In my last entry, I discussed the possibilities that higher education might bring about for a global, multicultural world. I argued that such a world would be modeled on the multicultural and diverse classrooms of our colleges and universities. Since I am a writing teacher, in this entry I want to discuss the writing classroom as one possible campus location for bringing about diversity and multiculturalism.
In “Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing,” Maxine Hairston contended that real diversity emerges from the students themselves and flourishes in a collaborative classroom in which they work together to develop their ideas and test them out on each other. Here is how she might imagine the diverse, multicultural writing classroom to be like:
1. There might be a student from Malawi. The ivory bracelet he wears would have been put on his arm at birth and cannot be removed. He will write about his tribal lessons.
2. A young African American woman will write about what it is like to be the only person of color in her classroom.
3. Another student might be a young Afghanistan man, who came to America when he was eight. He will write about the fear he felt his first day in an America school because there were no walls to keep out bullets.
4. Another is a young Greek woman whose parents brought her to America to escape poverty. She will write about her first conscious brush with sexism in the Greek Church.
5. One student might be the son of illegal aliens who followed the harvests in Texas. He will write about the need for young Latin Americans to get their education.
6. Another Latin American young woman will write about being Spanish and the challenges of trying to write Standard Written English while also speaking Spanish with her older relatives.
7. A young African American man will write about college basketball, a culture about which he is highly knowledgeable.
8. Another young African American man will write about the conflicts he feels between what he is learning in astronomy, a subject that fascinates him, and the teachings of his church.
9. A young man from the Texas panhandle will write about the traditions of cowboy boots and the ethical dimensions of barbed wire fences.
10. A young Cambodian woman will write about her desire to practice traditional dance in Lowell, Massachusetts, while also navigating the gangs many of her country people are establishing there.
A classroom such as this one, in any academic discipline, will surely bring about respect and appreciation for the “other,” modeling what diversity and multiculturalism can look like globally.