Hitting the Ground Running: Why Introductory Teacher Education Courses Should Deal with Multiculturalism

By Cruz-Janzen, Marta I.; Taylor, Marilyn | Multicultural Education, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Hitting the Ground Running: Why Introductory Teacher Education Courses Should Deal with Multiculturalism


Cruz-Janzen, Marta I., Taylor, Marilyn, Multicultural Education


THE PROBLEM

I know I still have a lot to learn but I have a foundation. I know that I don't know a lot and need to learn more. I have to accept that I have biases, I cannot feel guilty because that is what I was taught growing up. But I know that I have to examine myself. Like you always said, "critical introspection and critical reflection. " I remember when I didn't know what that was. All teachers must do this. It must start inside with you, then out with the students. Whenever I am writing a lesson plan or getting materials for my class I remember the forms of bias and ask who is being left out here. I ask if I was in any way biased. This course prepared me for that and I am glad it was the very first course I took. I know teachers in schools today that still don't know this. Don't even have a due the damage they do to kids. I try to tell them but they think they know it all and some think I want to be smarter than them. A friend just graduated from [another institution], never took a single course in multicultural education. I see it in her classroom and the things she does. She always wonders where I learned all these things. How can anyone become a teacher and not learn these things? It should be required! (Spring 2000)

These are the comments of a teacher candidate who completed the introduction to education course at the institution where this study was conducted. This candidate's comments suggest intentional reflection, awareness of personal biases, and purposeful curriculum monitoring to ensure inclusiveness. This candidate is aware that not all teachers examine bias as he/she does, and that not all programs prepare teachers for this task. Like this candidate, others with a foundation in multicultural education agree that we have a problem.

Teachers are not being adequately prepared, before or after entering the profession, to work effectively with the increasingly diverse student population they encounter in public P/K-12th schools. Experienced administrators and teachers consistently express a need for teachers who are better prepared to work with a "diverse student mix" in urban settings (Truog, 1998). The current study was conducted to assess and strengthen one program's approach to multicultural education to meet this need.

Many multiculturalists point out that White/Caucasian, monolingual, middle class teachers' life experiences differ markedly from most of their students (Banks, 1991; Derman-Sparks & Phillips, 1997; Howard, 1999; Lawrence, 1997; Ooka Pang, 2001). Most acknowledge the importance of teachers stepping outside of their own cultural framework, knowing about, and respecting the diverse cultures, races, languages their students represent.

But Lipman (1993) suggests that teachers can be very resistant to change; their ideologies and convictions about children of color and their intellectual potential tend to remain unchanged in spite of information to the contrary. Zofko Lattragna (1998) found that White/Caucasian college students, particularly males, are most resistant to multicultural education. This is alarming because most students in higher education across the nation, including those pursuing the teaching profession, are White/Caucasian.

Preparation in multicultural education can occur before or after entering the profession. Still, once candidates become teachers, effective multicultural education can be hard to come by. Unless teachers enroll in continuing and/or post baccalaureate courses, they are often exposed to new information only through short, mandated in-services/workshops that take place after a long workday. Workshops tend to be superficial; termed "dog and pony shows" that do not provide the quality time needed to fully explore and understand issues of multiculturalism and are unlikely to bring about key and enduring personal changes.

To the contrary, they can serve to further trivialize the issues, focus on single fixes, and add to the confusion, frustration, distrust, and alienation already felt (Cruz-Janzen, 2000). …

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