Internationally Recognized Scholar and Activist Delivers Call to Action at Annual Diversity Lecture Series

Internationally Recognized Scholar and Activist Delivers Call to Action at Annual Diversity Lecture Series

Speaker Antonia Darder

Antonia Darder, PhD

Loyola Marymount Professor Antonia Darder, PhD spotlights inequities in education as keynote speaker in her talk entitled, “Teaching for Social Justice: Building Equity with Teachers, Students, and Parents.”

We need a more just and emancipatory vision of schooling...We talk about social justice and healing because of this horrendous wound in this society, because of oppression, slavery, and colonization. We as teachers have an incredible opportunity for our community to come together in a world that is suffering.

— Antonia Darder, PhD

Schools can reproduce an unjust society when it comes to class, race, and gender biases that can have a lasting, negative impact on students, said acclaimed scholar and activist Antonia Darder, PhD, during her keynote speech at the annual Diversity Lecture sponsored by GSEAP. That impact can deeply hurt children and young people, not only academically, but spiritually and emotionally. “There’s a perpetuation of policies and structures that can lead students to feel dispirited,” said Dr. Darder.

Addressing the Fairfield community and educators from K-12 schools and universities, Dr. Darder spoke of the importance of culturally relevant teaching to the social and academic needs of students who come from marginalized communities. This is significant in Connecticut due to the persistent achievement gap among students from low-income families, lecture organizers said. Specific strategies, such as meaningful parent/teacher dialogue, can improve student academic achievement.

Educators must consider the cultures, identities, and experiences of all students in the classroom. At some schools, the dominant group’s culture may be adapted as the norm. “We need a more just and emancipatory vision of schooling,” said Dr. Darder. “We talk about social justice and healing because of this horrendous wound in this society, because of oppression, slavery, and colonization. We as teachers have an incredible opportunity for our community to come together in a world that is suffering.”

During her keynote, Dr. Darder made a call for action led by a “pedagogy of love,” one fueled by compassion for students. “In each of us is an amazing power to transform,” she said. “This involves really listening to children, recognizing their cultures and personal histories, and improving classroom learning for everyone.”

At some schools, essential groups are excluded from making decisions about how and what students are taught. “We have a right to be part of the decision-making process,” Dr. Darder emphasized, referring to the attitude that should prevail. Many efforts, like bilingual education, have helped, but more work needs to be done. “Students have a right to learn in a multitude of ways. I have faith that we can change the world,” she said.

Following Dr. Darder’s keynote was a panel discussion and audience Q&A moderated by Stephanie Burrell Storms, EdD, associate dean and associate professor. Panelists spoke about how teachers can help children realize their self-worth.

Pierre Orelus, PhD, associate professor and chair of educational studies and teacher preparation, said social justice is based partly on love. “You must respect me, so I can fulfill my God-given potential,” he said, referring to how children should be treated. Gina Ludlow, member of Fairfield Warde Voices for Equity and a GSEAP graduate student said, “As a parent, I begin with love. I send my children to school with the hope that teachers recognize that.”

Stephen Cassidy, principal of the Black Rock School in Bridgeport, emphasized, “If we value student experiences and value student voices, we are on the right track.” Jayne Penn, an English teacher at Fairfield Prep, finds it important to assign her students stories about people from backgrounds different from their own. “If you don’t understand marginalization, how can you be a part of a call to action?” asked Penn. “To be a man or woman for others, you have to come from a place of understanding.”

 

Tags:  GSEAP

Last modified: 06-05-19 9:20 AM

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