Kersuze Simeon-Jones, Africana Studies & World Languages
Kersuze Simeon-Jones, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Africana Studies & Word Languages
College of Arts and Sciences
My teaching philosophy is based on three principles: 1) appropriate education, for
the purpose of individual development and social transformation—one's immediate community
and the global world; 2) conscious responsibility and conscientious pedagogical approach
of the educator; 3) the significant process of cultivating each student's practice
of responsibility for his/her education.
The concept of appropriate or relevant education was theorized by Black scholars and activists throughout the twentieth century. It is the philosophy that students of African descent should be taught the comprehensive history of Africa—pre-slavery to current era—as well as the political, social and intellectual histories of African descendants of the world. Such crucial component of their education would be to their benefit and the benefit of society. In 1964 Malcolm X took it further to explain that the history of African descendants, along with the history of other groups, should be available to all students—also for the benefit of society. This philosophy influences my teaching as I seek to legitimize a curriculum that presents non-western thoughts.
I view the university setting as the space where students prepare in particular fields or disciplines, with a community and global vista. The practice of an appropriate education, particularly in reference to the Africana Studies courses that I teach, refers to the process of being grounded in historical knowledge in order to better contextualize the world, and live an informed and constructive life in one's own era.
In all courses, I have adopted pedagogies that are defined by diverse teaching and learning methods. Aware of the various ways of learning among the student body, a diverse approach gives students the opportunity to be engaged with the course content and to learn actively. Each of the courses include: lectures, class discussions, small-group activities, presentations, short weekly written analyses throughout the semester, and a final-research paper. As a scholar and educator I understand that part of my responsibility is to continuously further my knowledge, in order to reflect on and revise my analyses when necessary. Students are also encouraged to go beyond the given materials (from the syllabus) in order to expand their intellectual horizons. Preparation, the acquisition of new knowledge, the revision of pedagogical strategies, and the thorough articulation of critical thoughts are crucial for both the educator and the students. Sound research and analysis are skills and practices from which students can benefit every day, in any profession.
In terms of social participation and transformation, students are responsible for their respective intellectual development. Certainly, I understand my role in assisting them to that end. Such lesson is vital, as accountability goes beyond the classroom. Students are required to read assignments attentively before class in order to participate in informed discussions, and acquire a greater understanding of the subjects of study. The course discussions offer students the opportunity to individually, as well as collectively examine and interpret facts, ideas and theories. Contextualizing their acquired knowledge, students develop and apply critical thinking skills to examine the relevant lessons of the 19th and 20th centuries on contemporary (twenty-first century) social evolution: leadership, service, the lessons of social and political organization, and humanism in a global framework.
The national and transnational dimensions embedded in the courses require students to distinguish national specificities while recognizing the common aims of various social movements as well as the lessons of constructive leadership, for the purpose of social transformation. The in-depth and careful study of movements and leadership help contribute to continuing community building objectives. By the end of the semester students gain detailed knowledge that enables them to conduct their own research projects and formulate theories and programs of social transformation. Ultimately, the students influence my teaching philosophy. As we continue to evolve as a society, and their modes of acquiring knowledge change, I will continue re-examine my analyses and methodology.
Thus far, their intellectual needs and the adopted pedagogical method seems to work well, as their evaluations reveal. The following two philosophies from W.E.B. Du Bois (American sociologist, historian and civil rights activist) and Kwame Nkrumah (first president of Ghana) influenced and support my intellectual approach. In 1940 Du Bois wrote, "Manifestly, the civilized people of the world have got to be characterized by certain things; they must know this world, its history and the laws of its development. They must also be able to reason carefully and accurately..." With a similar viewpoint in 1948—in his effort to organize for a successful nation—Nkrumah reasoned: "As never before we want thinkers—thinkers of great thoughts. We want doers—doers of great deeds. Of what use is your education if you cannot help your country in her hour of need?" The philosophy of critical thoughts and careful deeds examined in the classroom can be extended to the global world community. It is the union of conscientious academic work and the improvement of the global human condition. To that extent the courses meet the University's goals of: "well educated and highly skilled global citizens," and "High-impact research to change lives...and foster positive societal change."