Dorothy Roberts: Bringing Different Perspectives into the Classroom
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Dorothy Roberts: Bringing Different Perspectives into the Classroom


– For the last 26 years,
I’ve been doing research and teaching largely
on the role of race in legal institutions and other
social institutions as well and how they intersect
with gender and class to perpetuate social inequality and I’ve always
tried to integrate both my social science knowledge and my legal knowledge
in my research and writing and
teaching to understand the role that legal
institutions play in our society in
perpetuating views about race, class, and gender,
and also social inequities along race, gender,
and class lines. I think a good teacher
is one who brings not only new
information to students, but even more importantly,
gets them to think critically about that information,
to think about what are the
underlying assumptions that the scholars that
they’re studying have made. Where did those
assumptions come from? What do those
assumptions tell us about the way our society works? I think one of the
most important things that we can do as scholars,
as students, as human beings is help to end social
inequities in our society and so what I teach and do research on
looks at understanding the mechanisms of
how those inequities are created and maintained. I think one of the main
ways that Penn provides a unique experience
to its students is its interest and devotion
to interdisciplinary research and teaching. I’ve taught at
several institutions. I think Penn is the
most really committed to interdisciplinary study
and interdisciplinary teaching so for example, being
a PIK professor, I am appointed in
two different schools and I teach in two
different schools and I have students from
all over the university, especially in my Race,
Science, and Society course. I have students from
the medical school, nursing school, from Wharton. It’s really a fascinating course not only because of
what I bring to it, but also because the
students are bringing these backgrounds
and different types of education they’re
getting here at Penn into this one classroom. So when I teach
about the use of race in medical practice,
for example, I have nursing and
medical students who can talk about it and
then also sociology students who are studying the
sociology of medicince and philosophy
students who can talk about the philosophy of race. And all these perspectives
come into my classroom and that’s nurtured, I
think, by Penn’s commitment to interdisciplinary
work at all levels.

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