Bringing It #54: Reflections on the Past Week, BT2P Award, and Two Important Projects
This issue of Bringing It goes out in the aftermath of the insurrectionary riot of Trump supporters at the Capitol. The larger campaign of Donald Trump and his allies to subvert the 2020 election has suffered significant defeats; Joe Biden will be inaugurated next week. But events are still unfolding; the immediate threat of insurrectionary violence and the ongoing reality of an anti-democratic insurgency loom large. It’s hard to feel anything other than a fear, anger, and determination to defeat the coup.
Yet educators are starting to reflect on the implications of the political crisis for our work, and the implications of our work for sustaining democracy. Many academic leaders are rightly asserting the mission of higher education to defend liberal democracy and liberal learning as a bulwark against autocratic violence, and to defend truth itself against the Big-Lie gaslighting of Trump and his followers. We agree with both commitments.
But we wonder too if the political crisis doesn’t suggest the need to make these commitments more robust and effective. It’s clear that a great liberal education is insufficient to provide students with the compass of citizenship: witness Senator Josh Hawley, history major, Stanford University. And it’s striking that the conspiracists in the White House have appropriated and perverted for their own purposes our language of perspectivalism and the complexity of knowledge. How do we create a really robust model of liberal education for democratic life? How do we fight a culture of gaslighting that has kidnapped the language of multiple truths and elided it with lying?
These are first reflections. We invite your responses—most of all, if you disagree.
Now we would like to share some news from BT2P and from our friends in California.
BT2P Awarded $150,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation
It is weird to bring you some important and good news in the midst of the current catastrophe. We are delighted to announce that Bringing Theory to Practice received a $150,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation in support of The Way Forward initiative. The Way Forward offers grants to multi-campus partnerships for innovative projects that respond to the current crises facing higher education – systemic racism, the pandemic, and economic inequality. This generous funding from the Luce Foundation allows BT2P to support nearly twice as many projects as originally planned, to build a community of practice among the awardees through multiple convenings, and to disseminate learnings at the end of the grant period to our wider community. We thank the Foundation and our host institution, Elon University, for their support. Look for more information on awarded projects in upcoming editions of Bringing It.
From our community…
Here are two important projects from friends of BT2P on the West Coast:
Inside-Out Prison Exchange BA Pathway Program
We are excited to share the following program description written by BT2P Advisory Board member Tessa Hicks Peterson of Pitzer College:
I have been a part of the Bringing Theory to Practice community for over a decade and greatly appreciate the core belief that we must be willing to radically change our own institutions of higher education if we wish to radically change the world. I have worked over the years to change tenure policy and graduation requirements at my college to more thoughtfully value community engagement teaching and scholarship in institutional policy. But, perhaps the most heartfelt institution-changing work I have been a part of is pursuing community engagement that recognizes our most marginalized community members as co-learners, not charity recipients, and the transformative learning possible on all sides when we partner for radical community-based learning models. This has been the focus that myself and a handful of colleagues at the Claremont Colleges have pursued in creating the first-ever Inside-Out Prison Exchange BA pathway program.
In this model, incarcerated college students and campus-based college students take courses together, doing the same reading, writing, and assignments, for the same college credit, in a classroom inside a local men’s prison (This recent article in Inside Higher Education fully explains this effort). The transformative learning experiences that come from this kind of critical-pedagogy oriented, joint learning venture are unending, for both sets of students and the professors themselves (I speak to this teaching experience in an essay I wrote for AAC&U’s Diversity & Democracy (“Critical Learning, Radical Healing, and Community Engagement in Prison”). To be a part of disrupting the typical norms and limitations of both our prison and school systems in order advance innovative models of community engagement and education has breathed new life into what is possible for institutional and individual transformative practices that address education, social justice and community building. This powerful model meshes well with BT2P’s focus on community engagement, adult learners, wellbeing, and institutional change, and I hope you’ll join me in learning more about the movement for prison education and social justice.
Higher Ed Conversations in Black
Higher Ed Conversations in Black is a student-led media project from the USC Pullias Center for Higher Education that features a series of thought-provoking commentary from invited contributors with an aim towards helping higher education become a more supportive and equitable environment for all. The commentary is meant to both evoke new conversations and offer novel perspectives on higher education issues. Higher Ed Conversations in Black was created by Jordan Harper, a Pullias Center research assistant and Ph.D. student in the USC Urban Education Policy program, who was inspired by Ed Gordon’s book Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership.
The project debuted in October 2020 and the second issue came out in December 2020. Esteemed contributors have included Pedro Noguera, Charles Davis, Raquel Rall, Felecia Commodore, Antar Tichavakunda, Wendy Osefo, and Freeman Hrabowski, III. Higher Ed Conversations in Black will publish a new issue every other month during the school year. Read them all for free here.
In closing, we want to remind you that applications to join the BT2P team as our Communications & Public Outreach Coordinator are due this Friday, January 15 via the Elon employment website.
David, Kate, & Todd