Everyone has had both challenging and positive experiences in the realm of education, from experiencing racism in the classroom to supportive professors. What allows for these positive experiences to take place? Dean Spade of Seattle University School of Law and activist Rickke Mananzala sought to answer this question during the Open Education workshop at The Scholar & Feminist 2013: Utopia conference.
Dean and Rickke explained their view of educational spaces: there are 3 main points to keep in mind when learning: approach, content, and purpose. These aspects add a reflective layer to the educational process. Teaching is more than a dictation of information. Learning calls for an exchange between teacher and student that creates an open space for true expansion of ideas and perspectives. There is a need for an environment that supports open and honest dialogue rather than a place of senseless note taking.
But should this environment be seen as a “safe space?” The “safe space” is far from a new idea, but it has yet to be given a definition. So what is a “safe space” exactly? Is it a place to feel at ease and open? Or is it a space where you feel uneasy because your ideas are challenged and you are forced to look at things in a new light? The latter seemed to win as the definition supported by the snaps and resounding “woots.”