I only knew so little about. It is so important to be aware and having a side in the issues that occur around me instead of staying neutral because change will not happen unless more people are educated about the issues and are then willing to be a part of that change. I agree with Freire saying “instead of saying I am with the dominant, I say that I’m neutral” because if we do not have our own say for change, then it will be up to those who are dominant, and the vulnerable will be even more oppressed (p. 104).