A Football Pairing that Raises Access & Justice Questions

13 Oct The Tribal Nations Plaza at the University of Minnesota football stadium. Photo by Patrick O'Leary.

More than a Football Match:
The View from My Window

The view from my office window?  A football stadium.  Mostly it’s the University of Minnesota’s oncampus stadium known at “The Bank” to reflect  TCF Financial Corporation‘s donation purchasing naming rights.  In its football-related uses this season and next the stadium also plays host to the state’s National Football League team, the Vikings.

The building is ringed with locally mined Kasota Limestone rectangles bearing the names of Minnesota’s 87 counties.  From this window, I can see the marker inscribed for Faribault County, my mother’s home place.  If I stroll from my office to the left, I can stand underneath the words Blue Earth – for the county where the stone was mined, for the place where I did not learn the complex, contested intersections of American Indian and US histories in my home county as part of my formal schooling.  I learned a scrubbed, sanitized history in grade school as in college as teachers elided the starkest facts of this Blue Earth Country place I called home:  At the culmination of the US-Dakota War of 1862, unfairly conducted military tribunals resulted in the sentencing of 38 Dakota men to hanging, with Abraham Lincoln signing the final order.

In just under three weeks, that professional football franchise will bring a differently charged Vikings’ home game to my work backyard.  The visiting team will be from the U.S. capital city – Washington, and that team comes both bearing the name “Redskins,” and carrying a owner’s message that he’s not about to change the team name.

In Minnesota – on and beyond campus, where public school and college teams have moved with teams across the US to shed American Indian mascot images and naming – these are moments rich with cognitive dissonance, which philosopher Frantz Fanon sets out in  this way:



And which educational theorists – including William Perry, Marcia Baxter-Magolda, and Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mattuck Tarule – note as that moment when learning shifts from reliance on external authority in meaning making to commitment to making one’s own responsible choices based on gathering ideas across multiple perspectives, weighing possible solutions, and engagement in making knowledge – understanding – with others.  Dissonance is learning.

I look out my office window and see a campus – students and faculty, organizations and departments, workers and leadership – aiming to make of these next several weeks a series of teachable moments.

I look at my UMinnesota and wonder how we will act to fulfill moral imperatives linked to being a land-grant institution.  As another 1862 historical marker, President Lincoln also signed into law the Morrill Act, establishing land grant institutions in each state of the republic in order to “promote higher education as a a way to foster learning, discovery and engagement for the public good.”  In 2012, the University of Minnesota renewed its commitment to the Morrill Act, in stating the need for the University to “find new ways to effectively promote access to higher education and collaborate to advance knowledge that benefits people locally, regionally and around the world.”

More than Somebody Else’s Work:
A View into Bridging Affective & Cognitive Learning

In outlining and addressing the work of bridging emotion and intellect – affective and cognitive learning domains – Jane Fried sets out three sets of teaching practices that are integral – across course and discipline contexts – to teaching in multicultural demographic, historical and content contexts:

  1. Separating facts from cultural assumptions and beliefs about those facts
  2. Teaching students how to shift perspective
  3. Differentiating between personal discomfort and intellectual disagreement

In this section of her article, Fried sets out example these teaching practices, each example vital to understanding ways that such bridging is vital to the everyday work of a land-grant institution proposing to achieve as well as promote access, striving to move from repressive tolerance in “hot topic” discussions to fully collaborative dialogic conversations taking on “wicked problems,” and to advance knowledge through community-collaborative knowledge gathering, making, creating.

Those examples from Fried:

The first is separating facts from cultural assumptions and beliefs about those facts: For example, when Europeans discovered North America, they divided the land, cultivated it, and set up a system of property rights. Europeans considered this to be development, an improvement; Native Americans called much of it desecration, a violation of the mother earth. In assignments and discussions, then, students would be encouraged to explore their own beliefs and cultural assumptions about an event and their effect on interpretation of course material. Engaging in this type of analysis highlights the interaction between facts and the interpretation of facts and trains students to realize that all facts are organized and presented within some frame of reference, which affects understanding and interpretation.

The second skill is teaching students how to shift perspective. Traditionally, they have learned to compare and contrast points of view either through written assignments or in classroom debates. This type of analysis initially mystifies younger students, who expect to learn the Truth from their professors (Perry 1981). Students are much more likely to understand the value of compare-and-contrast assignments when they have already begun to realize that culturally different classmates are likely to interpret information differently (Baxter-Magolda 1992). The point becomes particularly meaningful if students know each other as individuals well enough to use respectful listening and faithful responding (Palmer 1983), developing intersubjectivity as part of learning. A constructivist approach lends itself to this type of discussion more than a positivist approach, which values impersonality, objectivity, and the possibility of one best interpretation or answer If students cannot master the skill of shifting perspectives and respectfully acknowledging the validity of other perspectives without losing control of their emotions, the professor has sufficient authority in the classroom to impose control.

The third skill is perhaps the most difficult to learn, that of differentiating between personal discomfort and intellectual disagreement. Because objectivism generally ignores personal feelings, many academics are skilled in presenting discomfort in the guise of debate, logic, or challenge to premises. Counselor educators who teach the skill of self-disclosure are familiar with the interpenetration of feelings, facts, and opinions and the difficulty in separating one from another. In order to create multicultural understanding, it is necessary that students learn to make those distinctions. If they learn to think and speak in both realms, that of logic and fact, and that of beliefs, values, and personal experiences, they will begin to learn when it is appropriate to challenge and disagree and when it is appropriate to understand, accept, and self-disclose.

