Tag Archives: EDU6133

A Reflection on Schlesinger, A.M. Jr. (1998) The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society. 3rd ed. Norton .

I read the whole book over the Christmas Holidays, so wanted to go a little slower in light of what we have been talking about in EDU 6133.

Foreword & Chapter 1:  A New Race?


Historically America has been exceptional.  In its founding principles, in its composition, and in its flaws, this country has walked its own path.  Schlesinger trumpets this with quotes from George Washington, Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Millard Fillmore, Teddy Roosevelt, W.E.B. DuBois, Woodrow Wilson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Gunnar Myrdal, Martin Luther King, F Scott Fitzgerald, to Mario Cuomo.  In fact, there is no shortage of reflectors or reflections, paeans and perspectives on the American Experiment.

This destination of countless million immigrants has survived thus far by forging from those alloyed masses, a single identity, i.e. that of the “American”.  The retrograde sentiment of reviving class and clan is seen as a positively backward step, and one that does not bode well for the Republic.


There is tremendous fodder here for politicians on left and right to propose and lament, diagnose and comment, what our course should be moving forward.  Where Schlesinger sees European heritage as a historical fact, and thus valid, he knows that folks across the aisle see that hegemony as the root of the evil that almost caused the fledgling Republic to be stillborn.  Schlesinger is mostly quiet on the duties of the existing status quo to right old wrongs or continue striving for equity in all forums and in all forms.


Personally I find the book eminently thought-provoking.  I believe in American exceptionalism.  I am proud to be an American.  I do not turn a blind eye to her faults.  I believe in progress and the ability to right old wrongs or prevent new ones.  I subscribe to the Myrdal’s “American Creed”.

The schools teach the principles of the  Creed, Myrdal said; the churches preach them; the courts hand down judgments in their terms.  Myrdal showed why the Creed held out hope even for those most brutally excluded by the white majority, the Creed acting as the spur forever goading white Americans to live up to their proclaimed principles, the Creed providing the legal structure that gives the wronged the means of fighting for their rights.  “America,” Myrdal said, “is continuously struggling for its soul.”



Schlesinger decries the new factionalism under the name of multiculturalism, asserting that diversity fanatics are taking us in the wrong direction.  From our class we have consistently defined diversity as race, ethnicity, spiritual practice, sexual orientation, gender, age, socio-economic status, physical abilities, political beliefs or other ideologies.  This book is only treating dangers he perceives in emphasizing the pluribus of race and ethnicity over the unum of the American experience.  Thus I don’t believe he is really countering multiculturalism in all its dimensions.  Nor do I think he would argue against acceptance and respect in those other dimensions.  That he would admit that fundamentally a system made up of individuals could be racist and need reforming is doubtful.  That he would approve of active means to correct wrongs done to individuals in any of those aspects of diversity is also doubtful.

Looking forward to re-reading the other chapters and Epilogue and commenting further.

Chapter 2: History the Weapon


In this chapter Schlesinger argues that those who write history have often interpreted that history for their own ends.  As examples he cites:  Russian, German, Japanese and Czech civilizations that have all suffered under the effects of history as weapon.  In this country, historically marginalized communities like the Irish, or the Catholics or the Jews have risen up and asserted their voices in history.  Most notable to Schlesinger in recent times are the African Studies scholars and proponents of Afrocentrism.  


Schlesinger writes that “the corruption of history by nationalism is instructive (p. 53).”  Nationalism is one “fever” sweeping the world, and also seems to infecting the US.  There are two types of history that are used to protect the ruling class, “top-dog history” also referred to as “exculpatory history” and “underdog history” which he also refers to as “compensatory history”.  The struggle between those is a main topic of the rest of this chapter.


I find this chapter non-controversial.  It was Winston Churchill that said “History is written by the victors.”  This saying has been played out over and over again in the course of human experience.  That te pendulum of historical reporting swings back from one side of the story to another side seems inevitable.  That Afrocentrism was a response to Eurocentric histories and an attempt to reverse their biases and remedy their shortcomings seems laudable.  I do not disagree that marginalized cultures need some sense of history and a means to mediate their claims and contributions. 


I believe the following quote sums up this chapter:

Salvation lies in breaking the white, Eurocentric, racist grip on the curriculum and providing education that responds to colored races, colored histories, colored ways of learning and behaving. Europe has reigned long enough; it is the source of most of the evil in the world anyway; and the time is overdue to honor the African contributions to civilization so purposefully suppressed in Eurocentric curricula. Children from nonwhite minorities, so long persuaded of their inferiority by the white hegemons, need the support and inspiration that identification with role models of the same color will give them. (p. 70)

Chapter 3: The Battle of the Schools





Chapter 4: The Decomposition of America





Chapter 5: E Pluribus Unum?





