Letter: Critiquing the Attack and Defense of Dialogue on Campus

Posted by Danny Pforte

Dear Editor,

We defend against the attack on the dialogue process, which gives hope, community, and voice to oppressed individuals. We recognize that without programs like IGR, just talking about social justice becomes much more difficult.  But my concern is the privileging of dialogue as the action we take to assert agency against oppression. Having to defend dialogue inhibits the ability to see beyond the approach, freezing discourse and agency in its current place.

Dialogue as a pedagogical approach serves many benefits, the best being its focus on expression and voice as the preferred method of learning. Issues of race, class, gender, and oppression become topics of reflection, allowing students to see their own reality differently and relate to that of others. Being a part of two dialogue classes, I have seen many people, including myself, develop their visions of the world and find confidence in their abilities to tackle difficult issues head on.

But dialogue is not perfect. In a dialectical social structure, in which contradictions and opposites characterize the social world, dialogue falls short of what is needed to truly empower oppressed communities. Dialogue courses do not teach the historical context that is critical to understanding how oppression works. Dialogue also does not allow for those who see some conflicts as unable to be dialogued to feel comfortable in forming oppositional political discourses. For some people living through the highest levels oppression, dialogue may not seem like an effective method. Potentially facing your enemy in the face without an already established community with you can be disempowering and discouraging. I believe it is for this reason many who are needed in the struggle against oppression reject dialogue due to a lack of interest.

Despite the benefits of dialogue, Skidmore College has not changed, and the broader societal context is becoming more oppressive everyday. We have to move beyond dialogue and towards community, organizing, and action. We must study the historical context of power structures (i.e. racism, capitalism, imperialism, hetero-patriarchy) and analyze what others have done to combat their destructive oppression. We must learn from constantly changing conditions and form politics and ideologies that will further the process of liberation for all.

For those interested in moving beyond dialogue, The Liberation Chronicle is meant to build solidarity with all struggling against oppression.  Together we can work to make change.

Danny Pforte

Class of 2013

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