More than An Add On: 
A View from My Consulting Notes

I look at my calendar setting out completed and scheduled consultations on affective learning, on supporting high-level learning, on multicultural learning and teaching as everyday practices, and on universal design for learning as a practice for shaking up access – and I see a collective UMinnesota “us” doing access work that adds “a room” here and there but that doesn’t rethink the whole enterprise.  This distinction between transitional adjustment rather than transformational change is highlighted by Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner in a 1994 qualitative study undertaken on this campus:

Turner 2

That consulting calendar with its notes about instructors blending affective and cognitive dimensions of learning tells me that this Minnesota meets Washington match up can – and does – involve all of us in multicultural teaching and learning work everyday: faculty in Design are working with students to rethinking product branding and corporate/business entities, that Architecture students are working with American Indian communities to learn about sustainable housing materials, that Law students join their faculty in conducting new scholarship investigating military law and tirbunals, that economics and statistics majors can work toward answering the ways in which movement away from bias-based naming is actually a winning economic move, that food and natural science students working with native elders and researchers are developing more robust agricultural and environmental strategies, and that students in physics and engineering and astronomy understand the role of collaboration and cooperation in making research and policy decisions about storage of nuclear waste, about movement of fuel resources, and in locating space research facilities.

As a UMinnesota community member, I welcome the invitation to participate openly and honestly, professionally and personally in the Educational Programming series with its goals to increase awareness, discussion and understanding of the effects of stereotyped American Indian mascots and logos in advance of the early November Washington-Minnesota football game.  

As a UMinnesota teaching consultant and learner, I know the many dissonances igniting – and ignited in – the next several weeks come from affective dimensions of our lives, that place from which we feel learning and question fear and wish for engagement and glimpse transformational change as part of human interaction.  In this lead up to the Washington-Minnesota game, our students, colleagues, community members, family and friends among us are telling us – as did the students in Turner’s 1994 study – that the “sum total of daily environment” on this campus is unjust:

 Turner 1I share these resources – some linking to the upcoming Educational Programming on campus, and others to Select Multicultural Learning and Teaching Resources linked both to historical and educational contexts – as affective and cognitive examples of our colleagues thinking toward transformation and justice.

Select Multicultural Learning
and Teaching Resources

Minnesota & US History

Carol Chomsky. “The United States-Dakota War Trials: A Study in Military Injustice.” Stanford Law Review 43.1 (Nov. 1990): 13-98. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1228993.  A legal scholar’s beautifully nuanced scholarly analysis context in public and personal history.

Na’im Madyun. “Commentary: The Redskins at the U – A Tale of Two Stances.” http://news.cehd.umn.edu/editorial-the-redskins-at-the-u-a-tale-of-two-stances.  A scholar of psychology makes use of contemporary research to analyse cultural myths and human behaviors embedded in stances to change and not change naming of this Washington team.

Athletic History

Ellen J. Staurowsky, “’You Know, We Are All Indian’ Exploring White Power and Privilege in Reactions to the NCAA Native American Mascot Policy.” Journal of Sport & Social Issues 31.1 (2007): 61-76. http://www.sagepub.com/healeyds3e/study/articles/06/Staurowsky.pdf.

National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media. http://www.aimovement.org/ncrsm.

Transformational & Affective Learning

Jane Fried. “Bridging Emotion and Intellect: Classroom Diversity in Process.” College Teaching 41.4 (1993): 123-128. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27558610.

Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner. “Guests in Someone Else’s House: Students of Color.” Review of Higher Education 17.4 (Summer 1994): 355-370. Guests article Caroline Turner

Upcoming Educational
Programming – UMinnesota

The University of Minnesota is offering a series of educational programming in advance of the Sunday, Nov. 2 Washington-Minnesota NFL game at TCF Bank Stadium, with the goal to increase awareness, discussion and understanding of the effects of stereotyped American Indian mascots and logos.

The series of educational events kicks off Oct. 24 and was organized with input from students, faculty, staff, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, the state’s other tribes and additional community partners.

They include:

  • Friday, Oct. 24, 6 p.m. – Art Exhibit:  Opening reception for “Bittersweet Winds” exhibit, which runs until 1 December 2014.
    • Features more than 200 items speaking to diversity, stereotyping and racism in the context of using Native American imagery.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 29, 6 to 8 p.m. – Documentary Screening: 1997 award-winning “In Whose Honor? American Indian Mascots in Sports.”
    • Followed by discussion with Charlene Teters, a founding member of the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, and professor at the Santa Fe Institute of American Indian Arts; her work is the subject of Jay Rosenstein’s film.
  • Thursday, Oct. 30, 3 to 5:30 p.m. - “Sovereignty Matters,” a program hosted by the American Indian Studies Department.
    • Topics include the 1862 Dakota homelands, the environment of American Indian sovereignty, the Ojibwe people’s dictionary, sovereignty and archaeological heritage.
  • Thursday, Oct. 30, 6 to 8 p.m. – Perspectives Panel facilitated by Charlene Teters.
    • Panelists include Delise S. O’Meally, National Consortium for Academics and Sports; Michael Taylor, sociology and anthropology professor, Colgate University; and Clyde Bellecourt, American Indian Movement, co-founder.

The following URL links to full listing of free, open-to-the-public Educational Programming events, and to UMinnesota American Indian Resources: https://diversity.umn.edu/americanindianprogramming.






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