Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Racism 2.0 and the Death of Social and Cultural Foundations of Education: A Critical Conversation

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Racism 2.0 and the Death of Social and Cultural Foundations of Education: A Critical Conversation

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the age of the Obama presidency many claim we live in a post-racial society. As social justice pre-service teacher educators, the mythical 'post-racial' context has created a certain death for socio-cultural foundations (SCF) (1) of education as well as culturally relevant approaches to teacher education. Simultaneously the virulent racism of the past has been replaced with what we might call 'racism 2.0,' a less direct but equally problematic set of engagements with race, hiding behind the thin veil of politically correct language. What is worse, the death of SCF and culturally relevant approaches systematically works to ensure that the gaps between White and non-White students remain, while education maintains its neoliberal social reproduction role in the free-market.

To prepare pre-service educators to occupy educational environments with society's most vulnerable students, we believe pre-service teacher education must take seriously the need to return to cultural engagement of students based in SCF (Ayers & Schubert, 1992; Cochran-Smith, 2004; Crocco & Hendry, 1999; Doll, 1989; Doll, Fleener, & Julien, 2005; Dimitriadis & Carlson, 2003; Haberman, 1991; Hendry, 2008, 2011; King, 1991; Ladson-Billings, 1994; McLaren, 1995, Merryfield, 2000; Popkewitz, 1998; Sleeter, 1996). For our purposes we lean on Ladson-Billings' (1994) culturally relevant pedagogy as a framework by which educators might better value and address the socio-political contexts of education. Educational contexts within the United States have historically served and represented White, male, Christian, patriarchal, and heteronormative perspectives, despite K-12 students who do not mirror these characteristics. Ladson-Billings' (1994) framework suggested that setting high expectations for student achievement, enacting cultural competence, and manifesting socio-political commitments work toward equity. Such a framework, consequently, has the potential to address persistent gaps in achievement between White and non-White students that have persisted over the history of schooling in the U.S.

The U.S. teaching force is approximately 84% White, monolingual, and female (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2012). NCES (2012) suggested that over the last 25 years the teaching force has become less experienced; approximately 26% of teachers in 2011 had less than five years of experience, a sharp rise from the 8% of similarly experienced teachers in 1988. On the other hand the Pew Center for Research (2007) suggested that annually more and more students of color, and White students as well, attend school in increasingly segregated contexts; Pew suggested that in 2007, 60% of students of color attended schools that were nearly all minority and 70% of White students attended schools that are nearly all White. The complexity these demographics reveal, then, is that Black and Brown students are being taught and socialized by inexperienced White monolingual females who look, act, and sound different from them; at the same time White students are being socialized about what it means to be White by their predominately White, female, monolingual teachers who nearly all look, act, and sound like they do.

Many teachers exit their preparation programs with little of no knowledge of themselves as raced, gendered, and classed beings, with little preparation that centers on social justice, and/or little interaction with groups outside of their own racial and cultural identity makers. Our experiences as teacher educators suggest that when pre-service teachers gain experiences in settings with underrepresented students, their 'mentor' teachers have often not proven to be successful with these students, thus it is difficult for the pre-service teachers to experience sound pedagogy. When our candidates report back on their experiences, we learn that that the classroom teachers often reinforce negative stereotypes about communities of color, groups with low socioeconomic standing, as well as the historically marginalized and underrepresented. …

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