Oppression and Information, Learning from One Another

I suggested in a previous post that active learning pedagogies allow students to learn from one another and share different perspectives and experiences.  I’m very invested in increasing my skills at facilitating active learning and recently participated in an Intergroup Dialogue workshop on campus in hopes that I will be able to lead conversation around difficult topics, in particular information privilege.

Unlike race or gender, class (especially as it relates to information literacy) is hard to distinguish.  It’s hard to discuss.  However, I propose that information literacy is a privilege and that our society exhibits similar racial and economic disparities in information literacy as we do in other social sectors. Education affects one’s ability to achieve information literacy and funding for higher education is unequally applied in detriment to low-income Americans.  Access to the internet at usable speeds is increasingly required for access to information and digital redlining plagues our communities.  There are many other ways that systems of power and information literacy are tied.

In a library instruction session, what are the questions that could begin a conversation around information privilege?  How do we better understand each other through the lens of oppression?  If I’m proposing that active learning would allow students with privilege to come into contact with individuals not afforded the same privileges (I think this is truly what Seale means when she identifies students from the “global North” and those who are “subaltern”) how do I make this happen in a classroom space?  Is it even possible in a one shot session?

My answer to that last question is likely not.  It takes time to create spaces of trust and community in order for safe dialogue around privilege to occur.  However, let’s imagine a best case scenario in which students have come together to share their identities and listen to one another.  Here are the questions I’ve come up with:

  1. What information resources are available to you?
  2. What identities/memberships allow you access to these resources?
  3. Has your access changed over time?

It is in this hypothetical ideal scenario that students would be able to link their experiences and social identities with their information privilege,  share moments in their life when they have not had the same access, and explore next steps in advocating for others.  This ideal scenario is not the scenario in which I teach, and I imagine that it isn’t the scenario that many other librarians experience.  I’m going to continue to think about how conversations around information privilege can occur, and I’ll share them here if I have any great ideas.  In the past, I’ve emphasized the privilege of the access and education that my students have now that they are at Muhlenberg, however this is just a momentary declaration and doesn’t allow for the creation of information activists.  I think that the group dialogue discussed above would inspire students to impassioned work for social change.



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