Are there recommended practices for writing about oppressed peoples?

Are there recommended practices for writing about oppressed peoples?

This question is about responsible historiography. History as written by winners tends to devalue and misrepresent the experiences of subordinate groups (see Textbooks: Zinn People's History; Labour: Engels German Peasants War, Hammond & Hammond Labourer [Series], Thompson Making ; Gender: Engels Family, Private Property, James & Dalla Costa Power of Women; Race: CLR James Black Jacobins).

Many Anglo immigrants to California described its natives as lazy and dirty. If this was an attempt at ethnography it backfired, telling us more about the authors than their subjects. This example is extreme, but dominant discourses that reflect majority outlooks and deploy otherness are hard for authors from dominant groups to escape.

Those authors are prone to uphold dominant narratives and "punch down" at other groups even by accident. The result is that writing about other groups can be considered dubious. An article about fiction writing asked "Are White Authors Not Allowed To Tell Stories Involving Black Characters?", while Richard Griswold de Castillo called inadequate Mexican-American history written by others historia chicanesca (Chicanoesque history). Minority groups have sought to tell their own stories instead of having stories imposed on them.

Despite these concerns, privileged historians do often write in good faith about disempowered minorities and the oppressed. Their work does not satisfy subjects' understandable desire that their history be written by their own people. For this reason I suspect that historiographers have already spilled ink on the matter of writing about such groups without adding to the burden they already face.

Are there recommended practices in this area? I will speculate that deconstruction of known narratives and meticulous history from below could be elements of such a strategy. Hopefully something more systematized is out there.


12 Types of Social Oppression

In a social justice context, oppression is what happens when individuals or groups of people are discriminated against or otherwise treated unjustly, whether by the government, private organizations, individuals, or other groups. (The word comes from the Latin root "opprimere," which means "pressed down.") Here are 12 different forms of oppression—although the list is by no means comprehensive.

The categories describe patterns of behavior and not necessarily belief systems. A person can have strong beliefs in favor of social equality and still practice oppression through their actions. In many cases, these categories of oppression overlap in such a way that one person can potentially deal with multiple forms of oppression and privilege at the same time. The experience of multiple and differing forms of oppression is described by the term "intersectionality."


Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed at Fifty

The Brazilian educator Paulo Freire’s book, first published in English 50 years ago, urges viewing students as interlocutors or partners in the learning process.

The teacher was holding forth. Hired by the Brazilian government to set up a workers’ literacy program, he waxed progressive to an audience of fisherman, peasants, and urban workers on why, according to the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, they should not beat their children. He was pleased with his lecture as he delivered it—a pretty lucid and engaging explication, if he did say so himself. Then a worker raised his hand to ask some questions.

“We have just heard some nice words,” the man said, politely but pointedly addressing the teacher as “Doctor.”

“Fine words. Well spoken… do you know where people live, sir? Have you been in our houses, sir?”

The worker described his own living conditions: his kids were “dirty, crying, making a noise… And people have to get up at four in the morning the next day and start all over again… If people hit their kids, sir, it’s because life is so hard they don’t have much choice.”

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The teacher was the Brazilian educator and thinker Paulo Freire. As Raff Carmen, a scholar and practitioner of adult education, would write decades later in an obituary of Freire, the confrontation “stood out as the cathartic moment shaping Freire’s thinking about progressive education: even when one must speak to people, one must convert the ‘to’ into a ‘with’ the people.” The moment captured something vital about knowledge: it comes from lived experience —the teacher cannot just dictate from on high. In that moment, Freire realized that although his intentions in giving his Piaget lecture had been progressive, his pedagogy was not: he had treated his students as empty vessels—or as he would later write, vaults in a bank—waiting to be filled, not as interlocutors or partners in the learning process. He had not understood that he and his students were co-creators of knowledge in dialogue, they would learn from one another.

The book that made these insights famous, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, was published in Portuguese in 1968, and in English in 1970, fifty years ago. For a book infused with Hegel from cover to cover, and peppered with footnotes invoking Frantz Fanon, Erich Fromm, Karl Marx, and Chairman Mao, it has been surprisingly popular and enduring. More than a million copies have been sold worldwide since the 1970 English translation. Pedagogy has achieved more global fame than any other book translated from Portuguese. On a visit to Greece, a street vendor once approached Freire holding a copy of the book, asking for his autograph, and telling Freire his work was “very important in my country.” Such scenes were repeated around the world in every country Freire visited.

Paulo Freire, born in 1921, was the son of a police officer. He grew up in the northeastern city of Recife, in the state of Pernambuco, which was Brazil’s poorest region. At the time, northeast Brazil was semi-feudal: run by a small group of wealthy landowners, and largely populated by extremely impoverished, illiterate peasants. Although Freire’s family was middle class, they experienced hardships, including periods of hunger through the Great Depression and the loss of Freire’s father in 1934. Throughout his teenage years, Freire struggled to get an adequate education. Eventually he did, however, complete his university studies, and worked in a government-led literacy campaign.

That program grew out of a peasant uprising in that part of the country, pressing for land reform, better education, decent living conditions, and job opportunities. While Freire was a radical, as were the movement’s leaders, this uprising enjoyed support from some in Brazil’s capitalist classes, because improving the lot of the peasants in the northeast would open up the region as a consumer market and also allow more industrial development.

In 1963, Freire became head of Brazil’s National Commission of Popular Culture, under the liberal-populist government of João Goulart, who moved dramatically to the left once in power in response to popular movements. Policies to help the poor—including opening the franchise to people who couldn’t read—enraged many among the country’s upper and upper-middle classes. A right-wing dictatorship came to power in a military coup the following year, and Freire was thrown in prison by the new regime, which viewed mass literacy and political participation as a threat. After his release from prison, Freire went into exile for years, returning in 1980 and eventually accepting a position as secretary of education for the state of São Paulo. During his exile, he wrote the book that would make him Brazil’s most famous global intellectual.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed was hugely influential on educators in the Third World struggling under conditions of mass illiteracy and poverty similar to those Freire described. Of course, many people who read the English translation of Pedagogy didn’t know much about the context of peasants engaged in class struggle in rural Brazil. But the book’s enthusiastic reception had a global context, too: the worldwide struggles for human liberation of the late 1960s and early 70s—Black civil rights, feminism, resistance to domination of poor countries by rich ones—may explain the book’s appeal at the time of its publication. However, its enduring popularity and influence attests to another, even more intractable context: even as many more people around the world have access to education, schooling everywhere remains intertwined with systems of oppression, including racism and capitalism, and traditional models of top-down education don’t work well for everyone.

At the time of the book’s publication, there was also a movement for more open and more democratic schooling, especially in the English-speaking world. Pedagogy was embraced by—and influenced—educators active in this movement. Teachers influenced by that period continue to use Freirean methods in the classroom. A University of Georgia graduate student wrote a 2013 dissertation about three local middle school teachers trying Freirean methods for the first time. The students learned math, for instance, by coming up with their own solutions to problems facing their local government’s economy, water supply, and school budget. In a discussion on poverty, one social studies teacher observed in a later interview with the researcher, when some students said that they weren’t interested in the topic because it was a person’s own fault if they were poor, she would in her normal teaching practice have allowed those students to abstain from the discussion, or told them they were wrong and explained why. But instead she put them in small groups, in which children had a variety of experiences with poverty, allowing them to educate one another on the subject. The teachers agreed that in all these Freirean lessons, the students were far more engaged than with traditional pedagogy (but also, sadly, observed that the current incentives and pressures of standardized testing would make it difficult to teach this way all the time).

