Decentering Power: Arguing for a Mandatory Undergraduate Course that Teaches Anti-Oppressive Allyship

Proceedings of The 3rd Global Conference on Women’s Studies

Year: 2022



Decentering Power: Arguing for a Mandatory Undergraduate Course that Teaches Anti-Oppressive Allyship

Alina Ahmed



In this paper, I argue for a mandatory undergraduate course that covers an overview and analysis of systems and structures of power that exist today and teaches students to practice anti-oppressive actions (such as anti-racism and anti-sexism). I present the need for this course given that the American education system has failed in imparting critical thinking, empathy, and anti-oppressive teachings to its students. Hence, I argue, especially in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, that a mandatory undergraduate course of this kind is necessary. To make this argument, I utilize four different premises. My first premise claims that there is a need for anti-oppressive education given injustices in educational institutions across the U.S., and research that has statistically proven the prevalence of sexist and racist oppressive behaviors on campuses. My second premise claims that the classroom must be the primary site of this teaching. I employ the use of Vygotksy’s theory of social learning to explain why this site of learning is not only optimal and necessary to encouraging behavioral changes, but also in terms of efficacy of learning. The third premise investigates how the current education system has failed and continues to do so in terms of providing anti-oppressive education. This section employs the use of various research and accounts of educational failures in terms of anti-oppressive teachings. Lastly, the final premise asserts that a solution to the problems highlighted here is possible. I present this solution as the proposed mandatory undergraduate course. I also expand on the topics and overview of the proposed course and engage with feminist transformative pedagogical theory and practices that may be used to teach it. I conclude that a mandatory course that teaches anti-oppressive work is necessary for a just and equitable society.

keywords: feminist pedagogy, feminist transformative teaching, transformative education, philosophy of education .