Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Stepping outside the Master Script: Re-Connecting the History of American Education

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Stepping outside the Master Script: Re-Connecting the History of American Education

Article excerpt

Inaccurate and incomplete presentations of American education history in teacher education programs play a central role in the poor preparation of pre-service teachers. This article exemplifies how the praxis of late 19th and 20th century African descent educators-who viewed education as a vehicle for freedom and an affirmation of humanity-informed the democratic agenda claimed by their White counterparts. This informing praxis has been hidden in master scripted accounts of the history of American education through a White/normative belief structure of race, which has created a disconnection between emancipatory African descent educators and White reform-minded educators to this day.

Inaccurate presentations of the history of education in teacher education programs play a central role in the poor preparation of pre-service teachers. These 90% to 95% White, pre-service teachers are invited to experience their racial dominance and its corollary White privilege tiirough curricular omission of varied forms of cultural excellence in education and all other disciplines demonstrated by people of African origin from ancient to modem times (Diop, 1987; Franklin, 1995; Karenga, 2004; Tedia, 1995; Van Sertima, 1986). Also absent is the long-term impact of colonialism, imperialism, and systemic racism on schools and schooling in the neo-colonized communities in which these pre-service teachers will soon be working (Duncan, 2004; Franklin & Moss, 1994; Lee & Slaughter-Defoe, 2004). This curricular hegemony produces racial silence, spurious claims of innocence, and shifts and refusals of responsibility for social, political, economic, and educational inequalities. In these ways, "whiteness" dysconsciously defines the terms of racial discourse in order to maintain its normative position of dominance (King, 1991).

Compounding White pre-service teachers' lack of historical knowledge and systemic analysis is their limited or non-existent personal relatedness to communities and peoples of color. In to this knowledge or experience vacuum, falls fear-based assumptions, cultural misrepresentations, media stereotypes, and popular culture myths, which for many are fed by pools of missionary angst or warden-like zeal. These omissions, distortions, and misrepresentations are taught and learned with the resulting dyad of racial dominance and racial silence we currently see in White pre-service teachers who know almost nothing about people of color, past or present. What can teacher educators do for students whose 12 to 16 years of formal school silence and mis-education (Woodson, 1933/1990) have convinced them mat if it was not taught or they have not heard about it, it is not worth knowing? Exposure in teacher preparation programs to a more accurate account of the history of American education - a history mat still conforms to the Eurocentric socio-cultural archetype of omission, misrepresentation, and exogenous master scripting - is a place to begin.

"Re-Membering" American Education History

Re-membering history is a process of putting the members of history back together. This process produces a more accurate representation of those who were there, and is powerful enough to correct the omission and misrepresentation of African descent people in the United States - a people with a central historical presence that exists alongside a persistent absence in the teaching of it. Such a process requires high standards of scholarship based on criteria such as inclusion, representation, critical thinking, and indigenous voice, and can be used for every culture or group that the master script has removed and/or misrepresented (Swartz, 1996). Reconnecting the history of American education in this way can help education students step outside the master script that envelops them and, to a large extent, us. This script has been codified, managed, and maintained by earlier education historians (e.g., Bailyn, 1960; Cremin, 1970, 1980; Cubberly, 1920; Kaestle, 1983; Kliebard, 1986; Pulliam, 1982; Tyack, 1967) whose work consistently reflects the monocultural pattern of U. …

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