Critical Consciousness

CLP sites all share a common understanding: to prepare for life as an organizer and agent of social and community change, students benefit greatly from classes which help them develop their understanding of themselves, their fellow students, their community and the broader society.

Critical Consciousness classes tend to touch on some of the following themes:

  • Exploring Personal Histories and identity while delving into issues of race, class, power and privilege, internalized oppression, trauma and healing;
  • Analyzing Structural Racism and other biases and how they affect public policy and the behavior of institutions and individuals, and;
  • Providing Cultural Context to help students understand the communities where they work and to develop their capacities for reflection, critical thinking, active listening, conflict resolution and the building of groups, organizations, coalitions and alliances.

Courses focusing on these deep topics vary considerably from site to site.  They range from 1 credit to 6, and some include field experience exploring these issues and following practices developed in class.  Some are structured as the beginning of a course which then focuses on community organizing, community development or a particular community issue like violence prevention or building a coalition on student housing issues.

But all are aimed at helping prepare students to be thoughtful, effective organizers and change agents.  Drawing from his Native American roots, CLP’s former Field Director Syd Beane emphasizes that to prepare yourself to be an agent of change you must start from where you came from, your ancestors, their rituals, their experiences and their philosophy. It also includes understanding your culture as providing the context for healing, developing a sense of your own power, understanding the people you’re with and building relationships with them.

The following materials reflect the different approaches which educators at CLP sites have developed.  Interviews with students demonstrate that these courses are having a powerful and often transformative impact on them.

Cultivating Consciousness: The Reflection of Self in the Community an OrganizerThis is a one-credit introductory course taught be Professor Vanessa Vela Lovelace as part of the Community Planning and Economic Development Program at CDTech.

Community Planning 10: Comprehensive Community Violence Prevention Strategies: This course, taught by professors Eric Lam and Fernando Rejon at CDTech, includes many sessions on Critical Consciousness of Culture, Community and Self, and of racism and other structural barriers, oppression, trauma, healing and personal transformation.

Building Communication Skills, Consciousness and Relationships: DeAnza College Course on Community-Based Learning in Intercultural Studies:  The DeAnza course on nonviolent communications and self-reflection toward action, taught by Dean Edmundo Norte, is a program highlight for many students.