Karanja Carroll, an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies, has set a high standard with his impassioned prologues in two classes he teaches: afrocentricity and psychology of the black experience.
Carroll, who was featured in a 2001 New York Times article, can weave a razor-sharp touch that his detractors find abrasive, yet still fuels conscientious debate in a discipline that is often perceived as one-dimensional.
A teacher at Main Campus since the fall of 2001, Carroll is determined to leave an indelible mark on the courses he instructs.
His favorite course is psychology of the black experience, which he said interprets the fundamentals of human behavior and psyche from an African perspective.
“It is the most important class because of the transformation of consciousness; to be engaged and think critically … making the effective changes in the lives of African people and humanity,” he said.
It is this approach that has struck a chord with students. However, it is not his goal to garner fans, nor does he expect praise for his accomplishments. In fact, Carroll encourages constructive critiscm of his style and format.
“I’m open to criticism, but there’s a certain type of criticism that advances the nature of dialogue,” Carroll said.
“I try to disrupt that whole preferential person who knows every damn thing,” he added. “I don’t think I try to be friends with my students, but I try to come to them on an equal footing.”
Former student Melissa Rowe acknowledged his humility. The Temple alumnae, who has majored in broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media, and African American studies, has still found him to be very approachable.
“I appreciate his style or method of teaching because he makes it clear that it is a learning process for all of us, himself included,” Rowe said.
“I think the work that he does within African studies is extremely important. Especially with the course, psychology of the black experience, it’s not just ‘black power’ rhetoric, but truly functional modes of advancing our struggle for liberation.”
Darasia Selby, a junior African American studies major, agreed. The senior has found Carroll’s analysis on the curriculum to be an insightful examination of different philosophies.
“Karanja is a great professor because he challenges his students to think about the world differently and not just accept the ideas and beliefs that we are conditioned to think are normal,” Selby said.
Carroll’s audience is not only reserved for black students. He finds the assumption frustrating and says his teaching is a communal learning forum for all.
“It’s difficult to teach students who are resistant to looking at the world in a different framework,” Carroll said.
“That’s white, brown, yellow. Many people think that if you’re black, you automatically pass,” he said. “But that’s just wrong. African American studies is just like any other vigorous course.”
Off campus, Carroll volunteers at various state correctional facilities three to four times a year.
Regardless of the challenges the future may bring, those closest to him have no doubt that he will rise to the occasion.
Co-worker and friend Cher Love who teaches African American aesthetics, described him as a brother and envisions him to be a progressive force.
“Not only is his scholarship concerning Diop providing a necessary theoretical
base with which to further advance Africana studies as a discipline, but his teaching pedagogy and his knowledge base surpass many of his colleagues,” Love said.
Stephanie Guerilus can be reached at email@example.com.