Epilogue: Multiculturalism, Monoculturalism, and the Bill of Rights:  Update on the Culture Wars





What I have Learned from Banks so Far

The biggest lesson I have learned from Banks so far is that there is really no down-side to being a culturally diverse teacher and striving to build a more multicultural education. Especially in math and science, there is an incredibly diverse body of contributors to past and current understanding in both fields. And yet, studies continue to indicate that race, gender, SES all contribute to a student’s prospects for success in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). By not seeking transformative multicultural education, I believe we are impoverishing these fields, that is, we are limiting the progress of ideas in these areas of knowledge by not questioning the cause of limited aspirations of historically marginalized groups. The key to changing this, according to Banks, is to work actively to transform education, to forge equity pedagogy in classrooms across America.

The transformation starts small with building a corps of teachers that value cultural competence, that practice regular and deep content integration in their daily lesson plans. These teachers will not be blind to the diversity in the classroom, but will engage it, and will celebrate it in each individual. They will work to reduce prejudice by interrogating their own assumptions, their students’ assumptions and the assumptions in their texts and sources. The transformation continues as more teachers revise their curricula, differentiating their instruction to recognize and celebrate the backgrounds of the students in their charge. These teachers will encourage others to do the same. They will assume their role as facilitators of knowledge construction to create environments where all students identify that their own implicit cultural assumptions, frames of reference and biases are real and yet they still have a role to play, a contribution to make to form a more just community, a more fair society and a more hospitable world. Finally, progress is assured if the entire school culture is transformed to empower students. We as teachers must strive to increase proportionality in student achievement; to end grouping and labeling practices; to foster healthy interaction of students across ethnic, racial and SES lines. It rests on teachers to start this process of transformation and to see it through.

I am convinced that it is only up-side benefit and positive potential to help inspire students from different race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, spiritual practices, political beliefs and other ideologies. By enfranchising these students, we build a stronger country, a stronger future.


Banks, J.A., & Banks, C. A. M. (2010) Multicultural Education Issues and Perspectives (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. p. 22.

How does gender bias, prejudice against the LGBTQ community, Native Americans, ELL and students with disabilities play out in our schools?

Fisher, Komosa-Hawkins, Saldana, Thomas, Hsiao, Rauld & Miller (2008) state:

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning (LGBTQ) students are likely to be in every classroom in every secondary school in the United States; yet, their needs are often overlooked. LGBTQ students are at risk for developing academic, social, and emotional problems due to harassment and bullying experienced at school. Although schools have an ethical and legal duty to provide a safe educational experience for all students, few schools implement policies and programs to support LGBTQ students.

For all the groups under consideration here, this is sadly a model for how these prejudices play out.  Curricula is insensitive.  Pedagogy is undifferentiated.  Facilities are unfriendly and resources are characterized by inequity.  But most importantly culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students are often bullied, ridiculed and harassed by their schoolmates.

Chambers, Van Loon & Tincknell (2004) observed that among boys and girls, misogynistic namecalling or disrespectful language was used and was hardly even noticed by the teachers and administration.  This fact should point to us a way out.

When the New York City Department of Education had a “Respect for All” Training Program, even after one year students gave their schools a friendlier rating (Greytak, Kosciw, & Gay, 2010).  The price of a more civil educational environment is vigilance to inequities that are encountered every day.

When Native American or English Language Learning are disproportionately represented in Special Education, the inequities caused by rough speech or subtle segregationist attitudes have become entrenched  (Ferri & Connor, 2005).  The use of respectful language, and fair evaluations of ability with an eye to accommodate the needs of all the learners in a classroom will also promote fairness for exceptional learners.

Our schools do not need to be places where incivility and disrespect rule the day.  Our response cannot be indifference, though, we need to meet the prejudice head on and head it off before it does its damage to another generation.


Chambers, D., Van Loon, J., & Tincknell, E. (2004). Teachers’ Views of Teenage Sexual Morality. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(5), 563-576. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Ferri, B. A., & Connor, D. J. (2005). In the Shadow of "Brown": Special Education and Overrepresentation of Students of Color. Remedial and Special Education, 26(2), 93-100. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Fisher, E. S., Komosa-Hawkins, K., Saldana, E., Thomas, G. M., Hsiao, C., Rauld, M., & Miller, D. (2008). Promoting School Success for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning Students: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Prevention and Intervention Strategies. California School Psychologist, 1379-91. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Greytak, E. A., Kosciw, J. G., & Gay, L. (2010). Year One Evaluation of the New York City Department of Education "Respect for All" Training Program. Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Reflection: How does differentiating instruction address the goals of a transformative multicultural learning environment?

James A. Banks (2010) gives a summary of multicultural education thus.

