Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Reflections on the Subtractive Underpinnings of Education Research and Policy

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Reflections on the Subtractive Underpinnings of Education Research and Policy

Article excerpt

The study of teacher education generally, including that conducted by Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini-Mundy (2002 [this issue]), begs for analyses from a minority perspective. Specifically, their analysis fails to incorporate in a substantive manner the problem of unequal power relations between a dominant Anglo research and policy establishment and the diverse and often disempowered communities about whom they frequently write. Taken together, advances in minority scholarship alongside the fact of changing demographics in a prevailing context of culturally chauvinist schooling suggest, as I propose here, a need for scholarship on teacher education that is increasingly centered on these developments and issues. My goal here is to suggest, therefore, the utility of key constructs like additive schooling and culturally relevant pedagogy to guide a refashioning of schools, teacher preparation programs, evaluation research of teacher quality, and ultimately, education policy itself.

Cloaked in the language of "objective" social science, Florio-Ruane (2002 [this issue]) aptly critiques the nomological approach as privileging the method and language of social policy while portraying teaching as causally related to student learning. A complex view of teaching and learning is not only desirable but necessary given the conditions created by a predominantly Anglo teaching force in increasingly poor and minority inner-city schools throughout our nation. This complex perspective needs to be grounded in an understanding of majority-minority relations, where issues of race, class, gender, culture, and language are viewed as central to the mission of teacher education. Although a lack of attention to diversity issues is probably in some measure due to its lack of centrality in most teacher preparation programs, researchers are no less responsible to the communities served by the schools that they study. Not to address majority-minority relations is to participate in the reproduction of social inequality.


Much scholarship on minority youth points to the central role of culturally relevant, politically aware teaching in urban, minority education (Delgado-Gaitan, 1991, 1996; Delpit, 1995; Foster, 1995; Henry, 1998; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Stanton-Salazar, 2001; Valenzuela, 1999; Vasquez, Pease-Alvarez, and Shannon, 1994). For this to occur, teacher education and teaching need to be evaluated in terms of their commitment to social justice. The research framework for evaluating teacher education programs and outcomes needs to be expanded beyond "objective" data like students' test scores (regressed on a multiplicity of teacher preparation variables) to include the extent to which schools promote success in terms valued by the communities that they serve. (1)

To move in this direction, every single practitioner needs to possess the intellectual capital that enables him or her to distinguish between teaching that is culturally relevant and politically aware and that which is culturally subtractive and politically unaware (Bartolome, 1994; Valenzuela, 1999). The central paradigm war in teacher education evaluation research is therefore not between quantitative and interpretive methods but rather between their ideological underpinnings, regardless of method.

In Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring (Valenzuela, 1999), I make the case that schools and teaching are fraught with cultural and political content even if unbeknownst to the teachers themselves. Specifically, I argue that in Texas, a culturally neutral perspective on teaching is untenable because the existing educational framework inscribed in Texas education policy is "culturally subtractive." That is, if schools are in compliance with state law, their function is not to promote bilingualism, biliteracy, and biculturalism in an additive fashion but rather to subtract Mexican American children's culture, language, and community-based identities. …

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