Early Summer Issue
In this issue:
1. SUCCESSFUL MnWE CONF. AT MN HUMANITIES CENTER & ON ZOOM
2. Politics: LAWS AGAINST CRITICAL
RACE THEORY IN COLLEGE
3. Pedagogy: CASUAL BUT HIGHLY USEFUL
4. Equity/Diversity Literary Resources
(in each issue)
5. Free Teaching/Learning
(in each issue)
6. About MnWE
(in each issue)
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Mar. 31-Apr. 1, 2023, at St. Cloud State University.
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MnWE CONF. AT MN HUMANITIES CENTER &
About 120 scholars reveled in ideas
April 7-8 at the Minnesota Humanities Center in St. Paul for the 12th
Annual MnWE Conference. It also combined, for the first time, all
events simultaneously in-room and on Zoom, an experiment that worked
This year’s theme was “Changing
the Narrative: Empowering Stories.” Together as faculty and
storytellers, we listened to excellent plenaries by seven Minnesota
luminaries; shared ideas in 85 thoughtful discussions and 5 literary
readings in 31 breakouts and entertainments; and enjoyed fresh,
homemade lunches and a dinner at MHC, along with multiple coffees and
snacks. The all-volunteer MnWE Committee also gained several new
MHC sponsored Thursday’s plenary. Its CEO, Kevin Lindsey, and
well known top Minnesota authors Carolyn Holbrook and David Mura
discussed Holbrook and Mura’s new edited anthology,
We Are Meant to Rise:
Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World.
Their plenary pointed to how the Twin Cities has seen the
murder of George Floyd and one of the worst protests and riots in its
aftermath, all during a pandemic further crushing minority hopes. In
this discussion, audience members learned how the new Holbrook and
Mura book–in its brilliant and rich gathering of voices on the
American experience of this past year and beyond, from Indigenous
writers and writers of color from Minnesota–provides valued witness to
recent events. It also speaks to our common future. The collection of
mostly nonfiction stories is an ideal lens in class and out to focus
pressing themes central to Minnesotans and those living everywhere in
The second plenary, “Changing
the Narrative through Generational Lenses,” was sponsored by
Strive Publishing, a relatively new Twin Cities publishing company
devoted to finding and selling books by authors of color about
children of color. Mary Taris, Strive CEO and owner, engaged in
conversation with two of her current authors, Donna Gingery and
Anthony Walsh, and professional storyteller Gregory Pickett.
The four of them asked the audience to envision the great
power in elevating everyday stories
from the Black community to effect change and challenge the way we
relate to one another across cultures and identities. They shared
their own stories of elevation, their struggles, and how important it
has been to possess Black-owned enterprises and Black examples in
finding to exceptional success.
Their lived experience also represented to the audience their
ability to create space to connect, break down stereotypes, and share
important life lessons, values, and hope for Generation Z, Generation
Alpha, and generations to come. They brought to conference
participants the opportunity for sharing education, culture, and
community together in an atmosphere of learning and acceptance, where
everyone can be an authentic self and face the challenges of educating
the next generations in a way that honors each student’s full
In addition, many of the
conference’s breakouts offered a wide variety of pedagogies for “Changing
the Narrative: Empowering Stories” in classroom practice. Other
breakouts provided an assortment of additional creative practices.
Next year, join us in Atwood Center
at St. Cloud State University! SCSU’s English Department will
host the Annual MnWE Conference Friday-Saturday, March 31-April 1,
2023. MnWE plans to continue offering two plenaries and plenty of
roundtables to encourage ever more discussion. Our roundtable format
asks discussant-presenters to talk for 5-7 minutes each, then share
questions and ideas with each other and their audience.
Profiles of Fri. Plenary Panelists
Would you like to
join MnWE volunteers? Email
2. Politics: LAWS
AGAINST CRITICAL RACE THEORY IN COLLEGE
The Chronicle’s April 26 newsletter
Race on Campus gives notice that new state bans against teaching CRT
(Critical Race Theory) and other diversity initiatives are being aimed not
just at K-12 schools but also colleges and universities. Editor Fernanda
Zamudio-Suarez says that in Florida, for example, you are breaking the law
if you train a public college student or employee in any of eight ways
about “race and identity.”