Multicultural education is an idea stating that all students, regardless of the groups to which they belong, such as those related to gender, ethnicity, race, culture, language, social class, religion, or exceptionality, should experience educational equality in the schools. Some students, because of their particular characteristics, have a better chance to succeed in school as it is currently structured than students from other groups. Multicultural education is also a reform movement designed to bring about a transformation of the school so that students from both genders and from diverse cultural, language, and ethnic groups will have an equal chance to experience school success. Multicultural education views the school as a social system that consists of highly interrelated parts and variables. Therefore, in order to transform the school to bring about educational equality, all major components of the school must be substantially charged. A focus on any one variable in the school, such as the formalized curriculum, will not implement multicultural education. (Banks, 2010, p. 25)

To wit, a truly transformative multicultural learning environment is not achieved merely by changing a few lesson plans.  Instead, instruction must be thoroughly differentiated and attitudes and equity-favoring perceptions must spill over from the classroom so that even the whole school culture is changed.  In particular, this reflection examines how differentiated instruction (D.I.) addresses each of the dimensions of multicultural education, in Figure 1.4 below (Banks 2010, p. 23)


As Banks notes, differentiated instruction is often and erroneously limited to just the content integration dimension of multicultural education.  Content integration is a necessary condition of realizing a transformative multicultural learning environment, but it is not sufficient.  The effective teacher daily differentiates instruction via creative content integration.

Differentiated instruction is essential in facilitating “the academic achievement of students from diverse racial, cultural,  gender and social-class groups (Banks, 2010).”  As teachers plan lessons that aim to challenge and maximize the performance of all students, the learning environment is powerfully transformed.  Equity pedagogy is crucial for achieving a truly multicultural education.  A teacher that believes this in their core philosophies:  that all children can learn, that all children can grow, that all children can contribute to society, that teacher is changing the world.

Knowledge construction is a dimension of multicultural education that also can be achieved through differentiating instruction.  In particular, by designing lessons and interactions that allow student to probe their “cultural assumptions, frames of reference, perspectives, and biases (Banks 2010)”, teachers help students build an understanding of other cultures. By creating space for these other voices the learning environment is transformed.

Through modifications of curricula and pedagogical methods, a student’s racial attitudes can be teased out.  This is the prejudice reduction component of multicultural education.  Here again a vigilant teacher can devise exercises which highlight points where biases are being brought to the table and help students work through them.

However, differentiated instruction does not alone build an empowering school culture.  To be sure differentiated instruction is a fundamental part of the school as social system that Banks (2010) describes in Figure 1.5.

Banks 1.5 De-Skewed

For example, it is clearly beyond the scope of an individual teacher to set school policy and politics, or build a counseling program, or foster overall community participation and input.  And it is especially true that differentiated instruction alone will not significantly change those school-wide characteristics.  However, instruction is still the backbone the school social system.  Differentiated instruction is a major part of teaching styles and strategies, formalized curriculum, instructional materials, and assessment and testing procedures, i.e. other foundational parts of the system.  Each teacher can lend their support to buliding an empowering school culture.

Finally, we have briefly examined the characteristics of multicultural education.  We have also discussed how direct instruction can serve to support most of those characteristics.  We have asserted that instructional methods can either move a given school closer to a transformative learning environment or farther away.  There is still work to be done outside the classroom at any given school, but differentiated instruction is a major factor toward reaching the goal of multicultural education.


Banks, J. A. (2010). Multicultural Education: Characteristics and Goals. In J. A. Banks & C. A. M. Banks, (Eds.). Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives (7th ed). NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

National School Choice Week is this week, Jan 23-29

If you want to see a screening of “The Cartel” at Antioch, it is showing on Thursday night.  Click here for more information.

Reflection: Political Correctness

A] What is important for us to recognize about being politically correct in our position as teacher?

After a brief survey of current and past usage of the term political correctness, I’m dismayed to see that there is little descriptive power left in the term. To be sure, there is polarizing power in the label, but it seems to be devoid of any of its original intent namely to denote

language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, religious belief, disability, and age-related contexts.  In current usage the term is primarily pejorative… (Wikipedia, 2011).

Most importantly a teacher today striving to be politically correct is inviting criticism.  I think that is warranted since this concept of “minimizing offense” is most curious and seems untenable for real teaching. Poole (1998) describes the positively stifling effect of such thinking.

I object to any form of political correctness–Left or Right–that attempts to limit deep and thoughtful examination of complex cultural issues. …Students become reticent at speaking out or taking positions on these issues for fear of alienating faculty or offending their colleagues.  (Poole, 1998)

In the interest of open discussion in the classroom, I would rather expose the closet white supremacist in the classroom who thinks Hitler was a dynamic leader, or the bigoted student who thinks it is "OK" to condone physical abuse of homosexuals, or the student who just naturally and uncritically assumes that boys are better than girls in school.  I would rather encounter those sentiments in open discussion, versus driving them further underground.  As long as the discussions were civil and conducted with respect, I would not try to censor them in an effort to be politically correct. 