The book has drawn criticism over the years. Brazil’s current right-wing government has been doing its best to eradicate Freire’s influence from that country’s universities, using the bogeyman of Freirean leftist indoctrination as an excuse to defund social science departments and persecute left-wing professors. But the anti-Freirean ravings of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president, may actually be good publicity for this decades-old volume: in Brazil, book sales of Pedagogy of the Oppressed increased by 60 percent from 2018 to 2019. As Freire’s widow recently remarked, Bolsonaro is “encouraging the sale of Paulo’s books!”

Less doctrinaire conservatives than Bolsonaro have argued that the main purpose of education should be the mastery of specific subject matter, like math or history, not societal transformation. Other critics have questioned the implication that peasants—or any oppressed people—should be educated differently than elites. Some on the left, for example, have pointed out that during the twentieth century, in the Soviet Union and other communist countries, giving the working-class the same classical, “top-down” education that the children of aristocracy had previously enjoyed worked well, perhaps one of history’s more successful experiments in mass education.

Others have criticized the inaccessibility of the book’s language words like “praxis” and “antidialogical” and “dialectic” aren’t household words for most “oppressed” people, and Freire doesn’t use many concrete examples to illustrate his arguments. (There is, however, one action-packed anecdote about some peasants kidnapping a landowner and holding him hostage.) Feminists like bell hooks have bristled at Freire’s use of sexist language: he used male pronouns for pupils and teachers. To Freire’s credit, he responded respectfully to this latter criticism—as hooks and others have reported—and later English translations of the book have been updated with more inclusive and universal language.

Paulo Freire via Flickr

Despite such objections, educators have continued to find Pedagogy of the Oppressed relevant and to adapt its arguments to their contemporary context. In 2008, about ten years after Freire’s death, in a special issue of the Journal of Thought dedicated to his ideas, for example, Cal State education professor A. Dee Williams has used the book to argue for the integration of hip-hop into the urban classroom.

One odd aspect of the book’s legacy—at least in its English translation—is its popularity in contexts in which students are not oppressed. In an article provocatively titled “Pedagogy of the Privileged,” the philosopher Tracey Nicholls, writing in the CLR James Journal (which is named for a Trinidadian Marxist), for a special issue on bell hooks, grappled with the paradox that, because higher education is still so class-segregated in the United States, radical American educators have found themselves teaching Pedagogy of the Oppressed—and its methods—in colleges and universities for the elite, contexts where students may be more likely to be oppressors. While Freire viewed the purpose of education as the liberation of the oppressed, in elite classrooms, Nicholls observes, the challenge for a liberatory pedagogy is to teach empathy and solidarity with the oppressed—who, in many cases, are not in the room.

In 2018, there was a wave of celebration of the book’s impact. Journals devoted special issues to it. UCLA Library marked the occasion with a weeklong exhibition on the book, its author, and examples of contemporary critical pedagogy at UCLA. Events with guest speakers were held at Santa Monica College, in Los Angeles County, and many other colleges and universities around the world. Dublin City University, in Ireland, dedicated a day to reflection on the book, drawing teachers and activists from all over Ireland (the podcast of that event is available online).

The 50th anniversary edition of Pedagogy of the Oppressed was released in 2018 from Bloomsbury, with commentary from Noam Chomsky and other notables. Also in 2018, Bloomsbury published a student guide to Freire’s text. This year, Bloomsbury marked the English language anniversary of Pedagogy of the Oppressed by publishing an anthology of critical perspectives on the book.


The War on Critical Race Theory: A Quagmire

The newest front in the culture war is Critical Race Theory (CRT)—and if history is any guide, the fight will be long, arduous, and ultimately unwinnable for either side.

Education is often the site of culture war clashes consider the long-running battle over prayer in public schools. Unlike the fight over CRT, however, the dispute over prayer in schools was relatively comprehensible by normal people: pretty much everyone understood the issue and the stakes. After the Supreme Court ruled in Engel v. Vitale (1962) that New York state’s mandatory nondenominational morning prayer in schools violated the Establishment Clause, social conservatives worked for decades to see the law change. Eventually, a sort of stalemate was reached: In 2003, Republicans successfully tied funding for schools through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to a requirement that the recipients certify, in writing, that they won’t “prevent” or “deny” participation in “constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools.” Since then, the fight has died down.

A decade ago, another education-related culture war clash followed the release of the Common Core State Standards Initiative—another case that provides a valuable contrast with the fight over CRT. The Common Core curriculum was clearly defined: there was an official centralized website and the curriculum was spelled out in writing, so that states and school districts could make informed choices about whether or not to adopt Common Core.

The fight over Critical Race Theory is far more complicated than the fight over Common Core because CRT is far more complicated, and vaguer, than Common Core. There is no centralized website, no single unified explanation. Think of it as something like Black Lives Matter or the Tea Party: more of a set of overlapping principles than the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Due to our country’s immensely complicated history with race and racism, CRT has many facets—and so it can be invoked as a bogeyman for just about anything anyone on the right wants. Generally, its concerns are:

  • race, biology, social constructs, and racism
  • racial inequality, systemic racism in the legal system and society and
  • “whiteness.”

Not even its most ardent proponents agree entirely on what CRT is or how it ought to be incorporated into school curricula. But if you understand the terms above, you get the gist: America has systematically discriminated against black slaves, the Irish, Asians, immigrants from South America, and various others. That history has continuing consequences today.

Opponents—some of whom deny or downplay the aforementioned racial problems—define CRT differently: as fundamentally anti-American.

Last September, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning federal contractors from offering employee training that, as the American Bar Association put it, can be “interpreted as containing ‘Divisive Concepts,’ ‘Race or Sex Stereotyping,’ and ‘Race or Sex Scapegoating.’” Consider it an early salvo in a decades-long political war.

President Joe Biden has since rescinded Trump’s EO, but the fight over CRT isn’t going away.

O utside of those imposed by No Child Left Behind, the majority of standards for curriculum and education testing are set at the state and local levels, a state of affairs that conservatives have traditionally supported.

This decentralization is responsible for an important dynamic in the fight over CRT. Just as the left was able to isolate and frame the excesses of the Tea Party in no small part because it was decentralized, the right is able to emphasize the excesses of CRT and its explicators and advocates.

It’s not difficult to find instances of insane stuff seeping into schools that can more or less fairly be put under the heading of Critical Race Theory. Andrew Sullivan highlighted one such instance on Twitter this past weekend—an Illinois high school that was apparently teaching students that the question “What does it mean to be white?” can be answered with “segregation,” “individualism,” and “focus on intentions over impact.”

This is not the teaching of vital history previously white-washed. This is an indoctrination into racism. It’s a direct assault on the core epistemology of liberalism and the West. https://t.co/wTdYiF8LVb

&mdash Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) June 13, 2021

There’s lots more nuttiness where that came from—troubling examples of CRT run amok. Some are merely clumsy in their attempts to teach about historical racism. Some, though, are reverse racism, plain and simple.

Even so, the right runs the risk of overreaching in its war on CRT.

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that prohibits public schools from “including or promoting” about a dozen “concepts” either “as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or instructional program” or in “supplemental instructional materials.” Several of these concepts certainly are, when stripped of context, odious—like the idea that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex.” To make clear that the aim is to avoid indoctrination and not to forbid the teaching of, say, the history of slavery, the legislators included a caveat: The bill explicitly permits “impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history” and “impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, or geographic region.”

But as Hedy Weinberg and Brandon Tucker from Tennessee’s ACLU argue:

The bill requires “impartial” instruction on histories of racial oppression. What does it mean to be impartial about slavery?

