Excerpt Student Email (Black female, graduate):

     The class is wonderful and I'm learning a lot.... However I feel that there are certain students in the class that are not doing their work and that this puts additional pressure on the students who are working as well as on you. It has been my experience in teaching that often students who feel they have something in common with the instructor (race or gender) may feel they can get over simply because they decided to take the class. Perhaps that's the issue. Or they may see our class as a support group (although I don't see how they'd think that). Maybe they just don't have the background in/experience with taking a grad level course [Author Note: The course is an upper-level undergraduate seminar] and that's why they are floundering.... Until this situation gets straightened out I guess we'll be Lifting as We Climb. (ha ha ha).

My Response:

     I was just reviewing my emails from History 318. I thank you for your candor!

     I, however, must respond to your statement which jokingly uses "Lifting as We Climb" as something "we'll" have to be involved in. As you know, the phrase has a socio-historical context, which we'll be talking about more in class this week. While the motto does convey notions of advancing and educating the race as a whole, it also has elitist, civilizationist and classist connotations which are despairing of the Black masses on myriad levels. I'm not sure this is what you intended, but I wanted you to be clear on the hierarchical implications of your statement, especially since the course is also one that seeks to challenge the "ist" positions of race, class and gender. So while I understand the frustration you express, we want to be vigilant about not duplicating or recreating those "ist" stances in the class.

Excerpt Student Email (white male, graduate):

     The discussions in class are always very spirited. The other participants have a personal stake in the subject matter that is being explored. As far as the theoretical foundations for this class are concerned, I think that the tenets have been strongly followed in the readings and your lectures. I do feel somewhat intimidated at times, because the discussions are personal for others in the class and I lack the obvious background sensitivity to the material. I do think that this type of class is what makes history so intensely human. I am sure that I will develop a better rhythm for class discussion in the future. Thank you.


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May 2000