This week I spoke about the discrimination I’ve experienced as a female engineer to my (overwhelmingly white and male) engineering students. I also spoke about what I’ve witnessed in terms of racism and ableism in the sector, and the evidence of this in everyday engineering design. I’ve also worked this into part of their assessment (they’re still a bit stunned…). I’ve done it because I’m discontent with the line that we decide to draw to separate education from personal, complex human experiences, and the techniques and knowledge that we consider to be valid content in our subjects.
Education doesn’t respect bubbles, staff and students experience injustice both outside and inside of the classroom. Not acknowledging this doesn’t make marginalisation less of a reality. By ignoring it, maybe we’re even implicitly condoning the shocking statistics that show the ethnic profile of the names of our students has a bearing on their likelihood of being invited for a job interview, or that our BAME students are more likely to be stopped and searched by police.
I want to find ways to practice teaching inclusively, to understand my own white identity and the often unquestioned Western ideologies underpinning our systems, but it’s hard! I don’t always get it right – I still have my own blinkers that I’m not aware of.
Darren Minister from SALT and I have been discussing this for a while and we’ve decided to start a critical pedagogy group, to play with a safe (and brave) space to have these conversations and explore what it means in our integrated personal/ professional capacities within an educational institution.