Pedagogy of Difference and Access to Higher Education
Prof. Hanan Alexander
Dean of the Faculty of Education
University of Haifa
Pedagogy of Difference is a philosophy grounded in the idea that the task of education in a liberal democracy is to prepare citizens whose beliefs, values, and ways of life are deeply different from one another to live together in peace. Every person is entitled to an education in an identity to which they are heir or with which they chose to affiliate, in this view, provided that such an identity enables dialogue with others whose identities are different from one's own. Such an education presumes that to know ones' own identity one must engage others who are different, but to engage others, one must come to understand oneself.
Education for democratic citizenship, therefore, requires not only robust initiation into a particular tradition of beliefs and values, based in culture, religion, language, history, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, and more, but also exposure to viewpoints which are different from that tradition. In an age in which we have lost faith in the possibility of an objective view from nowhere, such an education allows one to gain a critical perspective by viewing one's own identity from both the inside and the outside, as it were, from within the assumptions of a particular orientation as well as from the perspective of an alternative position that may raise hard questions about one's beliefs and practices.
According to this position, it is not only an obligation of the privileged to reach out to marginalized populations such minorities, the disabled, and women, in order to afford them access to higher education, which is the right of all people, it is also a necessity to achieving academic excellence and promoting democratic liberties, which demand the sort of critical perspective acquired by engaging with people whose views and life experiences may be different from one's own.