Should teachers avoid offering their perspectives or sharing those of others on slavery, policing, voting rights or racial justice? Will teachers be prohibited from providing a list of optional readings that may depart from the state’s official interpretation of history?

Or consider another of the verboten concepts: Schools are not permitted to teach that “this state [Tennessee] or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.” This is the sort of perfectly vague wording that provides both sides with endless ammunition for the culture war. Those on the left will argue that of course America is racist, just look at slavery and Jim Crow and the treatment of American Indians. Those on the right will argue that talking about this in the classroom is tantamount to brainwashing kids into hating their country and dividing people along racial lines.

Notice how reductionist, how simplistic both those arguments are, not admitting of the complexities involved.

Most people can agree that America has a complicated history with racism. Even conservatives like to do it when it’s politically convenient! I know this because I see conservatives criticizing Joe Biden for comparing himself to FDR because FDR imprisoned Japanese Americans in internment camps.

Which is why it is a mistake for conservatives to get especially agitated about the teaching of history as opposed to more pointedly ideological and vaguely racist arguments about, say, the nature of whiteness. Schools shouldn’t shy away from teaching about the Tulsa massacre any more than they should be leaning into the idea that “individualism” is a sickness propagated by white folks.

T he fight over CRT feels like a real briar patch: Does the GOP really want to get stuck arguing about whether or not state-mandated segregation is or was “fundamentally or irredeemably racist”? Is this the fight conservatives want to pick?

One reason to avoid the CRT fight is to avoid looking silly. A Republican state representative in Alabama who wrote a bill forbidding the teaching of CRT was recently asked by a columnist to define the thing he wanted banned. The result isn’t pretty:

“It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin, period,” Pringle said.

That sounded very serious, indeed. Nazi-like, even. So I asked Pringle if there were any critical race theorists he could point to who have been spreading such toxic garbage?

“Yeah, uh, well—I can assure you—I’ll have to read a lot more,” he said.

I began to get the feeling that Pringle didn’t know as much about critical race theory as I had hoped. Were there other examples he could give me where critical race theory was being put into practice?

“These people, when they were doing the training programs—and the government—if you didn’t buy into what they taught you a hundred percent, they sent you away to a reeducation camp,” Pringle said.

Pringle was a little difficult to follow but this sounded serious. These people—whoever they were—sounded terrifying, and if there were reeducation camps operating in America, that would be big news someone like me should get to the bottom of. I asked Pringle, who were these people?

Pringle is a Realtor, a homebuilder and general contractor and he dug through what he called his “executive suite” (the cab of his pickup truck) looking for an article he’d read. After a few moments of silence, he began to speak again, this time a bit haltingly.

“Here’s an—it doesn’t say who it was, it just says a government that held these—these training sessions . . .”

Opponents of Washoe County’s curriculum proposal camped on the eastern side of the entrance to a packed local school board meeting on Tuesday, wearing MAGA hats and carrying signs that read “No CRT,” “CRT teaches racism,” and “The School Board works for the people!”

To combat concerns about ideological indoctrination, the Nevada Family Alliance has proposed outfitting teachers with body cameras to ensure they aren’t indoctrinating students in classrooms.

Body cameras. For teachers. I am not making this up:

“Creating a record that could be viewed by appropriate parties, if necessary, might be the best way to urge teachers to stick to traditional teaching,” Karen England, executive director and founder of the Nevada Family Alliance, said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Language in politics matters. Polling shows that Democrats are not helped by maximalist rhetoric like “Defund the Police.” Likewise, it’s hard to imagine that the GOP will benefit from “Make Teachers Wear Body Cams.” Turning a gauzy concept like Critical Race Theory into a concrete culture war by attacking the teaching of history—including America’s complicated treatment of nonwhite citizens—feels like a quagmire that will be incredibly difficult to get out of.

Yet Republicans are showing signs they’re willing to make a big CRT push because they believe it will benefit them at the polls.

Maybe they’re onto something GOP voters have always been more easily motivated by culture war than marginal tax rates or free trade, so who knows? Maybe by this time next year, the GOP will be openly advocating body cameras recording teachers and rooms full of minors. Let’s see how well that polls.


The use of evidence-based practices with oppressed populations

Therapy must always be tailored to the individual there is no one-size-fits-all model. However, certain approaches have been empirically verified for use with a variety of clientele. It is critical that all counselors, especially those working with client populations that are oppressed, have both an overview of evidence-based practices and specific techniques related to these approaches in their clinical toolboxes to help them provide the best counseling services possible.

Counselors are frequently required to use evidence-based practices and need to know how to use them effectively in counseling clients who are oppressed. Specifically, the unique development of the therapeutic relationship between oppressed clients and privileged clinicians must be understood and addressed. Multicultural counseling experts Derald Wing Sue and David Sue maintain that the dynamics of oppression shift the influence of the therapeutic relationship. Thus, counselors must alter their application of evidence-based practice techniques.

Solution-focused brief therapy and low socioeconomic status

Take a moment to think about what the basic needs of your own life are. What is impossible for you to live without? For many of us, our basic needs are continually met. Therefore, they often go unnoticed — they are woven into our everyday lives and ways of being in the world.

For others, questions such as “Will I eat today?” or “Will I have a safe and warm place to sleep tonight?” are asked daily. Often, the answer is “no.” Concerns such as clean drinking water, access to hygiene products and finding adequate shelter affect an inordinate number of individuals in the United States. School counselors and licensed professional counselors have a moral and ethical obligation to address these matters, with the intention of removing barriers and cultivating a safe space for clients in both the therapeutic relationship and the environment beyond our office walls.

Glenda Johnson (one of the co-authors of this article) worked as a school counselor and an advocate in a school system in which the majority of students came from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. Many of the students were on free or reduced lunch plans because their families’ financial resources were severely limited. At the core of Johnson’s work was the intent to ensure that every child’s basic needs were met while they were at school. She emphasized the importance of working collaboratively with other school staff members to build a team and a foundation for connecting these students and their families to resources.

It is also vital to assess an individual’s behaviors, emotions and reactions through a holistic, biopsychosocial approach rather than focusing only on the school context. Learned behavior concerns, inattention, difficulty with emotion regulation (anger), sadness and loss of hope are often the result of a lack of resources. Johnson recalls that if a student acted out, one of her first questions would be, “Did you have breakfast this morning?”

Johnson shares an anecdote that highlights the powerful act of providing a safe, therapeutic space for students to identify and voice their emotions openly with peers. As a school counselor, she infused the identification of various emotions into a game of musical chairs, and what transpired was completely unexpected. A student identified a “sad” emotion and explained that their father recently had lost his job. The student was experiencing fear about not having enough food to eat during this time. Then, other students began to share similar stories without prompting. The game of musical chairs transformed into a collaborative and touching experience as the students identified common ground and connected on deeper levels of understanding and empathy.

When providing services to individuals from a low SES, counselors may find it helpful to use a strengths-based therapeutic approach. The evidence-based practice of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) zeros in on the therapeutic relationship and the clinician’s way of being. In this relationship, there is an acknowledgment of reality but also an emphasis on solution-focused thought and reframing. Focusing on strengths, the counselor and client work together to identify and move toward making small changes in any area because a small change in one area often leads to change in another area.

SFBT often introduces the “miracle” question: “Suppose that when you go to sleep tonight, a miracle occurs that solves your problem, but because you were sleeping, you did not realize what happened. When you wake up in the morning, how will you realize a miracle happened? What will you notice that you are doing differently?” These questions enhance and expose glimpses of solutions that an individual may struggle to identify in everyday life situations.

