School, whether K-12, college, higher education, or non-traditional, is one of the primary sites in which people learn about themselves and the world around them. The understanding of self students acquire from within the classroom shapes the way in which they perceive their relationship to and opportunities within society at large. Too often, students of color see few (positive) reflections of themselves in the classroom; what representations they see of racial/ethnic/gendered minorities often stem from deficit-based assumptions which further racialized, gendered, and classed messages about power, intelligence, and social value. Such representations situate student learning within a colonial framework whereby students are indoctrinated to perceive power, intelligence, and social value as inherently white, patriarchal, heteronormative, and capitalist.
Truly revolutionary education requires radical means for framing the ways in which students are taught and what students learn. This panel seeks to represent the ways in which a deliberate embrace of identity along with a commitment to radical self-love can serve as mechanisms for decolonizing education. According to theologian Patrick S. Cheng, radical love is a love “that is so extreme that it dissolves existing boundaries” (Cheng 2011, 44). We further this understanding of radical love to develop a framework of radical self-love in education. Our hope is to dismantle the structures that have operated to limit the degree to which students understand their social and political relationships to knowledge and society at large.By intentionally inserting the self into pedagogy, educators disrupt conventional notions of knowledge construction as an apolitical project that distances learning from subject. With self at the center of education, the process of learning reveals itself as inherently political. Accepting its inherently political nature exposes the history of education in America as a deeply colonizing experience for people of color of various identity statuses.
Radical self-love in the schooling process is one step towards a decolonial educational future. As educators, we hope to advance the notion that education is personal and political, and teachers, through transparently engaging their own identities and experiences in the classroom, can liberate students to do the same. Embracing teachers’ and students’ identities as assets for learning allows students to see themselves as powerful shapers of their classroom environments and their futures, thereby undoing education as a colonial project that insists they are second class subjects within education and society as a whole.