Writing about Human Difference
At Kansas State University, in English, Women’s Studies, American Ethnic Studies, and other departments, faculty have explored ways to use writing in order to engage students in conversations about human difference. For example, English 100 (“Expository Writing I”) introduces students to writing about difference. The textbook used in this course and produced by the Expository Writing Program, Writing Communities and Identities, is a good source for instructors who want more strategies for working with difference.
The writing activities described on this site provide ideas for instructors from sociology, communications, psychology, and many other disciplines who are interested in exploring human difference with their students. These activities may be appropriate for low-stake, writing-to-learn experiences, in which students use writing to research issues, collaborate with their peers, and think critically and creatively. These activities can expose students to different ways of talking about human difference, including linguistic, regional, global, racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other differences. Please explore these activities, which are categorized under these broad categories:
- The Language of Diversity
- Human Difference and the Self
- Visual Analysis
- Researching Difference
As these activities serve to provide ideas for instructors, only brief sketches of them are included in this packet. If you have additional activities or ideas or comments about how these activities worked in your own classes, please email Phillip Marzluf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Challenges of Writing about Differences
Working with Student Assumptions and Resistance:
Engaging difference in the classroom can be a challenging experience for instructors.
U.S. White Students
Students who identify with white and middle-class identities may be skeptical about activities that ask them to analyze their own assumptions about what is “normal,” counter strong beliefs that their lives are governed only by individual choices, and identify how dominant forces in society are sexist and racist.
U.S. Multicultural Students
Students who identify with historically-marginalized identities may be wary of diversity activities that are asking them to teach white students or to represent entire categories of human experience.
International students who come to Kansas State University may wonder how activities that focus on human difference in the United States relate to themselves.
Facilitating Human Difference Literacy:
We should not allow these very real challenges to dissuade us from finding ways for our students to develop another important form of literacy, in which they learn the vocabulary of discussing human difference, such as stereotyping, racism, and privilege; the strategies for researching and inquiring about these issues; and the ways to talk about human difference appropriately to different audiences. Students, especially those who come from monocultural backgrounds, require this human difference literacy in order to be successful students, citizens, and employees.