Faculty across the country are being asked or required to take courses on diversity and equity as part of anti-racism programs. There are remarkable differences between these programs, including one at the Colorado University at Boulder where faculty and graduate students are taught to shed the “cultural norms of white supremacy” and to “decolonize” their classes. According to the conservative site Campus Reform, this includes rejecting “neoliberal” concepts of time by combating “perfectionism” and the “sense of urgency.”
The university’s Equitable Teaching Conference, hosted by the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning included a session titled “Anti-racist pedagogy and decolonizing the classroom,” taught by Dr. Becca Ciancanelli. One of the slides reportedly warned against “perfectionism,” “sense of urgency,” “quantity over quality,” and “individualism” as “Cultural norms of White Supremacy.”
Individualism is not a new matter of debate. When I discuss different legal theories or “schools of thought” in my class (including feminism, Critical Legal Studies (CLS), and Critical Race Theory (CRT)), a common point of criticism of these scholars is the elevation of the individual over the collective. I juxtapose those theories with writers of liberalism and classic liberalism (which I admittedly favor). It can also be part of a dichotomy of rights versus responsibilities in the law. However, these are writings that address the focus or purpose of legal rules or structures in society from different perspectives. The presentation at Boulder suggests that faculty and students should avoid individualism as a trapping of white supremacy in their own lives.
Ciancarelli’s warnings were based on the work of Professor Sam Bullington, who teaches “unlearning racism, toxic masculinity, and decolonizing teaching, as well as engaged spirituality/spiritual activism” at Boulder.