Communicating for Diversity: Using Teacher Discussion Groups to Transform Multicultural Education

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Newcastle (Australia)]On: 04 October 2014, At: 15:42Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>The Social StudiesPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vtss20</p><p>Communicating for Diversity: Using Teacher DiscussionGroups to Transform Multicultural EducationDanielle M. De La Mareaa Communication and Visual Arts, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, Michigan, USAPublished online: 19 Mar 2014.</p><p>To cite this article: Danielle M. De La Mare (2014) Communicating for Diversity: Using Teacher Discussion Groups to TransformMulticultural Education, The Social Studies, 105:3, 138-144, DOI: 10.1080/00377996.2013.859118</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00377996.2013.859118</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. 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Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vtss20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/00377996.2013.859118http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00377996.2013.859118http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>The Social Studies (2014) 105, 138144Copyright C Taylor &amp; Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0037-7996 print / 2152-405X onlineDOI: 10.1080/00377996.2013.859118</p><p>Communicating for Diversity: Using Teacher DiscussionGroups to Transform Multicultural Education</p><p>DANIELLE M. DE LA MARE</p><p>Communication and Visual Arts, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, Michigan, USA</p><p>The author argues that in order to create space for authentic multicultural engagement in the face of Eurocentric norms, teachersshould form discussion groups that follow five basic guidelines: engage, dont enrage; be comfortable with negative emotion; watchfor and change unproductive language; talk about everything; and engage in classroom dialogue.</p><p>Keywords: Critical Race Theory, Eurocentrism, multicultural education, dialogue</p><p>Introduction</p><p>Social scientific inquiry historically produced researchbased on the widely accepted notion that European cul-tures were more sophisticated and advanced than others.Contemporary social studies education grew out of thishistory, shaping curricula and pedagogies and often un-dermining multicultural education efforts (Stanfield 1985).But I show that teachers may breathe life into multicul-tural education by engaging with colleagues in meaning-ful dialogue. In this article I first demonstrate how Eu-rocentrism maintains its hold on social studies education.Second, I explain how teachers may carve out space formulticulturalism.</p><p>Literature Review</p><p>The Eurocentric assumptions embedded in early socialscientific research have profoundly shaped contemporarysocial studies education in at least two major waystheperspective from which social studies textbooks approachsocial phenomena and the institutional practices used bythe National Council of the Social Studies (NCSS). Both,as I show later, deeply affect multicultural education ef-forts. First, textbooks are written from the Eurocentricbasis on which the social sciences were found. Stanfield(1985) explains the approach used by authors of sociologytextbooks:</p><p>Address correspondence to Danielle M. De La Mare, Univer-sity of Michigan-Flint, Communication and Visual Arts, 4116WilliamS.White Building, 303EastKearsley Street, Flint, 48502-1950, USA. E-mail: ddelamar@umflint.edu</p><p>In sociology textbooks. . .the central, descriptive, norma-tive, chapters are based upon the sociological attributesof the white experience. Blacks are shunted off into thechapters on deviance, social problems, or race relations.The tendency of contemporary institutionalized social sci-ence to ignore or distort the attributes of Afro-Americanand other racial minority experiences buttresses Anglo-Saxon ethnocentric beliefs and the irrelevance of subor-dinate racial groups (409).