Kevin Gannon, Professor and author of “Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto”
April 18 | 1-2:15pm in the Walker Ames Room KNE 225*
Reflecting the 2023 UW Teaching & Learning Symposium theme of sustainable teaching, Kevin Gannon (author of Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto) will share perspectives on how we can use hope to foster sustainable practices for ourselves and our teaching communities.
As Professor Gannon describes his Symposium keynote address:
Kevin Gannon is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence and Professor of History at Queens University of Charlotte, in North Carolina. He is the author of Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto (2020), and his writing has also appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Washington Post, CNN, and Vox. In 2016, he appeared in the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay.
Q&A with keynote speaker, Kevin Gannon
UW: Can you explain what “radical hope” means to you?
KG: I approach “radical” in the literal sense of the word—”radical” comes from the Latin “radix,” which means “root”; to paraphrase Angela Davis, radical simply means grasping something by the roots. So a practice of radical hope is one in which hope is the root-level, foundational commitment. This reminds us that hope is action-oriented, not some vague, passive “I hope things will get better” type of sentiment. A commitment to acting with radical hope means we reject hope’s opposites: detachment, cynicism, and fear.
You write that “pedagogy cannot be neutral” and “neutrality is a luxury of the comfortable”. Can you expand on this? What are some ways you see a “neutral” pedagogy appear in higher education? What are some of the dangers of assuming a neutral pedagogy?
We can see a good example of the ways in which the idea of “neutrality”–or its close cousin “objectivity”–is often mobilized when we look at many of the calls for “civility” or “civil discussion.” In practice, these are often exhortations for people from marginalized groups to be not civil, but docile….The danger of assuming that “neutrality” is a desirable default position is that you end up perpetuating the status quo—which, right now, is a status quo that is actively violent against many communities….The end result of this orientation is unfolding right now in Florida, as well as other states where elected officials are seeking to destroy even the very idea of a liberal higher education as a public good. I don’t think it’s possible to sit this one out. Nor do I think we should be ceding the terms of the debate to those who have made it quite clear they don’t care for any of the principles that our institutional missions proclaim as our values.
José Luis Vilson writes that your book “isn’t about reform, but transformation.” What would you say is the main difference between reform and transformation?
While reform and transformation exist along the same spectrum, there’s definitely a difference of degree, and as a result, of actual efficacy…. If “reform” perpetuates already-embedded structures of inequity like standardized testing, traditional grading systems (which do not actually correlate with learning), and exclusionary curricula, then what can it really accomplish? And would it be a decent return on the labor involved? We need transformation, and to not see that at this particular moment is to, I think, abdicate our ethical obligation as educators. Coming out of the pandemic, we saw how unsustainable many of our “business as usual” practices actually were—why would we try to return to those? We have a unique, and perhaps historic, opportunity to re-conceive, to re-imagine what meaningful higher education can and should be; let’s not be afraid to seize it.
Accessibility: In-person, ASL interpreting | Live captioning for participants attending on Zoom.
*Zoom option available through the registration button for those who can’t attend in person.