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Friday, June 20 • 8:30am - 9:20am
CON9.01 – Cultivating Hope in Social Justice Oriented Education (Room A240)

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Anti-oppressive education focuses on helping students develop a critical consciousness and a nuanced understanding of the workings of oppressive structures, discourses, and practices. This is a necessary endeavour, as the tenets of oppressive structures and ideologies need to be understood before they can be subverted. Nevertheless, the transformative goal of anti-oppressive education can also bring multiple dangers for students’ discouragement and disempowerment. For example, a comprehensive understanding of the pervasive nature of neoliberalism and its self-perpetuating mechanisms, including the ways it discourages or co-opts alternatives, can become overwhelming for student activists-to-be. Students deal with the effects of neoliberalism, racism, sexism, ableism, and so forth in their daily lives inside and outside school, and may enter higher education already discouraged about or disconnected from the possibility of systemic change, without being aware that this attitude is itself ideologically-informed. The often-asked question of “How is this relevant to my life?” may reflect students using their agency as consumers in a neoliberal education model; however, it may also come out of students’ struggles with multilayered disempowerment as a request for education to inform a different kind of agency, one based on hope. In this presentation I will use a comprehensive literature review on hope and my experience teaching in human rights, women’s studies, and social work at Carleton University to reflect on these dynamics and argue that educators also need to help students cultivate a sense of hope. I will share some of the challenges I faced in my teaching and strategies I found fruitful, such as counteracting neoliberal messages, building community, linking students to activist events and organizations, projecting hope, and being upfront about my own struggles. It is only when hope is present that students can fully engage in the challenging process of transformative learning in a sustainable way.


Friday June 20, 2014 8:30am - 9:20am EDT
A240 McArthur Hall

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