Additionally, SFBT places great value on successes. The counselor and client celebrate achievement and may use scaling to note the client’s progress. When working in a school system, the counselor could develop a creative and motivating way for children to rate themselves and their progress toward goals. For example, Johnson created a rating scale, complemented by the colors green, yellow and red, for kindergartners and first-graders. Green identified a completed goal, yellow identified progress toward a goal and red identified room for improvement. Similarly, she used a rating scale of 1-5 for students in second through fourth grades. Under this scenario, a student could check in with a rating, such as, “I am at a 3 and working toward a 5.” The counselor might respond, “What would it take to get to a 3.5?” The scale provided a visual for children to identify, track and celebrate their successes.

In SFBT, the counselor acknowledges client strengths and walks alongside these clients as they create and work toward their goals and future successes. “Flagging the minefield” is another technique counselors can introduce to help clients generalize and apply what they learn in counseling to future situations. Flagging the minefield is a particularly important facet of SFBT because it assists individuals in recognizing potential obstacles or barriers that will appear in their lives. The counselor and client work together to identify tools and resources the client can apply in other settings and relationships.

When working with students living in poverty, counselors should introduce a strengths-based approach and identify and gather resources to assist students and their families in removing barriers and meeting basic needs. Cultivating a safe, therapeutic relationship with students that focuses on solution building can assist them in building a stronger sense of self.

Motivational interviewing, SFBT and rural adolescent substance abusers

Adolescence is a vulnerable time and a critical period for developmental outcomes. During this stage of life, adolescents are exploring and forming their peer relationships and personal identities while beginning to distance themselves from family. Experimentation with substances often begins during this time. In 2012, Tara Carney and Bronwyn Myers found a correlation between the early onset of substance use and an elevated risk for later development of substance use disorders. Additionally, because early substance use may impact the growth of the adolescent brain, it has the potential to heighten one’s risk for delayed social and academic development.

Adolescents living in rural areas are marginalized in multiple ways. Children are an underserved minority population, as are rural populations. Sheryl Kataoka, Lilly Zhang and Kenneth Wells (2002) found that among youth with a recognized mental health need (estimated at 10 million to 15 million people), only 20-30 percent receive specialized mental health care. Rural communities are more likely to have fewer clinicians or require a long drive to see those clinicians, making it more difficult to obtain care. These disadvantages are exacerbated by the tumultuous nature of adolescence.

Motivational interviewing and brief interventions are two evidence-based practices particularly suited to this population because these approaches are generally influential in their therapeutic role while also being cost-effective. Motivational interviewing facilitates behavior change through exploration and resolution of ambivalence, and it focuses on being optimistic, hopeful and strengths-based. It uses principles of empathy, discrepancy, self-efficacy and resistance, and offers specific techniques such as OARS (Open questions, Affirmations, Reflective listening, Summarizing). SFBT emphasizes solutions, changes clients’ perceptions and behaviors, helps clients access their strengths and uses techniques such as exception to the problem, specification of goals and the miracle question.

Individual interventions with the use of the same interventions for multiple sessions are ideal, and research suggests that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome. Early intervention shows better results than both preventive measures and later interventions because it reduces the need for more specialized interventions and provides applicable and useful tools and tactics for adolescents as they enter into various student, peer, familial and professional roles.

Challenges certainly exist when working with children and adolescents, particularly because many biological, environmental and social shifts occur organically during this time. As children and adolescents rapidly transition on a continuum of development, they become “moving targets.” Interventions that prove effective for those ages 11-12 often cease to be effective by ages 13 or 14. It is vital that counselors remain aware of this across the life span. Although adolescents are beginning to distance themselves from their caregivers, familial relationships and parental involvement remain crucial during this period.

To appropriately and competently involve the families of rural adolescents, some understanding of cultural values is necessary. In 2005, Susan Keefe and Susie Greene identified core Appalachian values, including egalitarianism, personalism, familism, a religious worldview, a strong sense of place and the avoidance of conflict. In the Appalachian region, assuming authority without demonstrating an authoritarian attitude is important. Language tends to be simple, direct, honest and straightforward. Family is extremely important, exemplified by the adage “blood is thicker than water.” Individuals’ relationship to the land is complex, and it can be beneficial to explore how clients view economic deprivation. In 2016, Sue and Sue also pinpointed some tendencies of rural clients, including having a “street-smart” attitude and way of being, depending on systems due to living in poverty and valuing survival at all costs.

As a result, subtle techniques such as stages of change, motivational interviewing and SFBT may be useful for this population. In stages of change, the intervention is matched to the stage of the client’s readiness to change (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, termination). Motivational interviewing facilitates an invitation to engage, and its strengths-based, hopeful tone can be helpful for clients living in an environment populated by deficits such as poverty and lack of education. The practical nature of brief therapy fits well with the no-nonsense worldview of clients coming from rural backgrounds.

Unfortunately, published rural studies often focus on specific regions or populations. Few interventions have been tested in rural settings, and the evidence from systematic reviews is often too general and not specific to the rural context. Ideally, rural communities could review interventions tested with various target populations in a range of settings. Such information is not usually available, however, and the strength of evidence is unlikely to be the only factor considered in choosing an intervention. The research on rural adolescent populations is limited, and little consistency exists across studies related to measurement tools. Furthermore, disseminating evidence-based practices to schools, families and community settings in rural areas is difficult due to the lack of resources.

However, it is important to note that there have been great improvements in substance abuse treatment and prevention with children and adolescents who live in rural areas. A 2016 Monitoring the Future survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found the lowest ever reported rates of use for all illicit drugs, including alcohol, marijuana and nicotine. As further research is conducted, it will be important to delve into this information to identify what is already working with these individuals and what can be improved to better serve them moving forward.

Evidence-based practices with transgender clients

Transgender individuals face discrimination on multiple fronts. Many experience familial rejection, unequal treatment, harassment and physical violence during daily living. The rate of substance abuse within the transgender community is three times higher than that of the general population. There is a profound lack of competent health care for transgender individuals, and the care that is available may be inaccessible to a majority of the transgender population. The rate of unemployment within the transgender community is also three times greater than that of the general population, due in part to factors such as workplace discrimination, poverty and homelessness. Transgender people also face discrimination and mistreatment in shelters.

With high rates of homelessness, substance abuse and mistreatment, transgender people also have frequent interactions with law enforcement, where they can be subject to police brutality and discrimination. Within the criminal justice system, a high rate of physical and sexual assault is perpetrated against transgender individuals, and they are often denied medical treatment while incarcerated or detained.

Poor health outcomes for transgender people correlate with risk factors such as economic and housing instability, lower educational attainment, lack of family support and other intersectional factors such as race, ethnicity, immigration status and ability.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 18 percent of transgender people who sought mental health services experienced a mental health professional attempt to stop them from being transgender. This correlated with higher rates of serious psychological distress and suicide attempts and an increased likelihood of running away from home, homelessness and engaging in sex work.

Research conducted in 2015 by Samantha Pflum et al. emphasized the lack of access to transgender-affirming resources and communities for individuals living in rural locations. The history of mistreatment and abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender-nonconforming clients by medical and mental health professionals must be acknowledged. Gender and sexual minority clients still face discrimination within the helping professions, and for individuals holding multiple marginalized identities, these experiences are compounded.

