Author Archives: Janan Shouhayib

Check-in Survey (Janan)

  1. What barriers exist for you in our class right now?

I can’t think of a barrier because I think it’s a very democratic/collaborative class.

2. What *all* do you envision us being capable of, together, in this class going forward in the semester?

It seems like the course/syllabus ends this way, but my dream is that we consistently build room for possibility and examples of educational justice as we critique and grieve over the shortcomings of our current systems.

3. What course content questions do you have so far (i.e., questions about the readings)?

We haven’t spoken about it much but I’d love to have more clarity about charter schools and the different positions for/against.

4. What course process questions do you have so far?

The only thing that comes to mind is I’m wondering if there’s an obligation to post on the blog for the same week that a student is presenting.

Blog post to come 🙂

How do we create praxis when public interest is never prioritized? – Janan

I’m not a cynical person at all; I’m almost optimistic to a fault. However, that defining characteristic changes when I think about my faith in educational institutions’ dismantling of White supremacy and truly doing work that accounts for years of racism and its many reaches. Actually, being in my department at the GC does give me a lot of hope for certain institutions, because I truly see a critically conscious faculty, an effort to prioritize students of color, and multiple actions to promote research that explicitly and boldly tackles issues of oppression. It makes me able to allow my optimism to enter the field when thinking about DEI in education. However, it’s possible that my alma mater stunted me a bit. I went to Connecticut College, a New England liberal arts school, and one of the most expensive and least diverse in almost every way. I did feel enriched by a lot of professors and enjoyed my social life, and I can attribute the institution’s failures as an actual inclusive institution as a catalyst for my activism, for which I suppose I am grateful. Anyway, the readings for this week made me think about how much institutions do for their public perceptions (all related to money really) above the needs of students.

I wanted to look at social media pages of Connecticut College to look at the disjointment between the two and to create some sort of collage/visual, but my also stunted artistic abilities led me to a different medium I’m a little more comforable with:

(let me know if this doesn’t open! 🙂 )

I don’t think this work in academia is futile, at all, but the landscape we work with is full of hypocrisy, private interest, lack of action, and generations-long seeped-in white supremacy. It’s going to (obviously) take a lot more than Instagram posts in February to truly change our systems. I look forward to creating and learning more about possibilities with all of you.

Social-Emotional Learning, Mediated by Race/Class (Janan)

Davidon’s chapter on community college struck a chord with me because, 11 months into a global terror, I’ve been reflecting and re-evaluating my decision to move 6 hours away from home for college. I’d be wondering what it would’ve been like if I had stayed at a community college locally. Although my recent thoughts have been more about how this would’ve affected me socially/emotionally, it’s clear that the nurturing academics of community college offer students a tailored way to achieve their goals in school as well. But Davidson’s article also touches on the ways going to a community college change the social makeup. It seems like these social differences would also make a remarkable difference in one’s social learning. 

I obviously didn’t end up choosing a community college. I went to a fairly selective liberal arts college instead, which was academically enriching in so many ways that have shaped my personality, but I do think about how this affecting my emotional learning, going to school with a huge majority of wealthy, White New Englanders, rather than people who more accurately fit my demographic. However, my high school seemed similar to community college – it was a local school (although private) whose mission statement was to adapt to students’ diverse learning styles, which catapulted me from a B-average insecure middle schooler, the only non-Christian in a prestigious Georgetown Catholic school, to a student who loved to learn and succeeded in my courses. 

It’s interesting to me how much of the American ideal of college is rooted in leaving your parents’ home(s) at age 18 and dorming with other peers. Davidson’s article, although focused primarily on the quality of education, made me introspect about the effects on an individual/child’s social/emotional growth as well. 

Anthony Jack’s reading on the privileged poor was another article that stuck with me. As expected of a NESCAC school, my college was just like that – there were a lot of 1%-ers. Jack said it succinctly, “These rich kids had their own version of summer. In my family, summer was just a season.” Jack’s descriptions of the doubly disadvantaged, the privileged poor, and the extremely wealthy made me immediately think about the pandemic, because that’s what happens with everything nowadays. The glimpses into lives of the extremely wealthy through social media made me realizes the extent that wealth completely cushions this global tragedy (working from home, vacation homes, multiple cars, access to healthcare, etc). 

Jack’s descriptions of the ways that different classes interact yet remain in a hegemonic relationship where the poor is constantly dispossessed was incredibly infuriating and disheartening to read about. Yet, his descriptions of the ways that systemic changes can accommodate one’s dispossessions opened a new door for me to think about a topic that seems so pervasive and undefeatable (racial capitalism, neoliberalism, segregation). 

Janan + Ethics of Knowledge Building

I read two PSC CUNY op-eds, both having to do with media & the arts. Through this extremely tumultuous year of painful learning, one of my emotional anchors has been watching tv and films and engrossing myself in music. I imagine that usually, watching tv and movies doesn’t take as much discipline as it takes me, someone who loves stories but whose diagnosed-awful attention span has made it challenging to listen to them. But then, abundant free time came along. One of the pieces I read was Racquel Gates’ “The Problem with ‘Anti-Racist’ Movie Lists.” Gates criticizes the propensity of White people to voice their opinions about racism first, often through lists of movies to watch to educate masses on anti-racism. She acknowledges that while these films may be worth viewing, they “reduce Black art to a hastily constructed manual to understanding oppression.” This argument is relevant in conversations about anti-racist education. While anti-racist knowledge and thought is absent from many American’s educations and values, the simplification of a complex social system and the use of art from artists of color as an allegory is unacceptable. In fact, it can often reproduce racist narratives and perpetuate racist stereotypes. I believe this is one of the reasons many critical academics and others are now emphasizing ideas such as Black joy, Black radical love, and other abundant realities that are empowering and anti-racist without reducing the importance of this kind of art. This reminds me of something I read years ago by a Palestinian who wrote that everyone in his family, regardless of whether their interest was engineering, literature, or political history, their selfhood and passions were always collapsed to their identities as Palestinian, a particularly “controversial” identity. Overall, Gates’ op-ed stuck with me and perfectly articulated the frustration of why historically, White artists have been able to so easily write about so-called universalities of life: love, family, and growing up, among others, whereas artists of color are always expected to produce art solely about their subordination. This issue clearly continues, but poc artists’ work is still used to cater to White people; regardless of the anti-racist motives, it is something that needs to be changed.

Reading this article specifically made me think of a related question (more about academia than higher education in general): what is the ethical line between researching/collecting data on the COVID-19 pandemic? As a horrific crisis and traumatic experiences still seizing the lives, anxieties, and mental stabilities of so many globally, especially the most dispossessed, is there a way to generate knowledge about the pandemic while it’s happening in a way that is not extractive?