Let me start by saying that I think most teachers are so delighted when a quiet student actually says something in class .... and that happened today. It wasn't just that a quiet student talked -- but it was also that one of the few students of color in the class was willing to jump (head first) into what could have been a difficult dicussion.
We started the MWF ENG 101 class today by talking about a newspaper article titled "White Girl" Click here for a link to the article and the comments resulting from the article.
So here is one of the mini-conversations that happened in class: Student J mentioned that as a white man of 2010, he didn't think it was fair that he should be held accountable for the sins of slavery, something that actually happened before his family even immigrated to the US. Student E, an African American student who has said little in class, actually jumped in and refuted, a little, of what Student J had to say (and the conversation between the two of them, by the way, was open, friendly, and warm). She said, in a nut shell, that she and her family still feel the effects of slavery today. She has discovered that her great grandfather (or maybe great-great?) was born in slavery and this was something the family never talked about and that even this silence has an impact on the psychological wholeness of the family. So she was refuting Student J's idea that we shouldn't be held accountable for what someone in our past has done. We never resolved to any degree what we should do about history -- but there was a consensus that an authentic education somehow could negate things outside of our control.
I think this dissention was a good one -- both students offered interesting and valid positions and the result (I think!) was a healthy and useful discussion (with no real resolution -- not necessarily a bad thing). I hope the evening class goes as well! :D