That is not to say that I disagree that words have power, or that words belie potential action (Andrews, 1996).  On the contrary, it is out of respect for words, and recognition that words and concepts can change ,that I would allow discussion on potentially taboo subjects.  These discussions are uncomfortable, and as a white, privileged male, I cannot begin to grasp the breadth of sentiments deeply held, or their profound ugliness to certain segments of our diverse society.  However I would not wink at a euphemistic replacement for the offensive term.  My counterproposition to these beliefs would be the golden rule, that we fundamentally should treat others as we would like to be treated.  That equity combined with the power of free inquiry and free society will cause these ideas to fall flat under greater scrutiny. Muzzling them is not good for the classroom and not good for society.

Personally, I counter all hate speech with "love speech", namely the two greatest commandments. Jesus says: "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."

B] What are the negative aspects of being politically correct in our position as teacher?

As mentioned above, enforcing political correctness for ourselves as educators and students in the classroom tends to stifle dissent or differing opinion that could be instructional. In the realm of moral education Plantinga (1995) points out the inherent weakness of political correctness when it comes to values.

To be sure, the politically correct … are still willing to make moral judgments — but only of those who make moral judgments. They say things like this: “It is always wrong to make moral judgments (Midgely 1991).”

C] What is the difference between being politically correct and culturally sensitive?

Political correctness implies subscription to an orthodoxy, i.e. some agreement on what terms and concepts are most acceptable.  Political correctness can often come at the expense of plain or easily understandable speech.  In contrast, a person that is culturally sensitive is characterized by an openness and awareness of social, racial, ethnic and class issues.

According to Google labs, the term “culturally sensitive” is gaining more usage in print. While it has not supplanted the term politically correct from 1980-2008 it is occurring almost as frequently as “politically correct”, especially if “culturally sensitive” is combined with “culturally competent”.  See Exhibit A.


Exhibit A.
Google Labs Books Ngram Viewer (2011)



Andrews, E. (1996). Cultural sensitivity and political correctness: The linguistic problem of naming. American Speech, 71(4), 389. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Google Labs Books Ngram Viewer. (2011) “politically correct” versus “culturally competent” versus “culturally sensitive”.  Retrieved January 20, 2011 from http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=politically+correct%2Cculturally+sensitive%2Cculturally+competent&year_start=1980&year_end=2008&corpus=0&smoothing=1

Midgely, M. (1991).  Can’t we make moral judgements?  (p. x) New York:  St. Martin’s Press.

Plantinga, C. (1995). Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. (pp. 100-101). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Poole, D. L. (1998, August). Politically Correct or Culturally Competent?. Health & Social Work. p. 163. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Wikipedia. (2011). Political correctness.   Retrieved January 18, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness

Reflection on the Definition of Diversity

One widely used definition of diversity, is as follows.

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.  (Oregon DHS, 2010)

Respect for diversity, I believe, has to start with the individual who is seeking to build this acceptance and respect.  That individual needs to assess their own background and differences, to see the inclinations to prejudice that may exist.  That awareness lends them more success in efforts to build a safe, positive and nurturing environment where other differences can be explored.

Banks and Banks (2010) point out the sociology of groups which explains how human beings seek to define their in- and out-groups as a means of defining identity.  The problem naturally comes when group tensions arise from competitions or disagreements.  However, diversity as formulated above urges instead that differences between individuals be our focus and that we embrace and celebrate dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.

I like the focus on the individual in the above definition and heed well the necessary caution that groups are not a determiner of behavior but a predictor (Banks & Banks, 2010, p. 13).  I think multicultural education fails if it loses this focus on the individual, namely individual as impacted by their group-of-origin, but not necessarily bound to that group for all future behaviors.

For example, when acknowledging different races in the classroom, the group African-American, as a truly informing label for members of that group is in question.  One could further ask if students in the classroom that fall into that group are:

  • recent immigrants from Africa (a large continent with numerous macro- and micro- cultures),
  • from the east coast, west coast, southern, or northern parts of the U.S, and thus familiar with various regional flavors of racism and prejudice
  • members of some other differentiating group

As I reflect on the above definition, I realize that sensitivity to diversity starts with me, and that effective embracing of the individual means not relying on the diversity group they are in, but endeavoring to push beyond that and learn details about the individual which happens to have affinities with the group.



Banks, J.A., & Banks, C. A. M. (2010).  Multicultural Education:  Issues and Perspectives.  (7th ed.)  John Wiley & Sons.

Oregon Department of Human Services. (2010). Diversity:  Definitions of Diversity and Cultural Competence.  Retrieved January 11, 2011 from http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/aboutdhs/diversity/definitions.shtml

Hey Cohort, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and See You in Class!


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