A white assistant professor wants to teach her white students about their whiteness and their white privileges. Her name is Jodi Linley and she wants to deconstruct whiteness with her mostly white graduate students. She is reported to segregate students in the classroom in hopes it deepens their understanding of whiteness. She became influenced by the White Priviledge Conference 17 years ago. It was the inaugural conference in 2000 that sparked her interest in battling white privilidge and teaching white frat boys how to act when they're challenged.
Linley might be a wonderful teacher, but is she focusing on the wrong concepts? What will students benefit from paying a hefty tuition to sit in a class and deconstruct their whiteness? What if the student is not white? How can they deconstruct their whiteness?
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As a white assistant professor of mostly white graduate students who will become higher education leaders, I work to dismantle whiteness in my curriculum, assignments and pedagogy. I make meaning of my own white identity through my commitment to reflexivity as a constant activity. Equally salient are my identities as a queer, able-bodied, cisgender woman, who grew up working class in the rural Midwestern United States. This manuscript explores the ways my identities, experiences and teaching paradigm anchor my commitment to the work of deconstructing whiteness.
We shall not forget that we cannot control the color of our skin. We are born into this world with a roll of the dice and we should be blessed to be here. What we become in life has to do with two things - our parents ensuring they raise us right, and then ourselves taking the responsibility as adults to do something wonderful and become a productive citizen in our country.
If you're white, then maybe you should apologize for being born that way. It's totally your fault, right? When you were a mere thought of an infant, you had the option of picking your white parents. That's totally how it works, right? Wrong. That's not how any of this works. People should not blame actions upon the color of someone's skin. Blame bad actions on the notion that bad people exist. Not everyone can be a cisgender angel like our professor who deconstructs the whiteness. There's bad people of every color, shape, size, etc... The universe needs a balance and this is one way it stays even.
To sit in a class about deconstructing whiteness seems like a poor return on investment. How about teaching the college students something more beneficial such as how to do taxes, how to act duing an interview, and how to appropriately respond to incredulous class offers about whiteness?
Linley says her commitment to designing classes that fight white privilege began as soon as she became a professor in 2014, at which point she resolved to “develop courses that both unveiled and rejected” the notion that “neutrality and objectivity are realistic and attainable.”
Such “supposedly neutral” curricula, Linley explains, is a type of teaching that fails to take an active stance against racism and other forms of injustice, thereby intrinsically perpetuating “hegemonic racism, sexism, classism, ableism, cisgenderism, and heterosexism.”
Many people agree that color has nothing to do with curriculum. Facts are facts. Ideas are ideas. Color of skin is not something that truly needs to be considered. For example, if someone teaches a business class, then is the business information and education different for white or black students? It shouldn't be. What if students were learning about geology? Does a professor teach rock studies to black and white students differently? Are the rocks different for people of different colors or ethnicity?
Curricula material can be neutral. I haven't ever read a college text book and thought "wow, that sounds racist" or "that sure is a lot of white privilege." College text books are generally written in a neutral tone so as to provide the course content. Math is math. Math isn't black or white, it's just math. Sometimes it's really hard math and that's where the true challenge is. It's not about the whiteness of a math book or blackness of a science book.
It appears as though she's teaching graduate students who plan to enter the world of higher education. We should be concerned about what those graduate students will provide to the community they work for. We should also be concerned that the website hosting Linley's work is charging a crazy amount for access to her full documents.
The website wants $42 for 24 hours access. It also offers 30 day access to her full document for $181.
People can read her document about whiteness for 30 days or they can lease a small car to get them around college. Students probably have free access, but that doesn't negate the fact that those prices are the numeric form of insanity.
Would you pay $181 to read about deconstructing whiteness?
Jodi Linley is an assistant professor at the University of Iowa. She has a PhD in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education from Michigan State University.