Love and Bewilderment
A few years ago, I taught a course on education of “minority groups” in America (a phrase that wasn’t of my choosing). My sense was that students would expect a course about the present moment and what is often called “achievement gaps.” By this time, I’d already been writing about what I call “bewildering education”: educational situations that can unstick us from our present ways of thinking and being, leading us to become lost (Snaza, 2013). My hope—which was, and continues to be, animated by feminist, queer, antiracist, and decolonial struggle—is that such bewilderment may create conditions for the emergence of unanticipated confluences of thoughts, affects, and collectivities. As I planned the class, I wanted to immediately swerve away from asking about differences in educational outcomes as captured by standardized metrics and instead look at the forces—colonialism, slavery, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy—that structured the emergence and maintenance of schools in the United States. I decided to begin the class with The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, followed by Brenda Child’s Boarding School Seasons. I wanted students to consider how settler colonialism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade were inseparable from the “whitenizing” projects of US public schools and to think about how the humanization of some US residents was structurally conjoined with dehumanization.