Using Social Frameworks and Trusted Influencers to Mediate Inter-Generational Conflicts over Social Justice in the Classroom
- Type: Conference Presentation
- Conference Type: AIChE Annual Meeting
- Presentation Date: November 8, 2021
- Duration: 18 minutes
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- PDHs: 0.50
Social justice is a critically important concept that should be included as an important criterion in all aspects of society, and chemical engineering is no different. While the push for social justice has long been motivated in the U.S. by our constitutional concepts of equality and equal protection under the law, modern use of cell phone cameras have shown we are woefully inadequate in our execution. Chemical engineering is no different, and efforts to address the disproportionate negative and positive effects of chemical technology on various demographics should be included in our curriculum to produce ethical chemical engineers. To date, most of our engineering students are not as engaged in the social justice movement as many of their counterparts in non-STEM majors are. As such, many chemical engineering educators are not as familiar with the execution of social outreach with their students. Generational differences between many of our Boomer and Gen-X faculty can create significant conflicts with our students, particularly those in the Internet or Z Generation. Drawing on over a decade of work using humor to facilitate educational outreach in the science and engineering fields, we have observed these conflicts first hand. These conflicts are very apparent when using applied humor because the parody inherent in humor can easily trigger such conflicts. Our hypothesis, and those of other researchers, is that the balance between intent and impact is at the root of these conflicts. Despite the fact the both generations are committed to the same social justice agenda, this precarious balance between intent and impact can make bitter enemies out of two parties working for the same goal. Engineering educators need to understand that impact is a much higher priority than intent for many of our current students and conflicts can easily arise that lead to lawsuits and dismissal of educators over differences in perception of intent. There are social/psychological frameworks such as the concept of âUnconditional Positive Regardâ that can help faculty avoid these conflicts while discussing social issues in class. We have implemented such a framework in âHumor Genomeâ class to alleviate conflicts over the controversial nature of humor and parody. This concept is well-characterized by many of our colleagues, including in the writings of Haidt and Lukianoff on the âCoddling of the American Mindâ. Unfortunately, perception of intent makes these writings suspicious in the eyes of members of Generation Z. Fortunately, similar concepts are espoused by younger social media influencers that are trusted by students so they may be used to address these perception differences in intent and impact to mediate such conflicts. We will discuss the origin of these conflicts in the balance between intent and impact, and show examples from our experiences and from the literature on how conflicts may develop therefrom. We will also discuss how social frameworks and the perspective of trusted influencers may be used to mediate such conflicts should they arise in our efforts to address social justice in the engineering classroom.
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|AIChE Member Credits||0.5|
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|AIChE Undergraduate Student Members||Free|