Dynamic Points of View
Why are more diverse approaches to teaching important to you?
I taught high school English in Baton Rouge through Teach for America. One aspect of that experience that I took on wholeheartedly was that you have to teach every student. Not everyone will respond to the same approach. There’s a benefit to having a diverse set of students, who have different attitudes and perspectives. I am doing what I can to make every student feel valued and included in class. I vary it up so no one is ever disengaged.
How have you incorporated teaching diversity into your classroom and beyond?
I think as faculty, we can try to bring these perspectives into our classrooms. There are very few topics to which you can’t apply a discussion of diversity. If I can do it an abstract field such as philosophy? Then it’s doable. But it might be the case that we need to work harder as faculty on these issues.
Because I’m teaching the academic canon of philosophy, all of the philosophers are white men. It’s worthy to draw explicit attention to that fact. I ask my students, ‘Why is that the case that women and people of color are excluded?’ Faculty needs to model what these conversations look like.
How do you think your approach can have a broader impact on CMC and society?
CMC students and colleagues are collaborating with me on Corrupt the Youth [a philosophy outreach program that Toole founded to work with high school students in under-resourced schools]. Our aim is to bridge the gap between what students are learning in high school and what they will be expected to do in college.
I would like to see more minority students from low-income backgrounds attend college. As part of our program, we host a college prep series, a seminar for students on how to select colleges. We also host one for parents on navigating the FAFSA.
How else do you plan to lead and contribute to these efforts?
I would love to see more of our own teachers talk to each other at the Ath, for instance. I would love to hear four professors talk about their teaching and their research and have difficult conversations with each other. I would love to have more talks with students speaking.
We need to find ways to have conversations about diversity with faculty, staff, students, and alumni more organically.
Briana Toole is an assistant professor of philosophy at CMC.