Teaching a Wider Audience

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MICHEL DEGRAFF: So if I were to teach this course to a group that would be much more diverse than what we have here at MIT-- because I think-- so when we taught this course this past Spring, most students came with a very open mind trying to understand the way, indeed, race and language create these hierarchies that are not good for the country, not good for the world, and how to create more inclusive societies.

But if I were to teach this course with a more diverse ideological set of students, what I think I would do is to include more texts from, say, a more conservative perspective. In fact, some of the students often they would bring in clips from, say, Breitbart or from Rush Limbaugh, voices that are very conservative and some of them even on the outright extreme. And we use that for teaching moments.

But if I were to teach this class maybe to a more diverse group, what I would do is to not take views so extreme, but take some scholarly work that could advocate, say, for building walls and then try to examine them together in a respectful way. So that way even students on the right and on the left could have a respectful dialogue and try to look at the data that might support a particular view versus the other.

And that would be a challenge. But I think eventually that would be a good challenge, because one common motif throughout the semester was how do we take what we learn here in this course and make it available to the wider public including those who might want to build walls and not bridges? How do we translate all these very important knowledge of these important findings about migration, about equality? How do we translate that in a way that it can be discussed in the wider sphere?

And this remains a challenge to the very end of the class. There was no clear answer on how to do that. But I would hope that if we were to teach to a broader audience, we would come up with the right way to do it.

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