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Stages of Insensitivity Turned Teaching Moments

Inclusivity practices should be involuntary, but sadly, we live in a world where that is not the case. I had a difficult moment in the classroom last week as I was trying to get students to think about what it would be like to be… (basically someone other than themselves). And then channeling that empathy, the understanding of another person’s mindset and behavior, to make sense of the world.

But a lot of them have the privilege of being able to ask, “why is this even a problem?” Rather than use this as a platform to lecture these students on their inherent white privilege (often something they don’t realize they embody, let alone practice), I decided to utilize the teaching moment and draw their attention to the logical fallacy of irrelevant questioning.

I want to continue teaching logical fallacies in class tomorrow by having students brainstorm some for themselves. I’m curious to see how it goes if I ask them to construct arguments on the right to vote. I realize this cracks open the Pandora’s box of being political in the classroom, but I think it’s worth having students talk about the events that are present in their daily lives beyond the campus, especially the events that have larger social implications. What better way to convince them that rhetoric and writing are crucial to their lives than by using the concept of voting, the very essence of informed decision-making? I want them to see the classroom as a microcosm of the “real world” so they recognize their culpability.

What we stand to gain from this are young citizens who might think a little bit more about what it truly means to be a participating citizen in a community, whether that be the community of the classroom or the community at large. But I have things to lose as well. I think about whether or not students will be receptive to discussing this topic. Will students understand that logical fallacies are argument styles we want to avoid, despite having them create them? Will they benefit as students? As writers? As people?

I guess we’ll find out.

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