Design of Dissent: Taking On (Down) the Classrom

In Uncategorized by Rose Silverman

For my Design of Dissent, I wanted to engage with the traditional classroom and its current limitations. AS we are beginning to learn in this class, design is never neutral. The podiums and desks that compose a typical college classroom contain the capacity to reinforce and perpetuate existing power dynamics within “the academy.” This format, in my opinion, limits the potential of the classroom to be a space that is empowering for all of its members. Thus, it limits the potential for everyone to learn and contribute to their fullest extent.

With help from Leo, I engraved a quote from bell hooks (renowned educator, critical race theorist, more) onto a wood panel that symbolizes the floor of a classroom. The quote ideally captures the experience of an educator who can speak to the power dynamic that typically plays out in a college classroom and what happens when educators move beyond the podium, literally and figuratively. By placing 3-D movable representations of a podium and desks on top of this quote, viewers can engage with a classroom design while imagining one that is different from what they are holding/touching/seeing. I used string to connect the desks and podiums together to illustrate the power and interconnectedness of these structures and their “users” (e.g. students and the teacher). Hypothetically, both users could pull on this string to affect the other. There are many ways to interpret the power of this string and what it means about how these users affect one another in the classroom.

Here is a closer look at the full quote from bell hooks that is engraved on the wood panel:
“I remember in my early teaching days that when I first tried to move out beyond the desk, I felt really nervous. I remember thinking, ‘This really is about power. I really do feel more in control when I’m behind the podium or behind the desk than when I’m walking towards my students, standing close to them, maybe even touching them’…you bring with you a certain kind of potential, though not guaranteed, for a certain kind of face-to-face relationship and respect for ‘what i say’ and ‘what you say.’ Student and [teacher] are looking at each other…as people move around it becomes more evident that we work in the classroom.”

-bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress, p.138