From Dilemma to Decolonization: Higher Public Education as a Site of Repair

Greetings from TLH Cohort 5, Group 3! Our Public Knowledge Project, From Dilemma to Decolonization: Higher Public Education as a Site of Repair, engages our CUNY campuses, classrooms, and curricula as sites where we can unmask, unmake, and help to free students of the ingrained assumption that educational gaps belong solely to them and not to the institutions they trust to educate them. Considering the concrete realities of our campuses, our working-class students’ racialized injuries, and their everyday life demands and priorities in work and care, our project seeks ways in which teaching and learning can originate from the grounds of students’ lives and experiences. Our project is about collectively rethinking and reimagining education as a set of common goods that are a part of striving for and earning a decolonized future.

We, as a 2022 TLH cohort, (1) identified a gap between students’ life experiences, priorities, and conventional rubrics of academic excellence, and (2) engaged and addressed this dilemma/gap by centering students’ needs. By sharing our creative and interventionist approach to learning and teaching, we hope to generate a dialogue and illustrate approaches for decolonizing higher education curricula. 

Inspired by the ongoing prevalence of student achievement gaps and the somewhat cheeky title of bestselling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Victoria’s podcast, “Filling in the Gaps,” features three fall 2022 Composition students discuss their writing about a topic that they wished had gotten some or any airtime in an academic setting. Victoria’s conversations with students focused on patriarchy in a Pakistani family, the invasion of the state into a ten-year old’s home, and the links between language and love, respectively. 

In a similar vein, Madison identified musical traditions sourced from students in her music appreciation classroom, considering their cultural knowledge as a valid contribution to the sonic space of the classroom. The four students interviewed shared musical traditions including Jewish Acapella, Peruvian Psychedelic Cumbia, Karaoke, and Desi Music. Each of these traditions was then researched and worked into lectures for inclusion in Madison’s teaching. 

Hosu Kim’s The Afterlives of Willowbrook proposes the campus land as a critical and fertile site where we can interrogate underlying principles of academic excellence, rigor, mastery and imagine a decolonizing curriculum and a decolonized future for the public university. By carefully considering how the College of Staten Island and the history of the Willowbrook State School are entwined, this public knowledge project seeks to demonstrate how teaching and learning can be organized from piecing together on our literal campuses the intersections between the past and the present. 

We hope you enjoy exploring our commons site,, where each of our projects is housed. Thank you to the TLH team for this opportunity and for your guidance through the creation of our Public Knowledge Project!

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