Throughout my graduate courses we have discussed the notion of meeting students where they are at developmentally. This makes sense, as we cannot talk about systems of oppression and power and privilege with students who hardly understand their own identity. Additionally, we cannot expect a first year hall council president to be able to effectively run a meeting and lead an organization when this could be their first real leadership experience. I am bought into the concept of meeting students where they are at.
Yet, lately, I have been thinking about meeting students where they are at who have incredibly problematic views. How can I work with a student who has outright racist or homophobic views? What if the student rejects the idea that words can cause harm or think that trans* folk are just trying to get attention? How do I meet these students where they are at and still sleep at night?
My role as an educator is to challenge students conception of the world to get them to think critically and interrogate their views. I am not concerned with what their view ultimately is, but I want them to have seriously reflected on it and looked inwardly on why they hold those views. At least that is what I hope I am doing.
When it comes to the racist/homophobic/trans*-phobic student, can I really be neutral? Can I meet those students where they are at and still sleep at night?
Unlike other posts on this blog, this post does not offer solutions, rather I intend it to start a dialogue.
How can student affairs educators meet students where they are at, when where they are at is problematic and causes other students harm?
My role as a white, cisgender, heterosexual male student affairs educator is to challenge these students. It is not to indoctrinate them into some worldview but, rather, to cause them to critically reflect on their views; after all, they were socialized with these views. This work is not easy, but I need to expose students to multiple perspectives and challenge them to see the world differently, if only for a few short moments, so that we can live in a more socially just world.
How do you meet students where they are at?