Thinking about Professor Kingsfield again. (Althouse)

…Osborn wants to empower students to “reclaim” their “personal narrative” in class, but you’ve got to picture that in practice. Just because the opportunity is offered doesn’t mean the students will respond in proportion to their need for personal empowerment or the value of their personal narrative to the classroom experience.

Most likely, the students who bring the most empowerment to class will do the most talking. These may be the extroverts or the students who came from families or great schools that got them comfortable with exposing their minds. Having to listen to these already-empowered students may very well disempower the students who are more introverted or whose families did not debate politics at the dinner table or whose high schools were substandard holding pens. It may strengthen some students over others — perhaps males over females or white students over minorities students.

If we care about diversity, we need to worry about a teaching method that activates some and not others. Even if you rankle at “diversity” talk like that and prefer to think in terms of individuals, you should care about systematically empowering some individuals over others. Well, if you rankle at “diversity,” you probably hate “empowering” too, but the point remains! If you’re going to have a classroom where students do some of the talking, it’s best to get the full range of students talking, especially if the students are going into a field like law, where speaking is going to be part of the work. (more…)