Enrolling in IDIS 220: Facilitator’s Training for Social Justice Dialogues has been one of the best decisions I have made in college.
I am writing this column as I am still engaging in and learning through the course but I felt it was necessary for me to express my passion for the class. Prior to this Spring Term, I would hear my peers talking about how the course changed their lives and how it helped them become better activists. I wanted that. I wanted to learn how to teach and how to engage in conversations about sensitive topics. But what surprised me is how much I would learn about myself.
During the past three weeks I have been able to assess my emotions and experiences in regard to my different identities more thoroughly than ever before. I have become more empathetic and compassionate. I truly believe that this course will not only make me a better activist but a better human being. IDIS 220 has had such a positive impact on my life that at one point I expressed to the class that I wish the course was a graduation requirement. One of my classmates made a perfect counter-argument that for the course to actually work, the student must want to take it and they must be invested in change and growth. So here I am, writing about why more students should take the course.
IDIS 220 is not about theory. Like any other social justice dialogue course, it is about learning how to speak one’s emotions and it is about being able to sit in a group of target and agent identities and reach a mutual understanding of where our privileges leave us in the social hierarchy. The course helps deepen one’s understanding of their own social standing and their impact on the world. If one thinks their opinion does not matter or that their decisions and interactions with the world does not affect others, this is a course for them. If one thinks that they are not responsible for someone else’s marginalization because they did not choose to be privileged or because they are not explicitly bigoted, this is a course for them. Even if someone thinks that they understand the systems of oppression they live within and that they know their exact positioning in the social hierarchy, they can still benefit from this course. Simply put, everyone has something to learn from a course like the social justice dialogue class.
I have found the course to be an essential addition to my liberal arts education and I can only hope that others benefit from it as much as I have and actively am. In my opinion, if more Knox students chose to enroll in social justice dialogue courses, our ability to have constructive conversations as a community would improve. We would be able to better comprehend why some students are upset over a play, why some students march and why we have the values we do.
I recommend everyone considers the possibility that they have learned misinformation about their own and others’ social identities. I hope more students look inside themselves and ask themselves if they would like to expand their knowledge of social justice. And I hope more students can say yes.