From Racial Stereotyping and Deficit Discourse toward a Critical Race Theory in Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

The sad and simple fact is that while there are some excellent black students.. on average, black students do not try as hard as other students. The reason they do not try as hard is not because they are inherently lazy, nor is it because they are stupid... these students belong to a culture infected with an Anti-intellectual strain, which subtly but decisively teaches them from birth not to embrace school-work too whole heartedly.

_p. E3, George, 2000, quoting John McWhorter

...it is time to `get real' about race and the persistence of racism in America. -Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well, 1992, p. 5

The two epigraphs above exemplify two distinct methods of addressing teacher education in the United States today. While John McWhorter explains the status of African American students in stereotypical, deficit terms, Derrick Bell offers a reminder of the lingering significance of racism and our inability to eliminate it from U.S. society. In this essay, we examine the linkages between a theoretical frameworkcritical race theory (CRT)-and its relation and application to the concepts of race, racism, and racial stereotyping in teacher education.

Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory (CRT) challenges the dominant discourse on race and racism as it relates to education by examining how educational theory and practice are used to subordinate certain racial and ethnic groups (Bell, 1995; Calmore, 1992; Crenshaw, Gotanda, Peller, & Thomas, 1995; Delgado, 1995a&b, 1996; Harris, 1994; Matsuda, Lawrence, Delgado, & Crenshaw, 1993).1 A CRT of education has at least five themes that form its basic perspectives, research methods, and pedagogy:

1. The Centrality and Intersectionality of Race and Racism: A CRT of education recognizes the central role racism has played in the structuring of schools and schooling practices, and that racism intersects with other forms of subordination including sexism and classism. In this, a CRT acknowledges how notions of objectivity, neutrality, and meritocracy, as well as curricular practices, such as tracking, teacher expectations, and intelligence testing, have historically been used to subordinate students of color.2 Critical race theorists also take the position that racism has at least four dimensions: (1) it has micro and macro components; (2) it takes on institutional and individual forms; (3) it has conscious and unconscious elements; and (4) it has a cumulative impact on both the individual and group (Davis, 1989; Lawrence, 1987).

2. The Challenge to Dominant Ideology: CRT examines the system of education as part of a critique of societal inequality. In this, critical race educators challenge dominant social and cultural assumptions regarding culture and intelligence, language and capability, through research, pedagogy, and praxis. Critical race theorists argue that traditional claims of objectivity and meritocracy camouflage the self-interest,, power, and privilege of dominant groups in U.S. society (Calmore, 1992).

3. The Commitment to Social Justice: A critical race framework is committed to social justice and offers a liberatory or transformative response to racial, gender, and class oppression (Matsuda, 1991). We envision a social justice research agenda that leads toward the elimination of racism, sexism, and poverty, and the empowering of underrepresented minority groups.

4. The Centrality of Experiential Knowledge: CRT recognizes that the experiential knowledge of women and men of color is legitimate, appropriate, and critical to understanding, analyzing, practicing, and teaching about racial subordination(Calmore, 1992). Just as "issues of experience, culture, and identity are not the subject of explicit legal reasoning" (Caldwell, 1995, p. 270), lived experiences of students of color are generally marginalized, if not silenced from educational discourse. Critical race educators can utilize methods such as: storytelling, narratives, chronicles, family history, scenarios, biographies, and parables to draw on the strength of the lived experiences students bring to the classroom (Bell, 1987; Delgado, 1989,1995a&b, 1996; Olivas, 1990; Solor-zano, 1998). …