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Note: On Christmas Eve, 2015, the New York Times published an article by Dr. George Yancy of Emory University, in the form of a letter titled "Dear White America." Earlier this year, Dr. Yancy published a book of reflections on the reactions garnered by the letter, Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly about Racism in America, which a group of Xavier faculty and staff discussed for our 2018 Fall Faculty Book Club. In honor of Dr. Yancy's original letter, on this Christmas Eve, we offer one reader's reply.

Dear Professor Yancy,

I feel compelled to write to you, as you have written to me, in your letter, "Dear White America." We read your letter and your book, Backlash, in a book club here at the university where I work in New Orleans. I found your letter moving, and I want to thank you for your gift. I want to thank you for crystallizing issues with which I've been wrestling over the past months and years, complex issues of race and racism in America, of whiteness and white supremacy. Your book, and particularly your letter, distill some of these issues to their essence in a pointed and poignant manner. For this, I am grateful. ...continue reading "Dear Professor Yancy"

Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human ProspectFor our eighth annual Fall Faculty Book Club, we read Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect by David Orr.

At our final meeting, we asked our participating faculty to jot down some thoughts. Here is what they wrote.

For my first faculty book club experience, the selection and discussion were stimulating and provocative. Though written 20 years ago, this is forcing me to think more critically of place, choices and practices, and the connection to other communities. Responsibility needed.

Earth in Mind profiles the gradual annihilation of the planet caused by no-holds-barred economic progress, reliance on fossil fuels, unrestrained technological advancements, and other harmful forces of modernization whose costs are rarely calculated. It should be required reading for everyone, but especially the power brokers of our global society such as politicians, CEOs, financial analysts, education administrators, and scientific researchers.

Earth in Mind is an appropriate name for this collection of essays on the Earth and education. I'm lucky to have received the kind of ecological citizenship training touted by Orr from my family. I believe that it's not too late to make a united, systematic and sustained effort to educate our children to be biophiles and not biophobes so that they will become advocates for our planet and its inhabitants and pass on the love to future generations.

Excellent book! A must-read about the relationship between economy and ecology! Holistic, wholesome, a reminder of our own connection to Nature!

This book provoked me, worried me and confused me at times. It reinforced ideas but it also required me to rethink my ideals and approach to life.

For me, this book was both a practical and promising guide to how I will live and love in this — the sunset of my life. I loved this book. As a teacher, it will be on my great books list!

Earth in Mind is a great book for inspiring an intentional, genuine focus on environmental issues in higher education. I intended to encourage deeper consideration of the long-term consequences of our lifestyle among my students.

Earth in Mind evokes a feel of urgency to spring to action and take care of Mother Earth.

The author builds the case for incorporating the environment to all disciplines. I think this is a good book for all educators.

This book was a great reminder of our responsibility as higher ed faculty to introduce students to the idea of sustainability. If we don't get students to critically think about these issues then who will?

CAT thanks Dr. John P. Clark for recommending this book.

Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy: Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and LiberationFor our seventh annual Fall Faculty Book Club, we read Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy: Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation by Laura I. Rendón.

At our final meeting, we asked our participating faculty to jot down some thoughts. Here is what they wrote.

The book challenged traditional approaches to teaching and learning and challenged readers to embrace a holistic approach to teaching which brings together both mind and heart and embraces a social justice stance.

Very comforting to have so many others feel as I do. Important to remember that we are responsible for our own outcomes and we cannot really focus on how this pedagogical endeavor affects others even though you hope it will be positive. The potential latent value of sentipensante practices is also intriguing as is the collateral leaning component.

The book provided an interesting conversation about the nuts and bolts of implementing contemplative pedagogy in the classroom.

Useful discussion on how to sustain myself in my career — by building sustenance into my professional and personal life, blended.

Thought provoking! This book points out our society's disconnect with the whole self and emphasizes its obsession with reaching non-integrative goals and measures. My questions is, "How do we change this?"

The best practices are subversive. Love is subversive!

The book reinforced the idea that the goal of education is to develop well-rounded individuals who possess knowledge and wisdom. Professors need to design a relationship-centered classroom based on caring, support and validation. Tests and grades should not be used as punitive measures, but as feedback mechanisms that assist in determining where the student is at a particular point in time.

Laura Rendón describes how to incorporate sensing/thinking pedagogy. Although the author describes the process eloquently, at times the book is lengthy.

This was a good read in that it made me think about what I do and how I can be more effective. There are a lot of great ideas, but sometimes the narrative was so subjective that it did not seem scholarly.

Examples of involving/engaging students were wonderful and inspiring.

What repercussions will we face if we do not acknowledge the existence of the emotional and spiritual along with the intellectual? Woe unto humanity if we do not!

Sentipensante pedagogy is concerned with engagement strategies that are associated with a rational and contemplative education. Engaging sentipensante pedagogy can be transformative and liberating.

On the whole, I felt it was a bit idealistic, however it does bring up some important points. We should always remember to nurture the whole students. I thinnk depending on the class and enthusiasm of the instructor one could be successful with this strategy, and we should all strive to be.

A voice crying in the wilderness, but there are more and more voices!

For an in-depth review of the book, see Ann E. Austin's article in The Review of Higher Education.

We had a good and passionate discussion Monday afternoon at the first meeting of this year's faculty book club. That was my feeling, and I hope the sentiment was shared. We began by going around the table; each person introduced themselves and explained why they signed up for the book club. Thus we all shared what expectations we brought to our reading. Of the eleven people at the table, three cited Parker Palmer as one of the reasons they were eager to read The Heart of Higher Education.

Next, we followed the authors' advice on page seven, looking at the Wendell Berry quote on page one and asking, "What do you think?" From there we moved on to the concept of integrative learning and the critiques against it.

As the conversation opened up, a number of themes emerged. I will try to summarize the ones that seemed most salient to me, though I'm sure I'm missing plenty.

  • For ourselves as teachers, the need to examine "who we are" rather than technique
  • For our students, the need to focus on inquiry rather than answers
  • The importance of conveying a sense of awe and wonder
  • Holistic perspectives need to be woven into discussions on our campus (one faculty member reported only having such discussions off-campus)
  • One faculty member confessed: We are not connecting with students in our program as we should
  • Our relation to students may have moved from transformational to transactional
  • We may do more integrative learning than big research institutions — but perhaps less than we did twenty years ago

With regard to the first point, I wanted to mention our upcoming discussion session, "Who Are You?" Dr. Miranti's comments in particular bolstered my confidence that this was a good topic to pursue at this time. You can find details on our website.

Thanks to everyone for participating in Monday's conversation, both verbally and through respectful listening. I was struck today by a passage on the "sociology of knowledge" in another book I'm reading, Dark Green Religion by Bron Taylor: "What people perceive and believe is shaped by conversation." Simple and obvious, perhaps, but also profound. It is my hope that our conversations will continue to be just as transformational as the education we hope to offer our students.