</p><p>Stanfield also explains that psychology similarly rep-resents White cultural and racial experiences as normal,standard, and correct. Moreover, in history textbooks, asLadson-Billings (2003) explains, . . . an incoherent, dis-jointed picture of those who are not White, contributesto the long-held social science belief that people of colorare relatively insignificant to the growth and developmentof our democracy and our nation . . . (4). In her analysisof social studies methods textbooks, written for preserviceteachers, Gay (2003) also describes text material to be vir-tually bleached as White concerns are centered and allothers are largely excluded.The second way Eurocentric assumptions embed them-</p><p>selves in social studies education may be seen in NCSSsexclusionary practices. In numerous ways, the NCSS hasactively squelched engagement with issues important toAfricanAmerican, American Indian, AsianAmerican, andLatino experiences. Ladson-Billings (2003) describes howthe exclusion of non-White experiences andunderstandingsat NCSS conferences has been blatant and painful:</p><p>For three years running, the organization held meetings incities serving large communities of color (Detroit, Wash-ington, DC, Cincinnati) and did almost nothing to engagethe larger community. Our meeting rooms and programswere so culturally exclusive it was stifling (6).</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewca</p><p>stle</p><p> (A</p><p>ustr</p><p>alia</p><p>)] a</p><p>t 15:</p><p>42 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>Communicating for Diversity 139</p><p>Although there was a Black Heritage Tour scheduledat the Cincinnati meeting, Ladson-Billings explains that itwas ultimately canceled because of lack of interest. Howapropos! she exclaims, recognizing the palpable hostilitytoward people of color at these events (6).Rains (2003) experiences at NCSS meetings have been</p><p>similarly disconcerting. She tells of a presentation sheattended where she was the only Native person in . . . [a]standing-room-only crowded meeting room (221). There,the colonization efforts of what would become the WesternUnited States was presented to conference participantsfrom a Eurocentric perspectiveas Manifest Destinyand an exciting adventure. Knowing that Native per-spectives should be acknowledged in this presentation ofhistory, Rains mustered the courage . . . to question thegaps and quality of Native representation (22122). Herconcerns were promptly dismissed, however. In an effort tomove on with more important questions, Rains was toldthat the presenters would address her questions once thepresentation ended. It took me by surprise, she writes. Ihad not anticipated that at the biggest social studies con-ference, on the brink of the newmillennia, that there wouldbe such resistance to accuracy (222).Issues like these drove Ladson-Billings (2003) to discon-</p><p>tinue her NCSS membership. She writes, I am sad to re-port that . . . social studies education remains . . . frozen inits old paradigms (5). She explains that NCSS does notmention issues of race and racism in its teaching standards,and in the 1990s, its committee on race and racism wasactually disbanded. Given this monocultural approach tosocial studies teaching, Gay (2003) insists that . . . socialstudies education in both teacher preparation and K12classroom instruction is not nearly as good as it can be andshould be (135).The organizing power of Eurocentrism has not only</p><p>shaped social studies content generally, but multicul-tural education efforts have too been complicit in sus-taining Eurocentrism in the social studies. For example,single-group approaches to multicultural education, inwhich an identified group is studied deeply and compre-hensively, have been consistently criticized for relegatingthe studied group to curriculum ghettos of separatecourses or units, apart from established European-American curricula (Sleeter and Grant 1989). And theseseparate or add-on (Banks 2004) ethnic studies curricu-lar packages may inadvertently promote the stereotypingof the studied group (Kaomea 2005; Sleeter and Grant2003) as well as distort the groups unique cultural perspec-tives (Hermes 2005). For instance, Kaomea (2005) foundproblems with the ways Hawaiian Studies is implementedin Hawaii. In one example of problematic classroom prac-tice, she reports that a fourth-grade teacher split her stu-dents into groups and asked each group to present, tothe class, an aspect of Native Hawaiian history. But be-cause students had only the required textbook to drawon, their presentations echoed the colonialist discourses</p><p>used in the textbook. And as the teacher silently listenedto each group present, Kaomea writes, I cannot help butquestion this teachers decision not to intervene in this par-ticular lesson, where colonial discourses of Native Hawai-ian sadism and savagery were reproduced without chal-lenge (35). Ultimately, as Kaomea demonstrates, in thismulticultural lesson, Hawaiian stereotypes are upheld,colonialism is legitimated, and here again, Eurocentrism isnormalized.Kaomeas example demonstrates Battistes (2008) asser-</p><p>tion that . . . when Eurocentric educators encounter cul-tural difference, they have very little theory, scholarship, re-search, or tested practice to draw on in order to engage . . .learning