Wednesday, January 2, 2013
I have this remark that I write in the margins of my students personal statements when I think they are giving away way to much of themselves in their essays. I usually will write, "You don't have to be Josephine Baker." I have an idea how it turned out that way, but I want to do all I can to break students out of the habit of accepting and promoting identification as a victim, especially those students from the working class. Somehow they are all convinced that the up-from-slavery or I-was-born-by-the-river or the from log cabin to the white house theses and narratives are the way to go. I want them use these essays as a way to demonstrate the depth and scope of their critical intellect. It should be enough to say that I am the first person in my family to graduate from college, without having to then share with reader all of the nooks and crannies of poverty and even throw mom and pop and brother and sister under the bus to boot, and without their permission. Poverty and the challenges associated with poverty are only one of countless identifications that these student experience, and it's high time we encourage them to embrace those still untapped aspects of themselves that make up not only who they are but what they do as well.