Critical Race Theory and Interest Convergence as Analytic Tools in Teacher Education Policies and Practices

By Milner, H. Richard, IV | Journal of Teacher Education, September-October 2008 | Go to article overview
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Critical Race Theory and Interest Convergence as Analytic Tools in Teacher Education Policies and Practices

Milner, H. Richard, IV, Journal of Teacher Education

In The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education, Cochran-Smith and Zeichner (2005) emphasized that researchers in the field of teacher education need to situate their research and conceptual discussions more solidly in theory. They wrote, "Without locating empirical studies in relation to appropriate theoretical frameworks regarding teacher learning, teacher effectiveness, and pupil learning, it will be difficult to explain findings about the effects of particular teacher education practices" (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005, p. 32) and policies. Similarly, Johnston-Parsons (2007) wrote, "Accounts of teacher education programs and research are often light on theoretical explanations" (p. 1). This critique of the (under)theorization of teacher education is not to suggest that theories and conceptual tools do not exist and are not prevalent in the field to make sense of and to theorize about matters of social justice in teacher education (cf. Banks, 2006; McAllister & Irvine, 2000; Sleeter, 2008; Tatum, 1992).

What follows is a conceptual argument that builds on several central and interrelated suppositions: (a) race is under-theorized in education (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995), and I argue, to a degree, under-theorized in teacher education; (b) critical race theory--and in particular interest convergence (1)--may be a useful tool to analyze policy and practice in teacher education; and (c) the lack of theoretical framing in teacher education is, to some degree, an epistemological issue as much as a conceptual one. Those of us in teacher education may need to concentrate more directly on how we define and build knowledge, how we theorize about it, what knowledge counts as creditable, and who can construct and deconstruct that knowledge (Ladson-Billings, 1999).

I argue that legal scholar Derrick Bell's (1980) concept, interest convergence, a principle of critical race theory, can be used to analyze, explain, and conceptualize policies and practices in teacher education. (2) In particular, because issues of race and racism (3) are deeply rooted in U.S. society (Bobo & Kluegel, 1993), they also are ingrained and deeply imbedded in the policies, practices, procedures, and institutionalized systems of teacher education. (4) Interest convergence could be used as a tool to help explain and operationalize race and racism in the field. It can serve as a tool to elucidate and help make sense of the salience of race and racism in teacher education policies and practices. Clearly, it is important for those interested in teacher education to name the multiple realities that exist in the field, and conceptual tools (categorical language and concepts) can be useful to study, analyze, discuss, and explain realities that can contribute to "raced" policy, practice, research, and theory about and in teacher education. Thus, as an African American male teacher educator, I believe that it is important for me to be able to name my own racialized experiences in teacher education: experiences that have been shaped politically, socially, and culturally. The following question remains, however: Why study race and racism in teacher education policies and practices? (5)

Through this conceptual argument and in the subsequent sections of this article, I attempt to accomplish four salient goals: (a) to outline interest convergence as a tenet of critical race theory, (b) to conceptualize some broad themes of raced interests in teacher education, (c) to apply the interest-convergence principle (6) to teacher education, and (d) to introduce an evolving theory of disruptive movement in teacher education to work toward fighting against racism in teacher education policies and practices.

Critical Race Theory and Interest Convergence

Critical race theory emerged from law as a response to critical legal studies and civil rights scholarship. Critical race theorists are concerned with disrupting, exposing, challenging, and changing racist policies that work to subordinate and disenfranchise certain groups of people and that attempt to maintain the status quo.

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Critical Race Theory and Interest Convergence as Analytic Tools in Teacher Education Policies and Practices


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