Resistance Is Useful
Across North America, university-based teacher education programs make space in their curricula for what is variably referred to as diversity, equity, or social justice content. At work here are teacher educators: faculty, both tenure-stream and adjunct, many of whom connect their work to the broader field of social justice teacher education, or SJTE. In the introduction to their 2012 edited book Cultivating Social Justice Teachers: How Teacher Educators Have Helped Students Overcome Cognitive Bottlenecks and Learn Critical Social Justice Concepts, noted SJTE scholars Paul C. Gorski, Zenkov, Osei-Kofi, and Sapp (2012) include a second-person address. They effectively tell the reader—tell you, presumably an SJTE practitioner—about your own experience. The book’s title emphasizes the cognitive in a conciliatory reframing of student resistance to SJTE as learning-related and not necessarily “political.” However, the “cognitive bottleneck” they speak of is unfailingly, excessively affecting. Here is their address:
Making matters all the more challenging, every semester some of your students resist outright any conversation suggesting that [for example] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer people experience bias or oppression, at all, or that their experiences belong in a conversation about “diversity,” “multiculturalism,” or “social justice.” Others argue on misinformed scientific or even religious grounds that heterosexuality is normal, so it only makes sense that anything other than heterosexuality would be deemed abnormal, if not deviant. And every week you fight the temptation to interpret these responses as hostile or judgmental. You have turned to colleagues in search of pedagogical strategies only to learn that the challenge you face is a common one; you turn to the research literature and find, in fact, that the challenge is well-documented there.(pp. 1–2) 95Although the last sentence lends a universal quality to these experiences, the “you” address does most of the heavy lifting. In other words, student resistance is so universal in SJTE that it can be said of people whom the editors have never met, in places they have never been. It is produced here as seemingly quintessential, as is the desire to find the means of preventing this problem.