“Critical Optimism”

“Critical Optimism”

My small group discussed the Beyond Holidays and Heroes article, Educating for Critical Practice, by Margo Okazaw-rey in which Okazaw-rey describes a mandatory two semester course for social workers on racism, oppression and social work practice with people of color. Issues that stood out to our group were those of:

Macro Perspective, seeing racism at the Macro perspective: institutional, political, sociological and “big picture”. This approach counters the dominate ideological perspectives that these issues are individual or psychological issues, thus dismissing or covering up racism and other forms of oppression as an individual problem.

“Contract with America” – as a part of the course students were asked to reimagine and “build a truly egalitarian, economically and socially just society”. This proved very difficult and demonstrated our tendency to be reactive to, or constantly trying to negotiate a “contract with America”, instead of being proactive and creating new systems outside of the individualistic/capitalistic framework. Some may feel this is “pie in the sky” thinking, but articulating and creating new framework for society can only be done with critical optimism.

“Acknowledgement and awareness of racism is the ideology of White supremacy embedded in every institution in this country…” Margo Okazawy-rey doesn’t hold back and encourages others to call things what they are and talk about them from the micro to macro level so that we see, acknowledge and address attitudes, beliefs and actions which lead to policies of oppression. We talked in our group about not backing away or buttering over uncomfortable topics and having courageous conversations.

Opening and having honest dialogue leads to another topic our group discussed from the reading on building alliances. Bridging the gap between students and the classroom, or the classroom and the community.

Over all I really enjoyed the structure of our classroom review of the Beyond Holidays and Heroes and other texts. It helped us review a ton of reading in a one class period and gave us the opportunity to hear and learn from one another. I really appreciate that these classroom strategies are share with intention, building our tools of the trade. As a quiet person I both enjoyed and was stretched by “The Final Word” strategy. I appreciated the built in scaffolding, and safety, of being able to review the text on my own and then share with a small group with defined amounts of time (3:1) to both share and hear others responses before sharing with the whole group. The balance and built in ability to first listen then respond in “the last word” echoed the format of the Elders panel allowing all voices to be heard and acknowledged.

3 thoughts on ““Critical Optimism””

  1. Hi, Jasmine!

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on your portion and on the activity. I totally agree that this activity was part of a great, scaffolded lesson. It allowed everyone space to share while reviewing the reading in a deep way. I also like that you pointed out how intentional these lessons are and that they are building on our “tools of trade”. I know I want to use this activity, for sure!

  2. I agree with your assessment especially with regards to ‘honest dialogue’ and how important it is–and how difficult it is to establish, sometimes, when a teacher could easily come across as being patronizing.

  3. Honest dialogue can only be as big as the vocabulary of the people participating in it, i.e. language dependent. I also appreciate that we have had this document as a catalyst to start discussions that people may have avoided having due to how uncomfortable it may make them feel. I look forward to continuing these discussions and for children to gain the language necessary to hold discussion of inequity as well.

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