Reflections on the DISCs Project
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE CORK | 25 January 2021
Well, what a way to finish the DISCs project, with the injustices of the world including education even more visible due to Covid. Will institutions react and address the injustices that are now so visible? Sadly, I feel it will be, as it always has been, small groups and individuals on the ground at institutions who will continue speaking out, fighting against injustices and making radical changes.
For a long time, I have questioned the foundations of my discipline (English for Academic Purposes/EAP), however, I was never certain as to what the issues were, and how to go about questioning them. I didn’t have the concepts to label the issues. Also, the injustices for me were and still are invisible because they have become such a normalised part of what we do. The DISCs project has helped me to gain insight into the injustices that surround education and to gain deeper insights into certain injustices such as colonisation of the curriculum, whiteness and racism, making them more visible. Due to the majority of my students coming from diverse racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds the effects of racism seems to be a more pressing issue within my context, and this is maybe why I have taken an interest in those areas. I am aware that there are many more injustices and types of discrimination within education that exist, and I plan in future to also look into these, as I have said my social justice journey has only just begun.
At first, it was quite overwhelming and daunting as I began to realise the extent of the injustices within education both in my discipline area and institutionally. I’ve also learnt from the DISCs team to take care of myself whilst questioning the injustices and engaging in discussions. I felt extremely comfortable with expressing concerns and being able to question my reactions and the reactions of others especially with the term racism. Gyunghee Park, the DISCs project officer, has been a great support for me during the project. It was refreshing to hear someone speaking so openly and honestly about the injustices that are embedded within institutions. Fear of speaking out against the institution, for me, is ingrained in the system. There can be a fear that if you speak out, you’ll come across as a ‘troublemaker’. This combined with precarious working conditions often silences people. It makes you become institutionalised, and this is the system’s way of silencing us, so it can continue benefitting from the injustices it is built on. The DISCs project has given me confidence in speaking out more, asking my colleagues questions that I’ve never asked before, and listening to those who are racialised, minoritised and marginalised.
Because of Covid I was not able to engage in the project as much as pre-covid due to a heavy workload and a very intense time. The pressure and expectations put on staff and students to ‘carry on teaching and learning’ ‘carry on assessing’ was, for me, an injustice to some extent. How much thought went into ‘the human aspect’ of what was going on? However, again thanks to the DISCs project, and the extensive list of resources, I have continued reading up especially around the issues of racism and whiteness. It’s a long, long battle ahead for institutions to recognise the injustices they are built on and to make radical changes. But with my own team and discipline area we have begun questioning, begun the discussions and begun looking at how we can begin to make radical changes. Within my department, we have started to consider how social justice can become a part of our internal training and development programme. I now belong to an international organisation called EAP for Social Justice. Also, recently, for a teaching and learning organisation I co-chair called EAP in Ireland, we had JPB Gerald, who writes about ‘Decentering Whiteness in English Language Teaching’, give a Q and A session in response to one of his articles, and currently, we are in the process of organising a panel discussion around precarity. Our 2019 conference included two plenaries on the topics of ‘Teaching against Whiteness’ and ‘Foreclosing on our Future: Responding to Neoliberal EAP’. Thanks to the DISCs project for inspiring me to begin tackling these injustices head on and given me the confidence to do so.