How Community Organizing Taught Me to Teach
CKUT taught me that the world is full of voices, most of which are drowned out by disenfranchisement and the unequal distribution of privilege. I decided that the best thing I could do would be to get a microphone into the hands of as many silenced people as I could manage, to help create the conditions of possibility for voices that many of us never hear to be heard. In that regard I was like a lot of other volunteers at CKUT, doing what I could to run workshops, edit recordings with respect, and work through the night of our annual Homelessness Marathon to provide food, coffee, and a widely broadcast public forum to the city’s uncared for and forgotten.
All of these experiences taught me valuable lessons about working hard with groups of very different kinds of people, and in time my volunteer work as a kind of teacher began to shift out of the realm of practical skills and to take on a more conceptual character. I increasingly directed my time working with the community toward collective conversations about power: about the underlying structural conditions of our lives and the ways they shaped us as people—both in terms of the validity of our unique perspectives and the problems of our implicit biases. That work is what started me on the path of really, truly reading. As a biology major I had never studied the thinkers from whom we get concepts like “structural conditions” and “implicit bias,” and it was at CKUT that I first experienced life as a productive combination of research and teaching, a process that allows conversation to drive a collective experience of learning in which everyone’s voice is heard.
Ph.D. candidate, English; Graduate Student Affairs Administrative Intern, The Graduate School
Phillip Stillman is an intern in the Office of Graduate Student Affairs and is preparing to defend his dissertation on biology and British fiction in the nineteenth century. He studies the work done by novelists to manage the contraction between Enlightenment notions of personhood and the modern science of human biology, arguing that in the nineteenth century, it fell to fiction to imagine the human being as both autonomous individual and a biological organism at once. You can find out more on his LinkedIn page.