Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

(Re)considerations of Ignorance and Resistance in Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

(Re)considerations of Ignorance and Resistance in Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

The student population in K-12 settings in the United States is increasingly racially and ethnically diverse (e.g., Banks, 2008; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). The teaching population is consistently overwhelmingly White (Frank, 2003). White teachers ought to know some things about the increasingly diverse nature of those who will soon be their students (Darling-Hammond, 2006). By now, it has become commonplace to foreground these trends and address their attendant issues in teacher education. There are several theoretical approaches and bodies of literature that use these baseline trends as provocations for significant and powerful change in teacher education: critical pedagogy (e.g., Giroux & McLaren, 1994), antiracist pedagogy (e.g., McDonough, 2009), multicultural education (e.g., Asher, 2007), culturally relevant teaching (e.g., Ladson-Billings, 1996), and culturally responsive teaching (e.g., Villegas & Lucas, 2002), among others. Each of these approaches differs with regard to the epistemological, ontological, and pedagogical processes involved and, more so, about the goals and purposes of education and their relation to broader societal issues. However, they all share a common understanding about the need for meaningful explorations of race in the context of education and its relation to issues of power. They also reflect broad acknowledgment that race has a consequence in education whereby racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented in education settings that are under-funded and poorly resourced (e.g., Weis, 1998) as well as a central concern in teacher education: that teachers be both responsive to and responsible for the learning of students who are racially and ethnically different from them.

Whether addressing diversity issues in specific, designated courses and/or infusing issues of diversity across teacher candidates' academic preparation (Cochran-Smith, 2004; Gay & Kirkland, 2003; Melnick & Zeichner, 1994), teacher education has, for the past several decades, seen it as part of its mandate to intervene in the predominant ways of thinking of (mostly White) teacher candidates about issues of racial and ethnic differences as they take shape within and beyond classrooms (Carter, 2008; Darling-Hammond, 2006; hooks, 2003; Lynn & Johnson, 1999; Thompson, 1997; Ullucci, 2010; Villegas & Lucas, 2002).

Race interlocks with socioeconomic status, sexuality, gender, and other identifying categories to give shape and contour to a complex system of power and privilege (Boykin, 1986). Furthermore, White teachers are far from monolithic. However, most reports by researchers from wide-ranging approaches attempting to address race and ethnicity with a predominantly White candidate pool reveal a common set of reactions and attendant underlying issues. When White students are asked to consider issues of race and concurrent issues of privilege, racism, and power, teacher educators report common reactions of silence, anger, resistance, guilt, and the use of color-blind discourses (e.g., Bonilla-Silva & Forman, 2000; Tatum, 1997; Todd, 2001). Here is where we meet the problematic space in which this article is located.

Ignorance--the perceived lack of knowledge about race--and resistance in the face of encounters with such knowledge are recurring concepts in the literature on teacher education. Despite the best intents and wishes of the teacher educator, White teacher candidates seem to have a difficult time coming to terms with racial knowledge in generative ways. As we will demonstrate below, ignorance and resistance each have a significant presence in the research literature in teacher education generally, but they arise especially in relation to interactions in which White preservice teachers are confronted with coursework and information that concerns itself with critical notions of race: those that foreground the continuing influence of race on the lived experience of racial minorities. …

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