So, some background on your favorite criminologist*. When I was in college, I was not exactly the ideal student. I displayed excellent writing skills, participated in a lot of different clubs, tackled difficult subjects head on, and continually improved my ability to look critically at a variety of issues, seeing the logic or rationale behind arguments that I might have thought ridiculous at first glance. But I was also constantly late in getting to class, I couldn’t afford much in the way of resources, and needed assignment extensions throughout my last year. If it hadn’t been for a bit of luck and a lot of support from family, friends, and my understanding professors, I may very well have failed out of college. In some of these respects, I still have issues.
In short, I was what Rajiv Jhangiani would call a “precarious student“. I was someone who did not, who COULD not afford to make college coursework a top priority, much less his first. I won’t go into too much detail, suffice it to say I’ve been dealing with elder care giving, institutional screw-ups of the financial persuasion, and/or inconvenient timing with a variety of health issues (not always my own) since I was eleven years old. And as of next semester, I’m also slated to start teaching an undergraduate course.
I am not a tenure-track professor, I am not a paid instructor, I’m not even an adjunct faculty member, I am a doctoral student who will be teaching Peace and Violence. Not the most precarious position, but hardly what I’d call secure. Nevertheless, I carry a moral duty to help students avoid the institutional obstacles which blocked myself and my peers in college.** That starts with my classroom and how we, that is, the students and I, operate it. As part of my efforts to implement a critical pedagogy which I define as “teaching and learning as a shared interaction to challenge the preconceived knowledge and perceptions leading to individual empowerment and social change” as well as an open pedagogy which allows us (again, students and I) to counter structural obstacles, I submit several excerpts from my initial syllabus for my upcoming Peace and Violence class for scrutiny and feedback. These excerpts reflect my current strategies to challenge systemic issues with grading, resource access, and the student-professor power dynamics.
There is no text book for this class. However, as part of this semester’s coursework, I expect you to find and read a book on a relevant topic to this class. If there is a book you want to read but are having difficulty acquiring, let me know ASAP and I will do what I can.
Unless otherwise instructed, technology including laptops, tablets, netbooks, and mobile phones are permitted within the classroom. However, phones should be silenced and stored whenever possible unless you can demonstrate that you’re using it to take notes. Refrain from using social media, sending messages, checking the news, reviewing sports standings, or watching videos. If you need to send out a message or make a phone call, be quick and discreet or exit the classroom until you have finished. If you cause a distraction, you will be asked to stop. Twice, and you will be asked to leave.
I do not take attendance, however, if you miss a participatory activity in class it will go down as a zero unless you have an excused absence or promptly contacted me regarding missing the class. In either event, I will have you complete a substitute exercise.
I handle grades in this class a little unusually. I don’t use grades as a punishment.
Rather, you will receive feedback on what you’ve done and what you need to work on. As long as you give an honest effort to meet the course requirements, you will not have an issue. I will give updates bi-weekly and will ensure that you receive some feedback,.
The only grade that will carry formal weight will be the final grade, which will report whether or not you’ve made this effort and should be allowed to proceed onto higher level courses.
In particular, I look for the following:
-Class Discussion or Participation
During these weeks, you will pick one of a set of designated readings and you will become an “expert” on it. Towards the end of class on Monday, you will spend fifteen minutes with the other “experts”. On Wednesday, you will spend half the class in a group where you will discuss the key themes of your reading and hear others do the same. You will then bring these themes together into a meaningful product to share with the rest of the class. Guidelines and suggestions will be given during each session.
WHAT THIS COURSE IS NOT
While I expect you to be skeptical of assumptions and to find some of the information here shocking, I do not reward disrespect. Be attentive, be quiet and listen when others are speaking, and do not stigmatize others for their ignorance.
IF YOU NEED TO TALK OR HAVE CONCERNS
I understand that students sometimes have needs which might clash with the rules. I am open to making reasonable accommodations. I can be reached via e-mail or in person during my office hours. If there’s an emergency, let me know ASAP. If you require accommodations or have concerns about a course requirement(s), please feel free to contact me.
The final two weeks of class will be devoted to students discussing what they have learned from this class, how they want to act on that knowledge, and where we want to go in future courses.
Whether you’re a GEDI participant, a colleague of mine, a prospective student, or someone who happened to stumble on this entry, please feel free to offer your own thoughts, concerns, and questions.
* Your favorite criminologist is still in training at the time of this entry.
** I carry many more moral obligations, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on this one.
EDIT (4/16/19): The current syllabus for Peace and Violence can be found here. (Opens in new tab)