Miami University Professor Says Teachers Should Be Social Justice Activists in Classroom

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The Associated Press

A professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, argues in an academic journal article that professors should blend their “scholar and activist identities.”

Miami University Professor Mahauganee Shaw argues in an academic journal article that professors around the country should be bringing their political activism into the classroom. Writing with two other professors, Shaw makes the case that bringing activism into the classroom may help to resolve social justice issues.

In this article, the authors make a case for the need for scholar activism—activism by faculty members on college campuses. Through an activist group, The Mobilizing Anger Collective, this article documents the challenges, tensions, and radical potential of scholar activism as a means of addressing injustices. Using duoethnography, the authors document the embodied experience of being Black faculty responding to an expressed need for creating space to organize, express anger, and transmute hurt and pain into community. Moreover, it introduces The Mobilizing Anger Collective as an example of scholar activism and offers insights into the complexities and risks involved in such an undertaking in the bodies the authors inhabit.

Shaw isn’t the only educator who believes that activism has a place in the classroom. Audrey Williams June wrote in a 2015 column for the Chronicle that there are often times when professors should blend their activism with their teaching.

June acknowledges that professors who opt to blend activism with instruction must be prepared to face accusations of indoctrination and poor scholarship.

Scholar-activists must be ready to fend off the perception that their activism taints their scholarship, or that they’re going to indoctrinate students. Another challenge is time: Some academics struggle to contain their work in the community to do what’s needed to advance professionally. The challenge is especially big for those who have not yet attained tenure, as they both lack the protections of a secure job and need to compile an impressive record of academic accomplishment to get one.