The Privilege Walk in the Classroom

[MORNING PAGES 4/14/16]

For those who do not know, the Privilege Walk is an exercise designed to help people better understand what their privilege looks like, and how much their privilege separates them from others.

If I were to participate in the privilege walk, I would definitely land near the front. I recognize that I have so many privileges that make living my life easier and safer. If I were participating as a student in a classroom, I would feel uncomfortable; looking behind me and seeing my peers wouldn’t sit right with me. But that’s the point of the activity — to provide a visual of the privileges that others have to overcome that you do not. I would also be angry, perhaps, at the people that would be in front of me — it would feel like a hierarchal chain, which, in some ways, is what this activity represents — the hierarchy of power based on privilege in the U.S.

As a teacher, would I use this activity in my classroom? As valuable and important as I think this activity is, I don’t think I could ask my students to participate in it. Not because it is uncomfortable — the best kind of learning happens outside our comfort zones. And not because I don’t think they could handle the information or that they would react badly to it — I confidently feel that having that honest conversation would be not only possible, but productive, invaluable. But I couldn’t ask my students to do it. It requires them to reveal very personal information about themselves; how much money their family makes, if they feel embarrassed at school, their sexuality, their gender identity, and so much more. I would never want to unintentionally out a student, or make a student the target of scrutiny based on family income. It’s a tough thing, because I want my students to understand the different privileges they have or the obstacles they must overcome, and I want to ask them to be vulnerable, but I feel as though this activity is asking too much of high school students.

The adults in this video are just that — adults. They have maybe left dangerous situations of their youth or have come into contact with their privilege (or lack thereof) in the real world. Asking high school students to do this is a very different situation.

I want students to be vulnerable, but on their own terms.

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One thought on “The Privilege Walk in the Classroom

  1. Also, did you see their shoes? Talk about privilege… I agree that the privilege walk would be difficult to use in the classroom, but I also sense that you won’t shy away from talking with your students about privilege. What are you ideas on how to do that?

    Like

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