in a way that is not assimilative . . . (87). So withinan educational system that has been built on a Eurocentricfoundation, teachers often have difficulty teaching aboutperspectives that emerge outside the dominant paradigm.In fact, as teachers attempt to align their pedagogies tothe ideals of schooling institutions, their practices becomenecessarily antithetical to the connection-building processrequired for sound multicultural education (Dudgeon andFielder 2006; Howard 2006; Ladson-Billings 1994; Single-ton and Linton 2006; Sleeter 2005). Britzman (1986) ex-plains how this situation functions pedagogically:</p><p>Curricular organization is fragmented into instructionalactivities reduced to discrete blocks of time, thereby isolat-ing subject areas and decontextualizing skills. This processof fragmentation severs knowledge from its sociopoliti-cal context and consequences, and obscures relationshipswhich connect the student to her/his social world. For ex-ample, in studying the United States Constitution, studentsmay memorize its structural features without acquiring anawareness of their own civil rights. Knowledge takes onthe appearance of a product, something unrelated to thelearners experience and empowerment (444).</p><p>Teaching practice thus mirrors educations emphasis onstandardization, assessment, and efficiency. As it relates tomulticultural education, Merelman (1993) offers an exam-ple of the ways these institutional ideals colonize pedagog-ical practice. In his analysis of the ways African Americanhistory is taught to elementary and middle school studentsinMaryland, he finds that compartmentalization of knowl-edge disallows full multicultural engagement. For example,he describes one teacher who took her middle school stu-dents to the schools media center so that they could re-search famous African Americans in history. Accordingto Merelman, what could have been an intellectually stim-ulating exercise for students was impeded by the overlystructured nature of the lesson. He explains that studentswere directed to answer questions on a worksheet and thatthe teacher spent most of her time not on teaching AfricanAmerican history but on the technical details of filling outthe worksheet.In this exercise African American history was collapsed</p><p>into a series of worksheet items, which effectively denied</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewca</p><p>stle</p><p> (A</p><p>ustr</p><p>alia</p><p>)] a</p><p>t 15:</p><p>42 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>140 De La Mare</p><p>its complexity and context. In his research Merelman de-scribes several scenarios like this, in which no interestingor challenging dialogue emerged . . . about issues of polit-ical strategy, race relations, or political philosophy (343).In fact, as he notes, teachers tended to keep Black issuesseparate from White issues, which served not only tosymbolically segregate historical actors but to ignore theirrelational history. Merelmans work is significant becausehe draws attention to the hypercontrolled nature of class-room practice, inspired by a schooling environment thatemphasizes efficiency and standardization. This scenarioultimately strips multicultural content of its meaning.</p><p>Using Teacher Dialogue to Create Multicultural Space</p><p>Within such an environment, where social studies text-books tell a Eurocentric story,where theNCSSprotects thisone-sided story, and where teaching practice is smotheredby the constraints imposed by the larger practices of socialstudies education and the constraints of schooling institu-tions, I urge teachers to pay close attention to their every-day classroom communicationtheir mundane, taken-for-granted practices. . . (Fassett and Warren 2007, 45).Here, I argue that through dialogue with colleagues, teach-ers may engage in self-examination and ultimately improvetheir multicultural teaching. As teachers collectively carveout dialogic space, free from institutional constraints andtaken-for-granted practices, they may begin to think aboutand ultimately teach about multiculturalism in ways thatare much more respectful, responsible, and meaningfulthan what may otherwise be possible.Fassett and Warren define dialogue as . . . a process of</p><p>sensitive and thorough inquiry. . .we undertake together to(de)construct ideologies, identities, and cultures (55). Inprevious research I found that dialogue among social stud-ies teachers pushed them to think more deeply about howthey taught American Indian Studies (De La Mare 2010).These discussions were, at times, largely contemplative andself-reflective, where teachers willingly discussed the prob-lems they encounter teaching Indians Studie...</p></li></ul>