The Violence of Neutrality

One of the biggest hurdles to developing my identity as a teacher has been the implicit view of the classroom as a politically neutral space. While I cannot think of an instance in the past where someone has taught me that the classroom is a neutral space, it is nonetheless a primary assumption about what the classroom is and how it is supposed to function. But from my own experiences both as a teacher and a student, I have found the classroom is a space that prioritizes whiteness, maleness, straightness, and ableness. There are many token attempts at inclusivity that manifest themselves as pedagogy fads, such as the disastrous implementation of Prezi for differently-abled students or teachers outing their students and putting them in dangerous circumstances. Enacting specific programs or actions that target racism, ableism or homophobia continue to operate with the assumption of neutrality and adopt a solution to issues of marginalization by trying to deal with the issue in a single instance and then move on from it, as if merely addressing the problem is sufficient praxis to undo generations of oppression and marginalization. This problem is why the role of theory inevitably becomes so essential for individual teachers looking to enact anti-ableist, anti-racist, and anti-homophobic praxis in the classroom. As I continue working on my approach to teaching, I am thinking more and more about what it means to move theory to practice, as hooks calls it. The classroom is treated as a neutral space by students and teachers alike, but that view of the classroom is actively harmful. Instead, we must adopt a holistic praxis rooted in theory and rooted in radical empathy.

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