Countering Privilege: A Pedagogy for Undermining Classism

By Twila Yates Papay.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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

“The beauty of creative nonfiction,” one avid beginner announced in an autobiographical writing class, “is that anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime, by just writing down what happened and sending it in to be published.” In his naiveté, this student unknowingly contradicted the traditional image of personal writers holed up in cold garrets with only a moldy piece of cheese in the pantry. Coolly unaware of the demands of the genre, he likewise discounted his own privileged situation: the opportunity to take small classes at a liberal arts place like Rollins College, the time and resources (both financial and technological) to pursue introspection, and the luxury of supportive peers who shared his general vision of the world. This is not to trivialize either creative nonfiction or the power of reflective writing. Introspection, after all, is a major approach to comprehending our own viewpoints and learning to look beyond them. Given the intensity of such forms, though, it is essential that teachers, readers, and writers acknowledge the privilege sometimes inherent in their practice. Though we want students to care deeply, to celebrate the earth and its diversity, we do not want them merely to feel for suffering. We want them to be less classist, to recognize the problems of entitlement and take action against them. We want them to create diverse communities. And so we must choose pedagogies which introduce rigorous scrutiny of students’ perspectives in relation to the situations of the disenfranchised.

Keywords: Creative Nonfiction, Celebrating Diversity, Classism, Collaborative Research, Countering Privilege, Deconstructing Texts, Entitlement, Introspective Learning, Pedagogy of Creative Nonfiction, Privilege

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp.73-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 586.654KB).

Dr. Twila Yates Papay

Professor of English, Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, USA

Featured as a “master teacher” in Ken Macrorie’s Twenty Teachers, Dr. Papay has published and spoken on topics as diverse as travel writing, autobiography, science fiction, composition theory and pedagogy, portfolio assessment, collaboration, and future writing. Though the focus of much of her work has been in personal writing and creative non-fiction, she integrates literary and language study with writing pedagogy and service learning. An avid traveler, she spent her first sabbatical journeying and journaling her way around the world, reading travel novels and accounts. Another sabbatical was spent in Africa, where she journeyed widely, taught and assisted in Writing Center development at the University of the Western Cape, offered workshops at other South African institutions, and photographed more animals up close than she had envisioned in her wildest safari dreams. Her most recent adventure, her fourth journey through Australia, entailed interviewing women writers around the country, volunteering at an experimental elementary school in Sydney, exploring aboriginal sites, and visiting remote locations in The Kimberley.

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