Cornellians of the world unite; we have nothing to lose but our chains. The Babbling Bear applauds Dr. Katherine Thorsteinson, who is part of the vanguard in antiracist pedagogy involving ethnic, indigenous, and minority literatures, post-colonial Anglophone literature, film and media studies, and queer studies. Dr. Thorsteinson described her experience in the Cornell classroom in an autoethnographic study entitled, Anarchy in the Classroom: The Efficacy of Self-Directed Learning for Critical Whiteness Pedagogy. Unlike traditional racist writing courses, her first-year writing seminars were taught through the lens of critical whiteness pedagogy, which is also known as antiracist pedagogy. In order to teach through the lens of critical whiteness pedagogy and overcome the pervasive problem of white fragility and guilt, Dr. Thorsteinson had to locate, interrogate, and decenter her whiteness and power as a teacher.
Once the power was in the hands of the students, Dr. Thorsteinson could describe the class like so:
This course is not at all about mastery. Indeed, we should be wary of all the historical baggage that word carries.
Unencumbered by the need to ensure that her students mastered the subject matter, Dr. Thorsteinson was able to raise a majority of the students to what Paulo Freire, an acolyte of Vladimir Lenin and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed called critical consciousness (“conscientização”).
To ensure that each and every Cornell student attains critical consciousness on race and colonization, it is necessary to have a small vanguard of leaders like Dr. Thorsteinson penetrate into all disciplines, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
In order for all students to obtain critical consciousness, we must use antiracist pedagogy mandated by the State University of New York (SUNY). However, this is not enough. We must de-master all classes at Cornell, particularly those in STEM.