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Achieving Against The Odds

Achieving Against The Odds

Esther Kingston-Mann
Tim Sieber
Series: The New Academy
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Temple University Press
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  • Book Info
    Achieving Against The Odds
    Book Description:

    "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, asAchieving Against the Oddsdemonstrates, 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0118-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich

    Achieving Against the Oddstakes 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; developing critical consciousness; producing new scholarship, including some that critiques, challenges, and reconfigures prevailing fields and “canons”; training a future professoriate; effectively teaching a highly diverse citizenry; preparing people for jobs, professions,and“the examined life”; nurturing the development of students of many ages and backgrounds; engaging scholars with the pressing issues of the day; working cooperatively with...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  5. Introduction: Achieving Against the Odds
    (pp. 1-17)
    Esther Kingston-Mann and Tim Sieber

    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. Throughout their college careers, they are expected to learn from faculty trained primarily as researchers rather than as teachers. Student dropout rates and levels of faculty burnout are high—a phenomenon leading some conservative educators and politicians to demand that higher education be saved by eliminating “unqualified” students or their professors. However, once we consider the possibility that neither students nor faculty have exhausted their potential...

  6. 1 Coming Out and Leading Out: Pedagogy Beyond the Closet
    (pp. 18-35)
    Kathleen M. Sands

    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 wandered in the wilderness had not circumstance compelled them. But their commitment to freedom was to become a foundational myth of Western culture, a feature of the horizon of every subsequent movement for liberation.

    As a lesbian teacher and scholar of religious studies, I take comfort in this...

  7. 2 Three Steps Forward, One Step Back: Dilemmas of Upward Mobility
    (pp. 36-53)
    Esther Kingston-Mann

    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 European Jewish background, I hoped against hope that there was nothing about my style or manner that would signal to this predominantly male and middle-class gathering in a luxury hotel that I did not belong.¹

    At my first conference session, I sat in the back of the room, awed by the camaraderie of men in dark suits and ties, who nodded...

  8. 3 Learning to Listen to Students and Oneself
    (pp. 54-76)
    Tim Sieber

    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 this situation, since my brother is adopted.” There it was again—so odd, I thought—that brief mention at the end, almost an afterthought, of a personal connection to the paper topic. I had never imagined that this student had an adopted brother until I read the last sentence.

    At first I thought it was a coincidence that...

  9. 4 Language and Cultural Capital: Reflections of a “Junior” Professor
    (pp. 77-90)
    Reyes Coll-Tellechea

    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 hope the new one will ease human suffering. Politicians speak of education as the means for a better future; at the same time, there is a public clamor about the crisis in education. It hits close to home.

    I am a foreign-born professor, working at a public university in the United States of America. I believe that producing and distributing...

  10. 5 Racial Problems in Society and in the Classroom
    (pp. 91-102)
    Castellano B. Turner

    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 classroom. (I focus on race in this chapter, but other intergroup problems and social problems might be considered in similar ways.) Some of what I relate is based on personal experiences, but I begin with the premise that my experiences have not been unique and...

  11. 6 Teaching (as) Composing
    (pp. 103-124)
    Vivian Zamel

    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 educational experiences, particularly as these are related to reading and writing. These reflections reveal the backgrounds, perspectives, and attitudes students are bringing with them and suggest what I need to do to build on these. Importantly, these recollected experiences inform and contribute to my own ongoing research and reflection on...

  12. 7 Teaching, Tenure, and Institutional Transformation: Reflections on Race, Culture, and Resilience at an Urban Public University
    (pp. 125-140)
    Peter Nien-chu Kiang

    I want to go on.

    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 friends, trying to remain safe and unobtrusive. Had the pressure of speaking her second language in front of everyone in class overwhelmed her? Perhaps she was reliving the memories of her own life in Vietnam. Maybe she recalled how hard it was to arrive here five years ago...

  13. 8 Teaching American Dreams/American Realities: Students’ Lives and Faculty Agendas
    (pp. 141-159)
    Lois Rudnick

    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 who started life with my parents and grandparents in a double-decker in Dorchester, Massachusetts (a few miles from UMass/Boston). My family moved to the suburban wilderness of West Roxbury in the early 1950s and became a part of the great white American escape from the cities. Here I lived an almost entirely sheltered life,...

  14. 9 Teaching, Learning, and Judging: Some Reflections on the University and Political Legitimacy
    (pp. 160-179)
    Winston E. Langley

    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 taught and from whom he has learned, (2) defining “the political,” (3) reviewing some problems of teaching and learning, (4) examining the nature of political legitimacy and its relationship to the “self” that judges, and (5) analyzing the role of the university in the construction of that self. The courses I teach...

  15. 10 Gender Trouble in the Gender Course: Managing and Mismanaging Conflict in the Classroom
    (pp. 180-203)
    Estelle Disch

    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, mostly young, mostly working-class, racially and ethnically diverse students. As a woman in a long-term relationship with a woman, my choice of a life partner also sets me apart from most of my students. Like most teachers, I am challenged to become multiculturally literate as I attempt to establish rapport with my students across differences of race, class, gender,...

  16. 11 Odd Man Out
    (pp. 204-214)
    Pancho Savery

    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 lighter. The pay was more. I was immediately promoted to full professor. I was also ready for a change from UMass/Boston.

    When I first went to UMass in 1980, it was an incredibly exciting place to be. The average age of the students was almost twenty-seven, and the faculty...

  17. About the Contributors
    (pp. 215-218)
  18. Index
    (pp. 219-222)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-223)