American Presidents and Their Attitudes, Beliefs, and Actions Surrounding Education and Multiculturalism: A Series of Research Studies in Educational Policy: Seventh and Final Installment: Analysis of Power and Leadership in the Presidency

By Baptiste, H. Prentice; Orvosh-Kamenski, Heidi et al. | Multicultural Education, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

American Presidents and Their Attitudes, Beliefs, and Actions Surrounding Education and Multiculturalism: A Series of Research Studies in Educational Policy: Seventh and Final Installment: Analysis of Power and Leadership in the Presidency


Baptiste, H. Prentice, Orvosh-Kamenski, Heidi, Kamenski, Christopher J., Multicultural Education


Introduction

In this series of research papers and projects we have used multicultural education theory to analyze presidential administrations with a special emphasis on their policies dealing with social justice. Our research findings reveal the lesser known aspects of presidential administrations, aspects which have resulted in widespread oppression, discrimination, and marginalization of minority groups throughout the history of this country. In this sense we are unmasking the presidential agendas, revealing the nature of the presidency as it has perpetuated a class of privileged elites, always at the expense of minority groups. By analyzing the presidency in this way, we have been able to contextualize the actions of many of the presidents of the United States, eighteen in this series of articles, through their policies related to issues of social justice.

Any study of the presidency tends to reveal the awesome power of the office and thus the power of the men occupying it. One cannot help but be struck by how the character and beliefs of the president, as transmitted through the power of the office, can impact every facet of our society. What perhaps is most intriguing is how selective a president may be in exercising (or not exercising) this great power.

Our objective in this work is to use multicultural theory as constructed by many prominent multicultural scholars (Banks, 2003; Baptiste & Boyer, 1996; Nieto, 2000; Brown & Kysilka, 2002; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997) to evaluate the performance of the American presidents. To this end, individual American presidents and their administrations have been investigated, using such multicultural theory, to examine and consider how the particular policies of those presidents influenced educational policy and practice.

As we began contemplating the content, context, and praxis of this research three years ago, the following encounters or experiences led to its development:

1. Listening to an interview of Dr. Roger Wilkins by an National Public Radio broadcaster, wherein Dr. Wilkins was sharing his thoughts that led to the writing of Jefferson's Pillow.

2. Listening to an audio tape of James Madison: The American Presidents by Arthur M. Schlesinger.

3. Listening to President G. W. Bush's numerous speeches in which he demonstrated a determination of the U.S. going to war with Iraq.

4. Reading Jefferson's Pillow. The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism.

If one is to accept the thesis that "culture shapes mind, it provides us with the toolkit by which we construct not only our worlds but our very conceptions of ourselves and our powers" (Bruner, 1996), then it naturally follows that some intervention must take place, which is not only culturally sensitive, but totally aware of the intoxicant power of culture which allows most participants to abide by a "doublethink" philosophy at best, and at worst provides them with a myopic view for justifying their position as a God-given right for their inherent status. This "double think" philosophy is illustrated in the following:

Consequently, after Bacon's Rebellion of 1676, itself largely a product of anti-Native American sentiment, when it seemed politically desirable and economically necessary, it was easy and natural to firm up the already established position of blacks as perpetually bottomdwelling, lifelong, and hereditary human chattel. (Wilkins, 2001)

So as Virginia's founding fathers moved into the ten-year period preceding the firing of the first shots at Lexington and Concord-they had been handed a rich bouquet of ways to understand the world, including the freedoms due to Englishman of substance, disregard and even contempt for the English lower orders, the view that Native Americans were dangerous exotics, and the "knowledge" from daily life that blacks were both irretrievably inferior and, at the same time, indispensable to them. …

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