Saturday, February 6, 2016

In Praise of HBCUs

A recent article on the Fisher case currently before the Supreme Court to determine the legality of college affirmative action admissions guidelines responds eloquently to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ questioning of the value of diversity and “why the U.S. needs more Black physicists.”  (Thanks to Neal Carlson for bringing the article to my attention.) 
Dr. M. Christopher Brown II, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs for the Southern University system, reminded Justice Roberts that “many of the best scientific discoveries and inventions emerge from the lived experiences of [those who] are transgressive outliers from the general norm.” 
Dr. Lisa Aponte-Soto, national program deputy director of New Connections, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program that works to increase opportunities for early and midcareer scholars of color in STEM fields, agreed, pointing out that scientists of color “add a sensitivity to the ‘impact of cultural values’ on the application of science… that is critical to the effectiveness and accuracy of outcomes.”
What caught my eye as a teacher was a follow-up assertion by Dr. Aponte-Soto that “faculty of color tend to encourage more student input, which enhances the students’ connection to the material.” What are we doing at Lincoln that shows this teaching/learning principle in action, in our STEM courses in particular, but also in all the other disciplines?  How do you encourage more student input in your course, helping your students to try on the shoes of the experts and get excited about walking in that path?  Can you share an example that has worked well in your classes, whether physics or philosophy, mathematics or mass communication?

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