A health sciences course at Ohio State University called "Individual Differences in Patient/Client Populations" is under scrutiny for pushing students to examine their perceived "white" and "heterosexual" privilege.
The course, offered through the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, explores individual differences in patient populations, covering disability, chronic disease, healthcare disparity, culture, and their effects on health and wellness, according to the Washington Examiner.
During the autumn 2023 online session, the advocacy group Do No Harm reviewed the course. It brought attention to an assignment called "Unpack the Invisible Knapsack," inspired by the 1989 work of feminist scholar Peggy McIntosh. Students were asked to choose from a "White Privilege Knapsack," "Heterosexual Privilege Knapsack," or "Able-Bodied Knapsack" and reflect on their relative privilege.
The assignment included excerpts from McIntosh, such as: "Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon people of color."
Students were required to contemplate their privilege and its impact, with the "White Privilege Knapsack" activity even necessitating an official OSU login for tracking.
The "Heterosexual Privilege Knapsack" did not mandate identification but divided into "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" categories. The report noted an alleged statement that straight individuals "do not need to worry that people will harass or assault" them.
Apart from the knapsack activities, students were obliged to watch the film "White People" and learn to "navigate race" in their daily lives. Critics, including Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, chairman of Do No Harm, expressed concern over what they perceive as adopting "divisive ideologies" in university curricula, emphasizing the potential for a hostile classroom environment.
Concerns arise among certain critics who worry that emphasizing privilege in education may result in a classroom atmosphere marked by division and contention. These critics contend that conversations addressing sensitive subjects, such as race and ethnicity, frequently escalate into heated debates, reported Conservative News Daily.
"They theorize that interactions between groups must be viewed through the lens of critical race theory and the oppressor/oppressed dyad," Goldfarb said. "This is pure identity politics and can only lead to divisiveness and intergroup hostility."
University spokesman Ben Johnson defended the course structure.
"Ohio State believes in academic freedom and freedom of expression, including the free exchange of ideas by students and instructors," he said.
Johnson said the university is committed to fostering an environment "where all viewpoints are welcome and respected."
The course's controversy has sparked a broader debate on education and open dialogue regarding privilege and discrimination. While some argue for fostering understanding and empathy, supporters assert that discomfort and resistance highlight the need for more education.
Jim Thomas ✉
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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