One of these illegal acts is, as Zamudio-Suarez
quotes the new law, to train people that “an individual’s moral character
or status [is] either privileged or oppressed...determined by his or her
race,...color, sex, or national origin.” This statute clearly makes any
training about white privilege subject to prosecution.
Another part of the law criminalizes those
trying to create new anti-racist structures: they never may suggest that
any individual “should be discriminated against or receive adverse
treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.” This is reminiscent
of a relatively recent, long and painful reprimand by Minneapolis
Community and Technical College of a English faculty member of color who
angered three white students. The three felt personally attacked when she
discussed systems in general of white privilege. The class itself was
Her faculty union intervened in her favor, though not with
an entirely satisfactory conclusion. If she were to teach this way now in
Florida and it were considered “training,” she would be subject to arrest,
fining or jail, and loss or suspension of her job and tenure.
Other states are following. Tennessee now
prevents “mandatory diversity training for students,...faculty and staff
members,” says Race on Campus. Oklahoma public colleges “can’t
require any kind of diversity education,” and their statute “prohibits” an
“orientation or requirement that presents any form of race or sex
stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex....” Iowa, next-door
neighbor of Minnesota, now bans “Mandatory training that promotes certain
training CRT and simple diversity–and encouraging hiring stipulations to
that purpose–still is possible in Minnesota. However, given the national
politics, you may encounter new and greater pushback from students in your
classroom or even from administrators. Each faculty member may want to
consider carefully the framework they use for such teaching. Conversations
at the department and cross-department levels also may be helpful.
MPR News: MCTC’s Reprimand of English
Iowa Bill against Anti-Racist and
Anti-Sexist Training, Diversity, and Inclusion
Iowa State U. Response to New Anti-Training
3. Pedagogy: CASUAL BUT HIGHLY USEFUL CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT
four assessments by students using one method for the beginning, middle,
and end of a term. They proved a hundredfold more effective for me than
the many mass-produced, objective-answer surveys I was required to give
students throughout my career. I recommend them highly with or without
other assessments. They are a type called “low-stake” and “formative.” I
am very thankful to multiple colleagues and faculty-driven seminars for
helping me develop them.
In all four, you start by asking students to find a
standard blank sheet of paper, add no name, write three questions, and
then answer each question briefly and respectfully. Add that you’ll read
the answers aloud. Here is what they should write:
“What is a question you have about this course? What is another question
about it? What is a question you have about me as the teacher of this
Week 3: “What is another question you have about this course? What is
a question you have about navigating the campus and/or trying to succeed
in college? What is a question you have about my own life as a teacher
(not all questions answered)?”
“What is working for you in this class? What is not? What would you change
if you could?”
“What worked for you in this course? What did not? What
would you change for future students in the course?” (Language
differing from midterm questions is italicized.)
read the results aloud, skipping repetitions, and respond. I read them the
same day. However, a colleague took their comments home to process them,
then read them the next class day.
What did I discover?
- I learned much more than I expected.
- Students really like the opportunity to interact like this, and they are
quite respectful and serious.
- They want simple, clear answers.
- Stupid questions are useful: some students learn better by hearing my
- They feel I am more interested in them, leading to better interactions
and learning in the term.
- They like anecdotal answers about pitfalls suffered by anonymous
students “no longer at the
school” and about my own difficulties in college.
- Responses that seem “off” or angry allow me to model, for all, being
patient, kind, and fair.
- In intro courses, they looked for my teaching bona fides more than my
- I made many improvements in course materials from their questions and
- I became a much better teacher for both classes and individuals than I
realized I could be.
One of the greatest rewards was that my students
developed better metacognition about not just course contents but how they
were learning. I took advantage of this by requiring each person to turn
in a final short, informal paper: “Please describe what you learned, how
you learned it, and how you could apply it in your future courses, jobs,
or personal life.” Many answers were bright and thoughtful reflections on
how they might
transfer their new knowledge and skills. That
was exactly what I wanted.
Four Types of Formative Assessment: Hunter College
Defining Formative vs. Summative Assessment: Carnegie Mellon U.
Seven Formative Assessments & Several Articles--Lucas Educational
Equity Literary Resources
What diversity books might you or your students read?
Suggestions are welcome.
Graphic Novels and Diversity:
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Minnesota Writing and English
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Advisor, University of Minnesota-Duluth
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Format updated 13 May 2021