Many students can be quick to point out that they are “just white” or “just black” or “just whatever” and don’t take the time to actually consider all the little parts that make them up. In the same way that they have eyes and ears and toes and fingernails, each of us is made up of the various components of our lives: our home discourses, our cultural backgrounds, our education histories.
After learning that some students were still feeling oppressed in a class (due to their inexperience with technology and their conviction on how they were being perceived by the masses accessing the World Wide Web), I decided to take a new approach with my composition class. Throughout the semester, I had students thoroughly examine the different discourses that made up their lives. By taking small steps, first learning about “credible” websites, then moving on to the perception of human beings on the Internet, and so on, the students came to discover a great deal about themselves. Some began dissecting their religion. Others came to terms with how there are gender inequalities in their families. And still others realized all of the rich European cultures that have blended over the years to make those “just white” people.
If the students are better able to understand themselves, they are thus doubly able to critique and comment on their surroundings and, in particular, their technology. This is also helpful in guiding students to overcome their feelings of not knowing much about the internet and computers, either because they feel left out as a racial, class or gender group, or because they are in a category with little previous experience with the latest and best new technology.