Differing Backgrounds/Differing Perspectives: Wrestling with Diversity and Democracy at an Institution of Higher Education

By Shirley Wade McLoughlin.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Many would argue that diversity and democracy should go hand in hand. Yet, as societies become more globalized, leaders must expect ‘points of intensity’ to occur when groups from diverse and often marginalized backgrounds are studying, working, and living together. These points of intensity can be embraced as fertile ground for growth, or can further distance individuals from diverse backgrounds from one another. This paper describes such an incident, a “point of intensity” initiated by an art student’s public display of her finely rendered sculpture of a bound woman, crafted in dark brown wire, hanging from a makeshift gallows. While the sculpture was erected without formal explanation of its intent, the student later added a statement that the woman represented the silenced voices of the many women who experience domestic abuse and its accompanying effects. However, the initial outcry from the few African Americans on the campus who felt the sculpture represented the horrendous history lynching of African Americans in the United States’ South, led to an Open Forum. It was at this forum that issues regarding lack of sensitivity to descendants of the Holocaust, issues from the journalism department regarding our citizens’ right to free speech, issues regarding the role of art in society, issues of the marginalization of women, and issues related to race were raised. This paper discusses the positive and negative effects of this incident and the college community’s response. The author puts forth ideas to deepen the dialogue between all involved, and suggests applicability to other situations where “difference” can be used for fostering interconnections instead of distancing.

Keywords: Diversity, Art, Race, Marginalization, Democracy

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp.109-120. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.221MB).

Dr. Shirley Wade McLoughlin

Assistant Professor, Education, Keene State College, Keene, NH, USA

I am a former pediatric nurse and elementary school teacher. After receiving my doctorate, my work involves teaching pre-service teachers at a small, public liberal arts college. In addition to the technical aspects of teaching, I also try to convey to my students the necessary skills to be effective teachers in our rapidly changing world. Since most of my students are white with minimal personal experiences with diversity, this is often a challenging but worthwhile endeavor. My areas of scholarship are related to race, teaching about race and diversity, and curricular theory. In an upcoming book, I have an chapter about teaching about race as a white woman. I have a book in press entitled A Pedagogy of the Blues, which is related to curricular theory and race.

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