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Achieving Against The Odds

Esther Kingston-Mann

Publication Year: 2001

"High school was like a penance imposed for some unknown sin. Everything I ever learned that was important was learned outside of school. So I never thought to associate schools with learning." (Amy, UMass Boston student)

Today's diverse and financially burdened students enter  higher education eager to succeed at institutions originally designed for culturally homogenous and predominantly white middle-class populations. They are expected to learn from faculty trained primarily as researchers. Unsurprisingly, student dropout and faculty burnout rates are high, leading some conservatives to demand that higher education purge itself of "unqualified" students and teachers. But, as Achieving Against the Odds demonstrates, new and better solutions emerge once we assume that both faculty and students still possess a mutual potential for learning when they meet in the college classroom.

This collection -- drawing on the experiences of faculty at the University of Massachusetts-Boston -- documents a complex and  challenging process of pedagogical transformation. The contributors come from a wide range of disciplines -- American studies, anthropology, Asian American studies, English, ESL, history, language, political science, psychology, sociology, and theology. Like their students, they bring a variety of backgrounds into the classroom -- as people of color, women, gays, working class people, and "foreigners" of one sort or another. Together they have engaged in an exciting struggle to devise pedagogies which respond to the needs  and life experiences of their students and to draw each of them into a dialogue with the content and methodology of their disciplines. Courageously airing their own mistakes and weaknesses alongside their breakthroughs, they illuminate for the reader a process of teaching transformation by which discipline-trained scholars discover how to promote the learning of diverse students.

As one reads their essays, one is struck by how much these faculty have benefited from the insights they have gleaned from colleagues as well as students. Through argument and examples, personal revelation and references as well as students. Through argument and examples, personal revelation and references to authority, they draw the reader into their  community. This is a book to inspire and enlighten everyone interested in making higher education more truly democratic, inclusive and intellectually challenging for today's students.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

ACHIEVING AGAINST THE ODDS takes us into some of today’s classrooms, the heartlands of higher education, where we encounter vividly some of the inherited and contemporary purposes of higher education as they tangle with each other—among them, conserving a dominant culture...

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pp. xv

WE THANK Jackie Cornog for her able administrative assistance in helping to bring the book to final form. We also gratefully acknowledge the permission of the National Education Association to reprint...

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Introduction: Achieving Against the Odds

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pp. 1-17

LIKE STRANGERS in a strange land, today’s increasingly diverse and financially burdened students enter the world of higher education intent on succeeding at academic institutions that were originally designed for culturally homogenous, middle-class populations....

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1 Coming Out and Leading Out: Pedagogy Beyond the Closet

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pp. 18-35

THE BIBLE is based on a coming-out story; it’s called the Exodus. The people who came out on that occasion were a motley crew, unified less by blood than by a common, miserable social status. To say that they were chosen for this journey is to admit that they would not have...

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2 Three Steps Forward, One Step Back: Dilemmas of Upward Mobility

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pp. 36-53

HAVING LEARNED from my unschooled parents that the world of academe was a Promised Land of wisdom and rational discourse, I arrived at my first scholarly conference in 1973 with high expectations. A fast-talking, dark-haired, working-class woman of Eastern...

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3 Learning to Listen to Students and Oneself

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pp. 54-76

AT THE end of one semester, I was reading a student’s fairly conventional research paper, “Effects of Adoption on the Family,” for my interdisciplinary course Childhood in America and reached that last, unexpected sentence: the student had written, “I’m very familiar with...

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4 Language and Cultural Capital: Reflections of a “Junior” Professor

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pp. 77-90

These are the days of a global economy, neoconservatism, global warming, neoliberalism, feminism, anti-immigration laws, genocidal wars, affirmative action protests, identity politics, gay rights, the welfare crisis, AIDS, famine, and so on. A horrible century has just ended. We all....

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5 Racial Problems in Society and in the Classroom

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pp. 91-102

THE MAJOR aim of this chapter is to discuss how the dynamics of race relations as they exist in U.S. society at large also appear in the college classroom. A second aim is to explore ways in which the dynamics of race and race relations can be made explicit and worked on in the college...

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6 Teaching (as) Composing

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pp. 103-124

THESE ACCOUNTS are representative of those written by undergraduate students, many of whom are in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, as well as by graduate students in courses on the teaching of ESL.1 In all of the courses I teach, I ask students to reflect on their past...

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7 Teaching, Tenure, and Institutional Transformation: 125Reflections on Race, Culture, and Resilience at an Urban Public University

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pp. 125-140

...Her words broke a long silence from the front of the room. A few moments earlier, she had faltered in her project presentation about the experiences of Vietnamese Amerasians and had begun to cry quietly. Usually, Trang sat in the back with one or two other Vietnamese...

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8 Teaching American Dreams/American Realities: Students’ Lives and Faculty Agendas

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pp. 141-159

IF I were not an academic, I might argue that I was fated to title my survey course in American Studies, American Dreams/American Realities. My life is, from one perspective, a paradigm of the middle-class norm of the American Dream. I am a third-generation Jewish American...

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9 Teaching, Learning, and Judging: Some Reflections on the University and Political Legitimacy

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pp. 160-179

THE OBJECTIVE of this chapter is to show some relationships between teaching, learning, and judging, on the one hand, and political legitimacy and the role of the university, on the other. It does so by (1) looking at the backgrounds of the author and some students he has...

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10 Gender Trouble in the Gender Course: Managing and Mismanaging Conflict in the Classroom

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pp. 180-203

I WRITE this essay situated in a number of identities and experiences. As a fifty-six-year-old, able-bodied, white, Anglo-Saxon, ex- Protestant woman who has been economically comfortable for most of my life, I frequently have very little in common with my mostly urban,...

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11 Odd Man Out

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pp. 204-214

IN THE summer of 1995, my family and I packed up and moved across the country, leaving UMass/Boston after fifteen years of teaching. I left because I had been called by Reed College and asked if I were interested in a job. Reed made me feel wanted. The teaching load was...

About the Contributors

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pp. 215-218


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pp. 219-222

E-ISBN-13: 9781439901182
Print-ISBN-13: 9781566398510

Publication Year: 2001