Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Re-Living Dangerous Memories: On-Line Journaling to Interrogate Spaces of "Otherness" in a Multicultural Course

Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Re-Living Dangerous Memories: On-Line Journaling to Interrogate Spaces of "Otherness" in a Multicultural Course

Article excerpt

Challenges, posed by Darling-Hammond (1997), require that schools in America do something they have never done before--that is educate all children.

   Building a system of schools that can educate people for
   contemporary society requires two things U.S. schools have never
   been called upon to do. To teach for understanding. That is, to
   teach all students, not just a few to understand ideas deeply and
   perform proficiently. To teach for diversity. That is to teach in
   ways that help different kinds of learners find productive paths to
   knowledge as they also learn to live constructively together.
   (Darling-Hammond, 1997, p. 5)

As university professors, committed to social justice and transformation of institutions, we have broken from what McWilliam (1994) calls "teacher education as a fragmented, not a unified project" (p. xvii), to begin the journey of a counter-discourse to the hegemonic discourse of teaching in the academy. To prepare future teachers to teach for understanding and to teach for diversity require that they interrogate "spaces of otherness"--the geographical spaces of the city where children of color live--and the "dangerous memories" (Caruthers, 2005, p.26) that "keep us [them] from seeing ourselves [themselves] 'oppositionally,' to imagine, describe, and invent ourselves [themselves] in ways that are liberatory" (hooks, 1992, p. 2). Geographical spaces are influenced by cultural and historical images; and, as Soja (cited in Haymes, 1995) contends "portrayed as normal and ordered at the expense of constructing others as abnormal and disordered" (p. 4). Ladson-Billings and Donnor (2005) offer Dubois' concept of double consciousness and Anzaldua's work to explain that identities may evoke "multiple consciousness" (p. 242), formed not only by gender, race, religion, and sexuality, but also "geographic realities such as living along the U.S.-Mexico border, in urban spaces, or on government-created Indian reservations" (p. 282).

Dangerous memories (Caruthers, 2005; Foucault, 1980) are the negative and distorted images and meanings we carry in our minds about race, ethnicity, class, and gender that are linked to cultural and historical precepts. Such memories involve what Anderson (1992) notes as "grand," "master," and "meta" narratives consisting of assimilation ideologies and monocultural perspectives of Anglo-conformity, varying forms of social and economic middle classism, and the perennialism of the melting pot philosophy. Memories, through stories (Caruthers, 2002; 2000; Weaver, Smith, & Daspit, 2002), often influence the structure and organization of schooling and cast poor and culturally diverse children as "other." To be cast as other means "to experience how the dominant meanings of a society render the particular perspective of one's own group invisible at the same time as they stereotype one's group and mark it out as the other" (Young, 1990, p. 59). In other words, dangerous memories perpetuate otherness and must be interrogated rather than repressed:

   that is condemned to prohibition, nonexistence, and silence....
   because this repression is affirmed, one can discreetly bring into
   coexistence concepts which the fear of ridicule or the bitterness of
   history prevents most of us from putting side by side: revolution
   and happiness; or revolution and a different body; one that is newer
   and more beautiful ... (Foucault, 1978, pp. 6-7)

These memories keep us from teaching all children for understanding and teaching all children for diversity. It is within this context that we use this historical moment to reconstruct a course for pre-service teachers that helps them "dig beneath the surface" of the seemingly benign recipes of current school reform with its recipes of "standards," "best practices," and "accountability" to explore and taste difference.

The aim of the course, Cultural Diversity and American Education, is to provide opportunities for pre-service teachers to develop and enhance their knowledge, dispositions, and skills in teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. …

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