Even well-meaning providers are likely to make mistakes when working with marginalized clients. According to Lauren Mizock and Christine Lundquist, one of these mistakes is education burdening, or relying on the client to educate the provider about transgender culture or the general transgender experience. Resources exist to facilitate competence in these areas, and clinicians have a responsibility to refrain from placing the burden of their education on the client.

Some counselors participate in gender inflation, or focusing on the client’s gender to the exclusion of other important factors. Other counselors engage in gender narrowing, applying restrictive, preconceived ideas about gender to the client, or gender avoidance, which involves ignoring issues of gender altogether. Gender generalizing occurs when a clinician assumes that all transgender clients are similar. Gender repairing operates from a belief that a transgender identity is a problem to be “fixed.” Gender pathologizing involves viewing transgender identity as a mental illness or as the cause of the client’s issues. Finally, gatekeeping occurs when a provider controls client access to gender-affirming resources.

Acceptance of a client’s gender identity is ultimately not enough to provide competent, affirmative services. Understanding the nuances of these common mistakes will help clinicians provide a safe therapeutic environment that is affirming of these clients’ identity and humanity.

The Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC), a division of the American Counseling Association, has developed competencies for counseling transgender clients (see counseling.org/knowledge-center/competencies) that focus on the following eight domains:

  • Human growth and development
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Helping relationships
  • Group work
  • Professional orientation
  • Career and lifestyle development competencies
  • Appraisal
  • Research

Counselors can work within this framework to:

  • Promote resilience by using theoretical approaches grounded in resilience and wellness
  • Conceptualize the development of a transgender individual across the life span
  • Understand internal and external factors influencing identity development
  • Consider how identity interacts with systems of power and oppression (especially for minority transgender individuals)
  • Examine counselors’ own internalized beliefs and how those beliefs affect attitudes toward transgender clients
  • Reevaluate approaches to working with transgender clients as new research emerges

One intervention that has been identified for use with this population by Ashley Austin and Shelley Craig is transgender-affirmative cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Transgender-affirmative CBT modifies CBT interventions to address specific minority stressors, such as victimization, harassment, violence, discrimination and microaggressions, that transgender people commonly face. This approach uses psychoeducation to help clients understand the connections between transphobic experiences and mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, hopelessness and suicidality. Experiences are processed through a minority stress lens to help clients move from a pathologizing-of-self mindset to an affirming view of themselves as people coping with complex circumstances.

Clinicians are advised to affirm the existence of discrimination and to help these clients identify influences on their mental health by using the transgender discrimination inverted pyramid (see below).

Transgender individuals internalize messages at each level, and it can be beneficial to have a visual for how these messages trickle down and influence mental health. Clinicians can empower transgender clients by assisting them in challenging internal and societal transphobic barriers. A few examples are challenging negative self-beliefs, connecting with a supportive community and advocating for self and community.

Another approach recommended for use with transgender clients by Joseph Avera et al. in 2015 is the Indivisible Self model, an Adlerian wellness model refined by Jane Myers and Thomas Sweeney that emphasizes strengths. There are five wellness factors of self in this model:

  • Creative Self: Cognitions, emotions, humor and work
  • Coping Self: Stress management, self-worth, realistic beliefs and leisure
  • Social Self: Friends, family and love)
  • Essential Self: Spirituality, self-care, gender identity and cultural identity
  • Physical Self: Physical and nutritional wellness

This model easily can be adapted to a transgender-specific lens, especially regarding the Essential Self, by exploring gender and cultural identity and how they influence client experiences and beliefs. Used in conjunction with the ALGBTIC transgender competencies, the Indivisible Self model offers helping professionals both a conceptual and practical framework for working effectively with transgender clients.

For all clients, and transgender clients in particular, intersectional factors magnify the experience of oppression. Sand Chang and Anneliese Singh recommend addressing the intersectionality of race/ethnicity and gender identity for both clients and clinicians. This involves:

  • Challenging assumptions about the experiences of transgender and gender-nonconforming people of color
  • Building rapport and acknowledging differences within the therapeutic dyad
  • Assessing client strengths and resilience in navigating multiple oppressions
  • Providing a variety of resources that are affirming to transgender and gender-nonconforming people of color

In addition, assisting clients in locating social support is advised. Social support increases healthy coping mechanisms and helps with self-acceptance, thereby reducing psychological stress related to discrimination. Social support can also help to normalize and validate emotions related to discrimination.

Evidence-based practices have consistently been shown to be helpful to clients, but counselors must remember that they operate within the context of a relationship. To use evidence-based practices effectively, we must hold on to our humanness. The implementation of a single technique will look very different depending on who is in the room and what they are bringing with them.

Often, the expectations for using evidence-based practices might create pressure for counselors to follow a strict formula for treatment. Process variables such as honoring the personal relationship between the counselor and the client, maintaining a “therapist’s heart” and respecting the unique aspects of the client may seem to be at odds with the procedure for using a specific intervention. A working knowledge of multicultural issues can provide some context for how to shift evidence-based practices to fit the client rather than pressuring the client to conform to a prescribed, generalized format.

Using interventions with a solid evidence base is good practice. Adjusting their implementation on the basis of the unique identity of the person sitting across from us is great practice.

Knowledge Share articles are developed from sessions presented at American Counseling Association conferences.

Geri Miller is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling (clinical mental health counseling track) at Appalachian State University (ASU) in North Carolina. She is a licensed professional counselor, licensed psychologist, licensed clinical addictions specialist and substance abuse professional practice board certified clinical supervisor. She has been a volunteer counselor at a local health department since the early 1990s. Her clientele has primarily consisted of women with little opportunity for jobs or education and who experience barriers of poverty. Contact her at millerga@appstate.ٝu.

Glenda S. Johnson is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling (school counseling program) at ASU. She is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed school counselor in North Carolina. Her scholarly focus includes school counselors delivering comprehensive school counseling programs, students who are at risk of dropping out of high school and the mentoring of new counseling professionals.

Mx. Tuesday Feral received their master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and a certificate in systematic multicultural counseling from ASU. They are the support programs director for Tranzmission, a nonprofit organization serving the Western North Carolina nonbinary and transgender community through education, advocacy and support services. Tuesday offers training and workshops in trans cultural competence and cultural humility on local, state and national levels.

William Luckett received his master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from ASU with a certificate in addictions counseling. He has interests in somatic therapy approaches, mindfulness, religious and spiritual topics in counseling, and substance abuse counseling. He currently provides in-home counseling to rural families in Virginia.

Kelsey Fish is a student in ASU’s clinical mental health counseling program and a clinical intern with Daymark Recovery Services in rural Appalachia. Her clinical interests include expressive arts therapy, adolescents, and gender and sexual minority issues.

Madison Ericksen is a graduate of the clinical mental health counseling program at ASU. She has specialized training and interest in trauma-informed practices that use mindfulness, eco-based and expressive art therapies as complementary treatments alongside traditional therapy. She provides strengths-based and resiliency-focused outpatient counseling for children and families.

Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.


Exclusion Is Oppression: From Pedagogy to Performance

Colonialism and slavery violently disrupted the histories of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). White folks appointed themselves tellers of all stories, and their viewpoints have rewritten, erased or entirely excluded other narratives. BIPOC dance artists have, for long, felt this exclusion while being exploited. This exclusion is still the source of trauma for many BIPOC artists in 2020. Recent online posts address it, Black educators teach it and Black dancers experience it. Still, dance organizations continue to use Black culture and contributions to their own benefit, while deleting the Black artists themselves—from pedagogy to performance.

