Over the last two months, I’ve been immersed in a certain topic. I’ve made it my priority to read all of the existing literature out there. In opening and closing different books and putting down journal articles, I was told to stop. I was told to refrain from going down the path I’ve been going down. In this rather unexpected demand, I was shook. Honestly, I didn’t understand the request. I thought I heard wrong. No, I was hearing it right.
“Lauren, I’m going to need you to suspend your readings- completely,” said my professor
“What do you mean? This is my topic. Didn’t you say we needed to review the extant literature for the literature review?”
As the answer carried itself in the air, the book in my lap had closed. He went onto the next student to hear about their research topic and their developments. As the trend continued, I was frustrated that he told me to suspend my reading. However, I was quite done with his request. So, I offered up a question.
“Excuse me, but you said that we can be on two sides of the spectrum- either objective or subjective, willing to research for change or to simply track trends,” I stated
The class was quiet. A pen couldn’t drop without its sound being heard.
“Yes, you’re correct. What do you want to be? Do you want to be an activist or a deal in scholarship,” he responded back.
“I want to do both. I want to be an activist and a scholar,” I argued.
“I understand. However, you need to be clear on what you’re saying. Your scholarship will be your vehicle for initiating change. Look, there’s been numerous scholars that has changed the world through their scholarship- the doll’s test, the stereotype threat study, etc”
I sat there. I looked dissatisfied. Maybe I was. He knew. The class felt the uneasiness. For me, I knew that the world needed a big thinker, as my undergrad Philosophy teacher said. So, I sat there. Twenty to thirty minutes later, my professor dismissed us for a break.
“Lauren, can you come here?”
Once again, I was shook. Like, what did I do now?
“I understand that you’re passionate about your topic. It shows. Also, I see that you have a grasp of the topic. That’s good. However, you’re looking at it the wrong way,” he said with a stern look.
My mouth dropped.
“Look, you are saying what all of us know. You and I both know that racism and sexism exist in schools. Heck, all of us know that. That’s no surprise”
So, he started to draw an analogy on the board between patients and hospitals. He began to say that patients come into the hospital with an array of conditions. Now, on the other end, the hospital has its own things that it brings to the table. In this exchange, you have two entities/groups/populations that are either work with one another or against each other.
In bringing this full-circle with my topic, the professor said that I need to understand that schools are structures/institutions with their own beliefs and cultures. In these institutions, they function to produce something outcomes.
“Cultural hegemony, Lauren. I’m talking about hegemonic beliefs”
“I see what you’re saying. These schools function to keep out individuals or groups to produce the outcomes that they strive for. For those individuals and groups that aren’t serving the interests of the structure, they are marginalized until they are pushed out,” I exclaimed in an epiphany.
“Exactly. However, you need to bring this to your research. You need to look at the history of education, schools and teacher’s education programs. You need to understand the historical nature of why certain groups and individuals are pushed out of schools. We are talking about structures. Systems. Machines.”
“I understand. I will make sure to do the research. However, will any of this change?”
“Revolution, Lauren. Revolution.”
Week after week, I have argued and gone back and forth with my professor. We’ve butted heads about the trajectory of my research and now I understand. In life, you may think this but it could be that. You are sometimes looking in the wrong place. Sometimes, you are looking at things wrong. Sometimes, there is a bigger picture. In our fifteen-minutes break, I became aware of an issue that plagues the American landscape. I mean, I knew that schools were cultural producers of dominant values, but I didn’t have the research to back up my claims. So, my professor challenged me. He said, “research”.
In educational reforms, we hear about this new law or regulation, but we don’t hear about revolts. Well, I don’t think you will. Revolutions usually occur when the oppressed and marginalized are fed up. It’s very Marxist. The underdog bites back. The marginalized carves out space and occupy it.
So, I ask you, “Where are you looking?”