Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Toward Developmental Multicultural Education: Case Study of the Issues Exchange Activity

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Toward Developmental Multicultural Education: Case Study of the Issues Exchange Activity

Article excerpt

If teacher educators are to be successful in offering alternatives to the powerful forces of racism and sexism in today's society . . . [they] must challenge student views as well as urge them to recast their view of reality into problems for critical assessment (Ahlquist, 1991, p. 159).

In this article, I explore student readiness for substantive study of multicultural education and the place of role-taking experiences in making the more complex dimensions of multicultural education accessible to teacher education students. I describe Issues Exchange, an activity I use in a graduate course, and how this activity (or activities like it) may serve as a central component of developmental instructional approaches to multicultural teacher education.

Challenges in Teaching About Diversity

Various scholars have analyzed factors affecting students' understanding and appreciation of multicultural education's more emancipatory goals. Among the factors explored are students' knowledge of diversity in U.S. society, their perceptions of the nature of societal inequities, racist and sexist attitudes and beliefs, and students' overall readiness for the study of multicultural education. Ladson-Billings (1991) analyzed preservice teachers' knowledge about U.S. diversity in a study of their knowledge of civil rights and multicultural education issues and found students lacking knowledge of the most elementary facts of U.S. diversity, thus prompting Ladson-Billings to introduce the concept multicultural illiteracy. She described multicultural illiteracy as the inability to be conversant with basic ideas, issues, personalities, and events that reflect the perspectives and experiences of people other than White, middle-class males (p. 151). She concluded that although prospective teachers must learn more about U.S. diversity, courses based solely on the intellectual understandings of multicultural education (i.e., names, dates) are insufficient. Instead, courses must address the substantive exploration of societal inequities and the social visions multicultural education encompasses (p. 155).

King (1991) proposed that liberatory teacher education must incorporate multicultural experiences allowing students to analyze their attitudes and beliefs about the nature and origin of societal inequities. She highlighted the phenomenon of dysconscious racism among teacher education students and its implications for understanding multicultural education: Dysconsciousness is an uncritical habit of mind (including perceptions, attitudes, assumptions and beliefs) that justifies inequity and exploitation by accepting the existing order of things as given (p. 135). King contends that dysconscious racism allows many teacher education students to remain oblivious to substantive issues endemic to the study of multicultural education such as origins of sociocultural inequities and effects of White norms and privileges on the perceptions of many White prospective teachers with no exposure to multicultural environments. She suggested that unchallenged dysconscious attitudes allow many beginning teachers to enter classrooms miseducated and largely unprepared to effect substantive change in a system that historically has been inequitable. King (1991) called for forms of pedagogy and counter-knowledge that challenge students' internalized ideologies and subjective identities (p. 134).

Bennett, Niggle, and Stage (1989) proposed that the multifaceted nature of multicultural education may present overwhelming challenges for some teacher education students. They suggested that some students' intellectual abilities may limit their capacity to engage in the critical analyses necessary in a substantive study of multicultural education. Furthermore, because of their intellectual level, some students, without interventions, may acquire only superficial understandings of multicultural education. Bennett et al. found that students whose intellectual levels demonstrated the least dualistic orientations (i. …

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