Dance Education Rooted in Oppression

In my own dance education, dance was taught to me through a reduced lens—a narrow lens. I was taught a lie that ballet was the foundation of all dance forms. Not true. far from it. What was true is that ballet, a Eurocentric dance form, was created from whiteness and has never ceased to be exclusionary.

Recently, I had a phone conversation with two Black male colleagues who are educators and performers. We talked about how similar our graduate school experiences were: the centering of whiteness in the curriculum, the feeling of isolation as you navigated the spaces you came in contact with and the politics of erasure. Michael Medcalf, now an assistant professor of dance at University of Memphis, spoke of the dance history course he took in graduate school as "challenging." He expressed that the class touched on the biographies of Donald McKayle (1930–2018), Alvin Ailey (1931–1989), Pearl Primus (1919–1994), Katherine Dunham (1909–2006), with a sprinkling introduction of Asadata Dafora (1890–1965). However, Medcalf acknowledged that he and his cohort mostly unpacked ballets like Swan Lake and Giselle to study feminist theory through the male gaze and debated the beginnings of American Modern Dance through Duncan, Shawn, Holm and other white artists. Medcalf noted there was no critical discourse on the historical contributions of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1878–1949), John W. Bubbles (1902–1986), Charles "Honi" Coles (1911–1992) and Charles "Cholly" Atkins (1913–2003), Fayard Nicholas (1914–2006) and Harold Nicholas (1921–2000), or Janet Collins (1917–2003). He remembered the void in Black representation when his professor and classmates discussed the Judson Church era, wondering, "Where were all the Black folks?"

This experience compelled Medcalf to help reshape the dance curriculum at Alabama State University during his tenure there from 2013–2018. He, along with his colleagues, knew that the fullness of dance history could not be taught in one semester, so they developed a two-semester course that spanned the Baroque period to contemporary hip hop, while remaining mindful of who gets omitted versus admitted. He was intentional about including Talley Beatty, Josephine Baker and Dianne McIntyre. He also taught about Joan Myers Brown, Cleo Parker Robinson, Lula Washington, Ann Williams and Jeraldyne Blunden, whom he emphatically labeled "the fabulous five." He said, "We must be careful when talking about an individual's contribution to dance history," adding, "it suggests that they lie on the periphery instead of embedded within." He then categorically stated, "There is no dance history without Black history."

Exclusion in academic realms can come from unexpected places. Iquail Shaheed, assistant professor of dance at Goucher College, remembered his time in graduate school at SUNY Purchase, where he studied choreography and composition, saying "My dance composition teacher and coach, a Japanese dancer and educator, was paradoxical in her pedagogy. Although she was not white, she encouraged white principles in dance composition practices. This teacher would push me to find my voice in the subject of Blackness. Unfortunately, my explorations had to fit within the confines of whiteness or they were never received as good choreography."

Black Dance Forms Minus the Black Dancer: An Oppressive Act of Exclusion

When Black dancers tell their stories, they spill truths about being tokenized. We are asked to perform our Blackness in ways either passively violent or acutely racist. I have had white choreographers say to me "I know you have rhythm, you're Black!" when offering a correction about musicality. I've also had white dance teachers say "Do what you would do when you dance with your Black friends," as a prompt for a movement- improvisation exercise. As if me being present in my already full Blackness wasn't enough.

It is no secret that in most university dance programs, ballet and modern are academic necessities, and that African diasporic forms are electives, rarely offered or required. Now a professor myself at Kent State University, I look to other Black dance scholars like Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin, Dr. Raquel Monroe, Dr. Nyama McCarthy-Brown and Dr. Thomas DeFrantz, who have long been theorizing about the Black body, reminding us of ways it has been excluded from academic and performing spaces.

In Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance, Dixon-Gottschild reminds us that we don't have to look far to see the Africanist legacy in ballet, that it comes bursting through several of George Balanchine's ballets, from Apollo (1928) up through Symphony in Three Movements (1972). She critiques elements in his movement vocabulary for Agon (1957)—naming "the displacement and articulation of the hips, chest, pelvis and shoulders, instead of the vertical alignment of the torso, and attacking the beat, instead of carefully placed extensions"—as Africanist components. Holding a mirror up to Balanchine's The Four Temperaments (1946), and the historically Black Lindy hop, Dixon-Gottschild points out the way "the female is helped into the air by the male dancer who bumps her buttocks with his knee." Dixon-Gottschild affirms that the Lindy version is "faster, more explicit, and more dynamic, but the lift is the same, in principle." And she isn't the only scholar who speaks of such appropriation and erasure. In Writing Dancing in the Age of Postmodernism, the late Sally Banes also notes Balanchine's use of African-American movement vocabulary. Why, then, are there so few Black dancers in New York City Ballet's history?

Misty Copeland's promotion to become the first Black female principal at American Ballet Theatre was yet another public acknowledgment of a first in the contributions of Blacks to dance—Misty, we see you. But when we are the first or the only one, our presence can be mere window-dressing, a visible gesture at inclusion that only highlights the institution's historic exclusion.

I remember a conversation I once had with Rod Harrelson, the single Black male dancer swing on the national tour of Swing!—a dance-based Broadway hit from 1999 to 2001. He wondered why there weren't more Blacks and people of color to cover ensemble roles. This was ironic because swing is a dance genre that originated in the African-American community in the 1920s and '30s, with music by Black musicians, until white musical artists like Benny Goodman and the Dorsey Brothers disseminated the form to a white mainstream audience.

White America continues to guzzle up Black culture, rejecting those from which the culture came—a conscious act that is usually framed and explained away with language that pacifies. One example is believing that Miley Cyrus is to be thanked for the genesis of twerking because of her feeble attempt at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2013. The truth is, twerking can be traced back to as early as 1820 and continues to be performed in many African countries as a celebratory gesture of honor. It is neither new nor white. And within the African context, definitely not sexualized. The complex effects of appropriating cultures stunt the advancement of policies around inclusion and equity.

Things to Consider as We Work Towards Inclusion

In the wake of recent cultural, social and political actions, dance has begun a long overdue reckoning as artists demand that considerations of equity and inclusion be placed at the center of hiring, promoting, casting and programming practices. The damage of omitting Black narratives and excluding Black dancing bodies is evident as more Black and brown dance artists come for­ward to share their experiences. This year, dancers George Sanders, formerly of Ballet Memphis Nicholas Rose, formerly of National Ballet of Canada and Felipe Domingos, formerly of Finnish National Ballet, all took to Instagram to publicly voice their positions on how their respective companies have been complicit in anti-Blackness. Hearing personal stories in these public outcries makes the extent of the damage more easily understood.

The truth is, omitting and excluding Black bodies from the screen, the stage, the studio, the front of the lecture hall and leadership positions in dance companies impacts how the field advances and how systems of oppression reign. Mis- and underrepresentation perpetuates negative social understandings, biased standards and racist points of view. The Black dancing body is a place where history also lives: This body should be present in all spaces where dance happens, where dance is studied, where dance is supported and promoted—if we are serious about truly changing and broadening what we value moving forward, we must prepare those spaces for them. We must also:

• Acknowledge the Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian lands on which you may stand and perform. Additionally, acknowledge their native peoples.

• Alter dress codes and hairstyles that negatively impact BIPOC.

• Hire, cast and promote dancers based on talent rather than "look" or "fit."

• Remember that Black dancing bodies were in existence before Louis XIV and Isadora Duncan, when teaching dancing history. And if your pushback is that the curriculum addresses ballet and American modern dance, then ask yourself why.

• Know that to fully include the richness of Black experiences into your organizations and schools, you must address whiteness.


