Profs brag of tricking students into social justice classes

Two Canadian professors have developed an approach they call “Trojan horse pedagogy” to peddle social justice to otherwise unassuming students.

Sal Renshaw and Renee Valiquette, both of whom teach at Nipissing University in Ontario, detailed their extensive “ruse” in a recently published book, boasting that their “Introduction to Interdisciplinary Analysis” class is actually a “social justice” course in disguise.

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Each offering of the course is centered around a specific theme, “DIRT, SLOTH, WATER, GENIUS, and SECRETS,” according to the professors, who say the themes provide a “creative ‘cover’ for the interdisciplinary social justice curriculum” that they aim to offer.

“Our goal in this class is to move both hearts and minds, in part by ‘forcing’ an encounter with at least some knowledges that students have already decided they are not interested in,” Renshaw and Valiquette explain, adding that the classes are “rooted in…post-structural feminist theory.”

For example, the class focused on “DIRT” has brought in guest lecturers on dirt and dirtiness, including a researcher on soil recovery and another on the cholera epidemic. Thus, while unassuming students think they’re getting a lesson in dirt, they’re really getting an entire class founded upon social justice theory.

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“Whereas a Gender Equality and Social Justice course evokes a range of assumptions about course content that prevents many from even considering enrolling, DIRT or SECRETS has no such baggage,” they boast. “Though of course we worry that this approach surrenders too much to such politics, we have been sufficiently awed by the ways in which these courses permit a pathway to social justice education to a far greater number of students, to believe the ruse is justified.”

Renshaw and Valiquette admit that their approach “shamelessly appeals precisely to a neoliberal subject," saying they "even appease vocational anxiety" by "emphasizing the utility of interdisciplinary skills in the workplace” to convince students that the subject matter can “contribute more or less directly to a job.”

The course has been offered for at least two years at Nipissing University, according to the school’s course catalogue.

Campus Reform reached out to Renshaw and Valiquette, but they declined to comment for this story. Nipissing University did not respond to a request for comment.

Follow the author of this article on Campus Reform: @Toni_Airaksinen