Critical Pedagogy: Translation for Education That Is Multicultural

By Moss, Glenda | Multicultural Education, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview
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Critical Pedagogy: Translation for Education That Is Multicultural


Moss, Glenda, Multicultural Education


Introduction

Multicultural education has become an issue in public school education. Many universities require undergraduate and graduate level courses to address diversity, multiculturalism, or ethnicity (Banks, 1993). Practitioner preparation is problematized by the wide variety of approaches to multicultural education (Grant & Sleeter, 1986). Maureen Gillette and Carl Grant (1991) express concern about the discontent with multicultural education. The discontent comes from both advocates of multicultural education and scholars who want to preserve the traditional curriculum based on Western culture.

Grant (1994) explains how conservative critics reduce multiculturalism to the "melting pot" perspective, arguing "that the United States has always been `multicultural' so there is, in fact, no controversy" (p. 5). Absent from this multicultural perspective is a critical lens. Lost in this devaluing of multiculturalism is the importance of learning to develop a critical lens that challenges ways of knowing and teaching in the classroom, ways that embrace multiculturalism through a critical pedagogy. The purpose of this study is to critically examine a graduate level multicultural education course to determine its effectiveness inpreparingteachers as critical pedagogues. Specifically, the study examines the translation ofmulticultural learning activities in a college classroom into critical pedagogy in the public school classrooms.

Theoretical Frame

The theoretical frame for this study is guided by the researcher's interest in understanding the potential of critical pedagogy (Sleeter & McLaren, 1995) to serve as a critical lens for teachers in promoting equity, student voice, and democratic structure. The researcher also strongly believes that until university and public school classroom teachers translate critical pedagogical theory (Sleeter & McLaren, 1995) into practice, it will remain only academic theory.

The theoretical frame is grounded in critical pedagogy (Sleeter & McLaren, 1995) and multicultural education (Grant & Sleeter, 1986). Critical pedagogy as a focus of this study seeks to examine teacher learning for classroom practice versus actual teacher practice in classrooms (Gore, 1993; Lather, 1998). Belatedly, critical pedagogical study considers where "education, as an integral part ofthe socialization process, is directed by particular beliefs, values, and interests" (Leistyna, 1999, p. 9). Critical pedagogy questions whose beliefs, values, and interests get to be the foundation and how they reached that plateau. It challenges the hidden curriculum that socializes students into the dominant culture (Leistyna, 1999; Wink, 1997; McLaren, 1998; Gay, 1995; Darder, 1995). It addresses social oppression tied to race, gender, and class (McLaren, 1998; Giroux, 1988; Wink, 1997; Thompson & Gitlin, 1995; Semali, 1998). It challenges curriculum that fosters the unquestioned transmission ofknowledge as"banking deposits" or fi=elingfrom teacher to student as a learning ritual that calls for dispensation and regurgitation (Leistyna, 1999; Kincheloe, 1993; Wink, 1997; Freire, 1998/1970; Knupfer, 1995).

Moving beyond transmission to translation challenges the preparation and practice of teachers. Grant and Sleeter (1986) describe five approaches to multicultural education, including: Teaching the Culturally Different, Human Relations, Single Group Studies, Multicultural Education, and Education that Is Multicultural and Social Reconstructionist. Each program has a different point of focus. Teaching Culturally Different builds on "learning styles, experiential backgrounds, and home language" (p. 106). Human Relations builds "better relations between students of different backgrounds and for building student self-concept" (p. 106). Single Group Studies focus on a particular group. Multicultural Education adds on to the established curriculum by reflecting "contributions and perspectives ofa variety ofgroups" (p.

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