The Note: This great book should really be read by everyone. It is difficult to describe why it so great because it both teaches and inspires. You really just have to read it. We think it is so good that it demands to be as accessible as possible. Once you've finished it, we're sure you'll agree. In fact, years ago, we would offer people twenty dollars if they read the book and didn't think it was completely worth their time. Of all the people who took us up on it, no one collected.

The disclaimer: This version is made from OCR. That is a fancy way of saying that we scanned in and coded over six hundred fifty pages. There will be a few small occasional errors: spelling mistakes, odd punctuation, and the like. If you see any, please contact us. We have posted it in spite of these mistakes for two simple reasons. First, the book is worth a mistake or two because it really deserves the widest audience possible. Second, we are sure that once you new people begin reading it, you'll go out and get a physical copy. You should go and get it (and ones for your friends and family). At this point, A People's History Of The United States is available in regular form, read aloud on audio, on posters, in a teaching edition, and as just the twentieth century chapters (we have all but the posters). And now here. Please Enjoy!


What’s Happening In Xianjing

What is the current situation for Uyghurs living in China?

What has been happening generally since 2017 appears to be continuing apace. By 2017 the repression targeting Uyghurs had been getting worse since 2009. But most of the state securitization of the region and racial profiling of Uyghurs had been focused in Uyghur-majority and rural regions, especially in the south of Uyghur territory.

Then in late 2016 and early 2017 we saw a sudden escalation of repression that targeted not only Uyghurs but also other indigenous peoples in the region, including Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and others. This included the fortification of an already draconian system of electronic surveillance with ubiquitous police stations and checkpoints throughout urban spaces in the region. It also involved a campaign targeting Uyghur secular intellectuals, cultural figures, religious figures, and party officials, resulting mostly in the arrest of these people on the charges of “separatism,” “extremism,” and “terrorism.” This was followed by the disappearance of many less prominent civilians into extralegal internment camps which were framed as “reeducation” or “deradicalization” centers.

Internment was determined by a combination of evaluating one’s loyalty to the state — using a database that compiled surveillance on individuals, behaviors, connections, communications, and association with religious activities — as well as with quotas that came down from central authorities to local party organs. These two aspects have created an environment of fear.

The state is seeking to alter the Uyghur people by breaking their solidarity and severing their attachment with the territory of their homeland. This is being done by forced assimilation measures, forced language change, and the breaking up of social networks. At the same time, the state is transforming the terrain by demolishing or decommissioning mosques and religious pilgrimage sites, removing the Uyghur language from public spaces, and leveling entire Uyghur communities.

A critical part of this process involves thinning out the Uyghur population in the region to ensure they cannot voice concerns about this transformation. This is partly being accomplished by limiting births and promoting mixed-ethnic marriages. But perhaps a more prominent driver of these demographic changes has to do with the state’s large coerced labor program, sending Uyghurs to residential factories both inside and outside the region.

Some of those sent to factories are those who have been released from reeducation and mass internment camps. Others are merely rural Uyghur residents that the state wishes to move out of their villages to make way for development. While parents are placed in mass internment, prison, or residential labor programs, their children are being sent to residential boarding schools to be socialized in Chinese culture and language.

In The War on the Uyghurs, you characterize this as the culmination of a settler-colonial project whose origins go back to the initial conquest of the Uyghur homeland by the Qing Dynasty in the mid-eighteenth century. Can you sketch out that history?

China initially conquered the Uyghur homeland in the mid-eighteenth century and ruled it as a dependency for a century, before being pushed out by local revolts in the 1860s.

You only see the type of colonialism usually associated with European states in the late nineteenth century. The Qing Dynasty conquered the region again in the 1880s and began a “civilizing mission” which included Han settlement. By most accounts it was a failure and the Qing Dynasty fell in 1911, followed by a fragile Republican government that inherited the Qing Territory. Throughout this period, the region was loosely controlled by Han governors who had tenuous relationships with the central authorities and ran it as their own little feudal empire.

After the Chinese Revolution in 1949, it was unclear what was going to happen to the region. It could have ended up like the Mongolian People’s Republic, an independent Soviet satellite state. But eventually it was folded into the People’s Republic of China [PRC].

Since 1949 there has always been a drive by the PRC to integrate this region, but there hasn’t always been the capacity to do so. Initially, it tried the Soviet model of coopting local elites and governing through them. That ended in failure by the late 1950s, and then you had a series of chaotic mass social campaigns under Mao that didn’t allow the state to focus on this region in particular.

It was only in the early 1980s that the state really started thinking, “How do we incorporate this region into China?” and, “How do we define our nation? Is it a multicultural nation? A nation-state?”

There were a lot of very progressive ideas in the Chinese Communist Party generally and a lot of this affected the Uyghur region positively, including discussions about whether the region should have more substantive autonomy, more of a role for local peoples in governing and so on. But that began to end with the Tiananmen Square Massacre and, in particular, the fall of the Soviet Union.

From that time onward, the CCP began to look at what happened to the Soviet Union and determine how to prevent that from happening to China. They wrongly identified “ethnic self-determination” as one of the causes of the fall of the Soviet Union and started targeting any signs of a desire for self-determination — which throughout the 1990s, they referred to as “separatism.”

So the settler colonial process only really begins in the 󈨞s, which makes it much less drawn out than it seems if you’re first talking about this region becoming a part of modern China in the mid-eighteenth century.

Media outlets have often labelled the forced labor camps as “the largest internment of an ethnic group since the Second World War.” The historical parallel you draw in the book, however, is not with the Holocaust but with the destruction of indigenous communities in the United States, Canada, and Australia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The comparison that is most relevant to what is happening in China is the US expansion to the West, and probably Canada as well. It begins with the desire to expand American economic growth, and to do that in the nineteenth century meant the United States had to control more land, develop it, and settle it. In that process, indigenous peoples were viewed as at best superfluous and at worst an obstacle that had to be removed.

Starting in the 1820s you had the policy of Indian removal, which became increasingly draconian throughout the rest of the nineteenth century — to the point where you saw the United States trying to break the solidarity of Native American nations, employing all kinds of forced assimilation measures, and eventually quarantining them onto reservations.

When I was writing my book and looking at what was happening to the Uyghurs, I saw so many parallels, even in tactics. The attempt to break solidarity and identity seemed to be central to what the Chinese government was doing. There was also embedded in a lot of these policies a desire to remove people from their homeland and thin out their demographic footprint.

The residential boarding schools and the residential labor programs are very similar to policies imposed on Native Americans in nineteenth-century America. There’s a famous quote from the director of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania: “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”

And now it’s, “Kill the Uyghur, save the human.”

Exactly, and while we don’t see the rapid, wholesale killing of people like we did in the Holocaust, what we do see is an attempt to separate families, separate communities, forcibly assimilate people to the dominant culture, remove them from their land, sever their connection to that land, break their social capital and solidarity, and destroy their culture.

This is essentially a technique of pacifying a people, ensuring that they cannot pose any threat or resistance to whatever the state wants to do with their homeland. I use the term cultural genocide because of its associations with the removal of indigenous peoples. And I think that what we see right now in the Uyghur region is a lot like the process of cultural genocide elsewhere in the world from a century ago, but benefitting from high-tech forms of repression that are available now in the twenty-first century.


Student Assessment / Reflections

The primary mode of assessing students' reading comprehension is through written tests. Questions should be constructed as follows:

  • Comprehension: To test basic comprehension and retention of historical information discussed in class, or details from the text, use questions that require simple short answer responses, such as:

    What country is Vladek from?

