Tuesday, February 19, 2008

like a fly in a glass of milk

Driving home from a Diversity in Dialogue meeting that I participate in, I began to think again about racism as a curricular issue. Racism and discrimination have always been issues that I have fought against, but it was only during this past semester that I really came to realize the depth and strength of institutionalized racism in public schools. I see curriculum as playing a large role in perpetuating or changing social inequalities. The traditional school curriculum is inherently racist because the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are valued come from the dominant white male section of society. The instructional methods used and the assessments used favor those who come from the dominant culture. The valuing and devaluing has become so ingrained in so many teachers, administrators, parents, and students.

A perfect example is a conversation I had with a Vanderbilt classmate the other day about cultural responsiveness. This person did not feel that she was being insensitive to cultural differences by teaching standard English, or as she put it, "correct grammar" and "the right way to speak." While I wholeheartedly agree that students of all ethnic or cultural backgrounds need fluent command of standard English in order to broaden their opportunities for success, I think the value my classmate was placing on other dialects shows how so many of us have been trained to be racist. The only reason "white" English is standard English is because white people are the dominant group in society. If black people were the dominant group in society, maybe Black English would be the standard. If Mexican-Americans were the dominant group, maybe the standard would be Spanish or a mixture of Spanish and English. In my Second Language Acquisition course, we read several articles that talked about "additive" vs. "subtractive" bilingualism...that many bilingual students lose their native language because that type of bilingualism is not valued by society the way a native English-speaking student learning Spanish or French would be valued.

I am very encouraged, though, by the attention that equity and multicultural education are receiving now. For instance, I've been impressed that everything I've read by Linda Darling-Hammond mentioned educational equity as an important point. As a teacher and curriculum designer, educational equity is my main focus. I want the curriculum that I design to be culturally responsive, multicultural, and to enable students to become agents of change. As part of the curriculum, I want my instructional methods and assessments to be culturally responsive as well. Now the key is to figure out how to do this....


  1. Fly in a glass of milk?

  2. who are you??

    it's metaphor that a black woman in my diversity group used to describe how self-conscious she felt as a black person in a primarily white environment. i don't remember the exact situation she was describing, but i really liked the strong visual that her metaphor gave.