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Breaking the silence: teaching about difference

Elaine Correa (Department of Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies, California State University, Bakersfield, California, USA)
Colleen Wilkinson (Student with Disabilities Graduate Program, Division of Education, Medaille College, Buffalo, New York, USA)

Journal for Multicultural Education

ISSN: 2053-535X

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




Even as sites for higher education work to transform curricula and strive for greater diversity among students and faculties, little is done to create safe, inviting environments for people to openly discuss the contradictions and challenges in teaching about differences. The authors' purpose is to examine multiple and intersecting systems of power and privilege that deny marginalized voices a forum to challenge conventional hegemonic discourses of differences and stereotypical representations within learning. The recognition of contradictory subjective locations occupied by all the participants in the classroom, including the teacher, is accounted for in critical feminist pedagogies that challenge who speaks, who listens and why. As such, bridging the gaps, cracks, holes or crevices from which commonalities and differences emerge is part of the process required in understanding the differences.


This paper provides suggestions for college faculty who want to critically challenge their students to explore their beliefs about persons deemed “different” in society, and examine the nature of stereotypical perceptions embedded in the representations of the “other”.


The authors maintain that faculty must provide opportunities for discussion while creating a safe environment free of judgment during this time of exploration and discovery for all participants.


Multiple strategies for exposing college students/teacher candidates to differing views on cultural perceptions and misconceptions are provided. The authors challenge college faculty to not only expose students to an array of views but also encourage students to voice their own views by interrogating the inherent systemic power of inequity in society.



Correa, E. and Wilkinson, C. (2017), "Breaking the silence: teaching about difference", Journal for Multicultural Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 70-81.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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