  • Constructed Response: Have students demonstrate their engagement with the text by writing short, constructed responses. Sample questions include:

    Describe the differences between Vladek and Anja's experience.

Before giving the assessment, model what is expected as a response to one of these longer questions. Sentence starters can be posted in the classroom or included on the test to aid students with structure and the type of language that will demonstrate the depth of their thinking on the topic. It is extremely important that the language used in the test questions is familiar, and that the types of thinking and inquiry about the text have already been modeled.

    Tim told his teacher he felt dizzy

The first parts of these sentences are deliberately vague, forcing students to demonstrate their understanding of the word by completing the sentence with a related idea.


Paulo Freire: dialogue, praxis and education

Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997), the Brazilian educationalist, has left a significant mark on thinking about progressive practice. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed is currently one of the most quoted educational texts (especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia). Freire was able to draw upon, and weave together, a number of strands of thinking about educational practice and liberation. Sometimes some rather excessive claims are made for his work e.g. ‘the most significant educational thinker of the twentieth century’. He wasn’t – John Dewey would probably take that honour – but Freire certainly made a number of important theoretical innovations that have had a considerable impact on the development of educational practice – and on informal education and popular education in particular. In this piece we assess these – and briefly examine some of the critiques that can be made of his work.

Contribution

Five aspects of Paulo Freire’s work have a particular significance for our purposes here. First, his emphasis on dialogue has struck a very strong chord with those concerned with popular and informal education. Given that informal education is a dialogical (or conversational) rather than a curricula form this is hardly surprising. However, Paulo Freire was able to take the discussion on several steps with his insistence that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting on another, but rather people working with each other. Too much education, Paulo Freire argues, involves ‘banking’ – the educator making ‘deposits’ in the educatee.

Second, Paulo Freire was concerned with praxis – action that is informed (and linked to certain values). Dialogue wasn’t just about deepening understanding – but was part of making a difference in the world. Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing. Informal and popular educators have had a long-standing orientation to action – so the emphasis on change in the world was welcome. But there was a sting in the tail. Paulo Freire argued for informed action and as such provided a useful counter-balance to those who want to diminish theory.

Third, Freire’s attention to naming the world has been of great significance to those educators who have traditionally worked with those who do not have a voice, and who are oppressed. The idea of building a ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’ or a ‘pedagogy of hope’ and how this may be carried forward has formed a significant impetus to work. An important element of this was his concern with conscientization – developing consciousness, but consciousness that is understood to have the power to transform reality’ (Taylor 1993: 52).

Fourth, Paulo Freire’s insistence on situating educational activity in the lived experience of participants has opened up a series of possibilities for the way informal educators can approach practice. His concern to look for words that have the possibility of generating new ways of naming and acting in the world when working with people around literacies is a good example of this.

Fifth, a number of informal educators have connected with Paulo Freire’s use of metaphors drawn from Christian sources. An example of this is the way in which the divide between teachers and learners can be transcended. In part this is to occur as learners develop their consciousness, but mainly it comes through the ‘class suicide’ or ‘Easter experience’ of the teacher.

The educator for liberation has to die as the unilateral educator of the educatees, in order to be born again as the educator-educatee of the educatees-educators. An educator is a person who has to live in the deep significance of Easter. Quoted by Paul Taylor (1993: 53)

Critique

Inevitably, there are various points of criticism. First, many are put off by Paulo Freire’s language and his appeal to mystical concerns. The former was a concern of Freire himself in later life – and his work after Pedagogy of the Oppressed was usually written within a more conversational or accessible framework.

Second, Paulo Freire tends to argue in an either/or way. We are either with the oppressed or against them. This may be an interesting starting point for teaching, but taken too literally it can make for rather simplistic (political) analysis.

Third, there is an tendency in Freire to overturn everyday situations so that they become pedagogical. Paulo Freire’s approach was largely constructed around structured educational situations. While his initial point of reference might be non-formal, the educational encounters he explores remain formal (Torres 1993: 127) In other words, his approach is still curriculum-based and entail transforming settings into a particular type of pedagogical space. This can rather work against the notion of dialogue (in that curriculum implies a predefined set of concerns and activities). Educators need to look for ‘teachable moments’ – but when we concentrate on this we can easily overlook simple power of being in conversation with others.

Fourth, what is claimed as liberatory practice may, on close inspection, be rather closer to banking than we would wish. In other words, the practice of Freirian education can involve smuggling in all sorts of ideas and values under the guise of problem-posing. Taylor’s analysis of Freire’s literacy programme shows that:

.. the rhetoric which announced the importance of dialogue, engagement, and equality, and denounced silence, massification and oppression, did not match in practice the subliminal messages and modes of a Banking System of education. Albeit benign, Freire’s approach differs only in degree, but not in kind, from the system which he so eloquently criticizes. (Taylor 1993: 148)

Educators have to teach. They have to transform transfers of information into a ‘real act of knowing’ (op cit: 43).

Fifth, there are problems regarding Freire’s model of literacy. While it may be taken as a challenge to the political projects of northern states, his analysis remains rooted in assumptions about cognitive development and the relation of literacy to rationality that are suspect (Street 1983: 14). His work has not ‘entirely shrugged off the assumptions of the “autonomous model”‘ (ibid.: 14).

Last, there are questions concerning the originality of Freire’s contribution. As Taylor has put it – to say that as many commentators do that Freire’s thinking is ‘eclectic’, is ‘to underestimate the degree to which he borrowed directly from other sources’ (Taylor 1993: 34). Taylor (1993: 34-51) brings out a number of these influences and ‘absorbtions’ – perhaps most interestingly the extent to which the structure of Pedagogy of the Oppressed parallels Kosik’s Dialectic of the Concrete (published in Spanish in the mid 1960s). Here we would simply invite you to compare Freire’s interests with those of Martin Buber. His concern with conversation, encounter, being and ethical education have strong echoes in Freirian thought.

Further reading and references

Key texts: Paulo Freire’s central work remains:

Freire, P. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Important exploration of dialogue and the possibilities for liberatory practice. Freire provides a rationale for a pedagogy of the oppressed introduces the highly influential notion of banking education highlights the contrasts between education forms that treat people as objects rather than subjects and explores education as cultural action. See, also:

Freire, P. (1995) Pedagogy of Hope. Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Continuum. This book began as a new preface to his classic work, but grew into a book. It’s importance lies in Freire’s reflection on the text and how it was received, and on the development of policy and practice subsequently. Written in a direct and engaging way.

Biographical material: There are two useful English language starting points:

Freire, P. (1996) Letters to Cristina. Reflections on my life and work, London: Routledge. Retrospective on Freire’s work and life. in the form of letters to his niece. He looks back at his childhood experiences, to his youth, and his life as an educator and policymaker.

Gadotti, M. (1994) Reading Paulo Freire. His life and work, New York: SUNY Press. Clear presentation of Freire’s thinking set in historical context written by a close collaborator.

For my money the best critical exploration of his work is:

Taylor, P. (1993) The Texts of Paulo Freire, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Other references

Kosik, K. (1988) La dialectique du concret, Paris: Plon.

Street, B. V. (1984) Literacy in Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Torres, C. A. (1993) ‘From the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” to “A Luta Continua”: the political pedagogy of Paulo Freire’ in P. McLaren and P. Leonard (eds.) Freire: A critical encounter, London: Routledge.

Links

Lesley Bentley – Paulo Freire. Brief biography plus lots of useful links.

Paulo Freire Institute – a wide range of material available about current work in the Freirian tradition. Click for the English version.

Daniel Schugurensky on Freire – consists of a collection of reviews of his books and links to other pages.


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