Achieving Against The Odds Cl (The New Academy) by Esther Kingston-Mann, Tim Sieber

By Esther Kingston-Mann, Tim Sieber

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I think of devout Sunni Moslems I have taught— Seyla, Omar, Yvonne—whose astonishingly deep reflections on sexuality and other existential matters in their written work were clearly not inhibited by the fact that a lesbian teacher was reading them. Or I think of Roger, a sexually innocent Christian fundamentalist, who wanted my guidance on how to find a love relationship suitable to his own values, and of Tina, a Dominican Pentecostal who gently and consistently expressed the view that sex belongs only in heterosexual marriage; I remember her rushing up after class and startling me with a hug after reading my positive response to her paper.

Ethically, what is most persuasive is the same as what is most politically efficacious: to show the world what concrete social goods are promoted when we embrace sexual diversity—for example, what new kinds of love and family, insight and delight are thereby opened. People raised under the regime of heteronormativity cannot recognize these as good until and unless they experience them as such, and that takes prolonged, humane contact with people who are not straight. This contact is exactly what having an openly gay or lesbian teacher provides, which explains why many straight people who otherwise purport to endorse gay civil rights nonetheless insist that we should not teach or, if we do teach, that we should remain scrupulously closeted.

Our contributors demonstrate that faculty can benefit from collaboration with colleagues and can learn to construct classroom environments that encourage students to share ideas and insights and to take responsibility for their own learning. As Peter Kiang suggests in his chapter below, it is through “sharing voices, crossing boundaries, and building communities” that we and our students move forward. At the same time, it is important to recall that our pedagogical powers and expertise, while real, are not infinite.

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