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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Tamara L Myers
CHID 260
Seattle Campus

Re-Thinking Diversity

Considers the notion of diversity from many scholarly perspectives and from personal engagements. Critically visits historical thinking about diversity and examines contemporary issues such as racism and other oppressions.

Class description

Creating Social Change

This section of (Re)Thinking Diversity will address the general course objectives and questions, but we will also have a special focus: Creating Social Change! We'll examine the ideas of speakers, authors, and ourselves in order to generate ideas and strategies to create positive social change on the ground in the world outside the classroom. The goals listed below are grounded in the assumption that academic education often focuses heavily on the critique and analysis of social issues, but very little on developing theoretical and practical ideas that can inspire and inform action for change. We will pursue the goals listed below through a combination of discussion, writing, and community-based social change projects that class participants design.

Student learning goals

I believe we're all teachers and we're all learners: because of our different relationship to issues the course addresses, we all have valuable and unique resources that will help us develop individual and collective understanding. There's no expectation that we need to agree with authors, speakers, or with each other. In fact, some of the most powerful learning - and activism - can happen when we engage with ideas very different than our own. My hope is that we'll listen closely to each other and come out of this course with both theoretical and practical knowledge about the nature of social problems and a variety of promising strategies for creating change on the issues that matter most to us.

Enrolling in this section means you are willing to:

*Take an active part in all aspects of the course (more below, this course will ask you to try out educational modes that may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable and it asks you to engage actively in all aspects of the class)

*Listen deeply and try to understand the perspectives of others and share as much of your own experience/perspective as you are reasonably able.

*Examine your personal relationship to these issues.

*Collaborate with others as we build ideas and strategize for change together.

*Apply the learning we do together to the world outside our classroom.

*Experiment together with a variety of creative modes of expression that may be new or uncomfortable (theater, movement, music, visual arts) to explore core course ideas.

Some of these may be new to you - that's okay, we'll work on them together.

General method of instruction

1. Theory can be liberating... Each class speaker and author will argue that deep problems exist in historical and current social, economic, political, ecological arrangements. These folks may use similar rhetoric or sound the same, but there often isn't agreement among them about the nature of the problems they write or talk about. We'll unearth the particulars of their analyses and critiques in order to examine what scholars and activists actually mean when they refer to ideas like patriarchy, heterosexism, institutionalized racism, the gender binary system, global capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, hegemony, neoliberalism, environmental unsustainability and other terms invoked in discussions about diversity.

2. Another world is possible... We will also examine and compare the visions of change suggested by speakers and readings. What alternative political, social, economic, ecological arrangements do speakers and authors propose? What do these scholars and activists mean when they say a better world would be feminist, antiracist, socially just, deeply democratic, peaceful, or other words they may use to describe their visions of a better world? What words do you use to describe your vision of a better world? What would it look like?

3. Creating social change... We will also assess social change strategies suggested/used by others in order to develop community change projects for the class and to generate a set of strategies that will be useful beyond the course. What strategies have activists used seek and create change? What strategies do speakers/authors suggest? Lobbying and electoral politics, nonviolent civil disobedience, large-scale protests, culture jamming, community-based organizing, popular education, alternative institution building - what else? Which seem most effective to you? Does it matter what the issue is? The kind of change sought?

Recommended preparation

This section of the course will not be a good fit for you if you have a schedule that will prevent you from working with others outside class time or if you cannot give the class substantial attention each week. Please consider your schedule carefully and be ready to jump in with both feet. It's a really interesting class and can be really fun and meaningful, but requires you to be an ACTIVE part of creating a dynamic, collaborative learning community and bringing your passions and interests into the mix.

I'll update this link in the weeks before the quarter begins, so please check back to see if there are recommendations.

Class assignments and grading

Course work will include:

Student-designed social change projects (the centerpiece of the course).

Substantial time outside class going to community events, conducting interviews, meeting with your project group.

Weekly short written assignments.

Participation in all aspects of the class beyond written work and projects (attendance at lecture & section discussions; completing readings; active participation in discussion sections, participation in class email lists etc.)

Most assignments will be credit/no credit. Some aspects of the course will be graded on a 4.0 scale. For these, evaluation will be based on a combination of student self-evaluation, expectations negotiated during the first week of class, and student self-identified learning and participation goals. More info will be available during the first week of the course.

A little background about my interest in the course: The focus of my graduate work is education for social justice. I look at the ways people try to teach for social justice in different kinds of settings, including in traditional schools and classrooms (like our course), community-based settings (like the housing cooperatives I have lived in and currently live in), and in the context of social movements. My dissertation focuses on the importance of imagination for social justice activists/movements and within social justice education. My research explores how educators and activists help nurture visions of social change in a variety of classroom, community, and movement based learning communities.

Teaching and my own academic work are one facet of my life, but my activism outside the university and my own relationship to the issues we'll explore together are essential to how I teach and learn in the university. I'm excited to be teaching this course for the fifth time with a great group of graduate students and undergrads.

Peer facilitators for these sections are still to be determined. Look for more info about their interests soon!

If you want more info about the course or where I'm coming from before the quarter begins, please feel free to contact me at tlmyers@u.washington.edu.

And if this work sounds interesting to you, please join us!


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Tamara L Myers
Date: 02/24/2011