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13 September 2016 @ 03:19 pm
Setting the Agenda  
A group of fellow faculty members and I had a fascinating discussion today about persuasion and coercion. We were talking about issues surrounding diversity and equity. One person raised an interesting concept: when we persuade, we are attempting to change the person's viewpoint to our own and is that not in some form coercion? Food for thought. Hours after the meeting, I am still mulling this over.

You see, I do set an agenda in my literature classes. The books I assign (about half of the books required for the course) are there to provide students with a diverse reading list. They are books about race and ethnicity but also about SES, gender, LBGTQIA, ability and disability, and more. I tend to define diversity (and multicultural literature) from a wider lens than I did in the past. In part, I use the definition from www.weneeddiversebooks.org.

"How we define diversity:

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization."


I do not look at this as coercion, though I can see how someone might talk about my agenda. I want students to read widely and to read outside of their comfort zone. After all, the students in their schools and, ultimately, in their libraries, are diverse in many ways. If, as I believe, there are good books out there just waiting for each and every reader, it is incumbent upon me to know them, to add them to the collection, to offer them to readers.

Over the years I have been teaching, I, too, have had to learn to read beyond my comfort zone. If you have seen my Padlet reading autobiography (https://padlet.com/lis_tsl/7f5y9so124dh), you will see I read romances (especially those with Fabio on the cover) and scary books. Not a very wide reader at all. As I began working with middle school kids, I pushed myself to read Sweet Valley High, Piers Anthony, nonfiction books about snakes, and more. Now that I teach YA literature courses, my reading is as wide and varied as it can be. Yes, I still gravitate toward some books (humor, yes please) and might put something in the TBR pile close to the bottom. But I do believe in challenging myself as a reader.

So, maybe there is an agenda. Maybe I am coercing and not persuading. Maybe I need to give more thought to this discussion. In the meantime, I will continue to challenge myself and my students.
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