Theses Doctoral

A Poet’s Room: Troubling Tolerance, Cultural Ruptures & The Dialogic Curriculum

Falkner, Adam Wallace Graham

Many high school communities across the United States grapple with issues of bullying, harassment and other forms of student conflict that are often the result of intolerance and misunderstandings across and among social identities (Griffin et. al., 2012). In an effort to rebuild tone and community, however, schools have focused predominantly on (1) addressing only antagonistic student behavior and (2) tolerance-based approaches that result in the superficial “choreography of civil speech” (Mayo. 2004). Both methods, in different ways, have struggled to meaningfully address many of the underlying issues responsible for intergroup and interpersonal conflict and the deterioration of community in schools (Dessel, 2010; Poteat & DiGiovanni, 2010).
This qualitative case study examines the impact of an innovative arts-based curriculum designed to center the construction and performance of student “creative authoethnographies” in the classroom as a way of proactively working toward dialogue about identity and social analysis. Conducted over the course of a single school year at a high school in New York City, this research looks carefully at the experiences of seven students. Through close analysis of student interviews, archived student writing, curriculum documents, student surveys and other qualitative data, this work strives to articulate what courses such as these offer students, and how their presence in schools holds the potential to directly address issues of bullying and conflict across difference.
Responding to the critical multiculturalist call (Banks, 1995, Morrell, 2007; Camangian, 2010) for a pedagogy that combines the successful but historically separate practices of autoethnography and the teaching of dialogue skills, this study introduces “cultural ruptures” and a “pedagogy of disruption” as part of a new approach to engaging young people in an of education that is explicit in it’s efforts to critique society and interrogate one’s own identity (Freire & Macedo, 1987). This research also advocates strongly on behalf of English classrooms (and English teachers specifically) as among the most important “actors” in the work of humanizing education, and offers tangible recommendations and strategies for practitioners toward that end.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Morrell, Ernest
Emdin, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 15, 2018