chapter  13
16 Pages

Blazing the Trail: Teaching the Privileged about Privilege

WithLisa F. Platt

Teaching students about privilege in any setting can be a diffi cult endeavor, but teaching these topics to undergraduate students who represent mostly privileged social identities (i.e., White, heterosexual, affl uent socioeconomic status) presents unique challenges. These identities describe the typical student population enrolled in small, selective, liberal arts colleges (Pryor, DeAngelo, Blake, Hurtado, & Tran, 2011). This type of academic setting, with highly privileged students, represents one of the most diffi cult arenas for teaching about privilege (Ahmed, 2008; Boatright-Horowitz & Soeung, 2009). These students usually come from homogeneous, affl uent neighborhoods (Pryor et al., 2011). Most rarely experience any substantive experiences with individuals different from themselves. Most importantly, almost all remain unaware of the privileges they possess and blind to the benefi ts of various forms of privilege and the impact on non-privileged groups (McIntosh, 1988). Educators in this type of setting who embark on teaching about privilege often face strong emotional responses from students, including defensiveness and a lack of openness to exploring these types of concepts (Case & Cole, this volume; Cole, Case, Rios, & Curtin, 2011; Sue, Rivera, Capodilupo, Lin, & Torino, 2010; Wise & Case, this volume). Despite the challenges, teaching privileged students about the nature of privilege enables those with the most privilege to initiate change in the future. Given the nature of the ways privilege functions in society, these privileged students will likely hold positions of power in the future and could potentially serve as allies and advocates for change.