Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Transforming Curriculum for a Culturally Diverse Society

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Transforming Curriculum for a Culturally Diverse Society

Article excerpt

Transforming Curriculum for a Culturally Diverse Society, edited by Etta R. Hollins. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1996. 304 pp. $26.00, paper.

Reviewed by Rosalie S. Boone, Howard University.

The rapidly growing diversity of our nation's school population became a major challenge during the latter part of the 20th century, and assuming the accuracy of projected demographic patterns, it will remain significantly challenging during the 21st century. Statistics compiled by the National Center for Educational Statistics indicate that, in 1995, one in every three students in inner-city schools in the United States was African American; approximately one in every four was Hispanic (Snyder & Wirt, 1998). These statistics further reveal that 35% of K-12 public school students were considered part of a minority group-an 11% increase over the 1976 figure. These demographics, in tandem with heightened demands for educational excellence and accountability-particularly as measured in terms of student performance on large-scale, high-stakes assessments-provide the societal backdrop for Transforming Curriculum for a Culturally Diverse Society.

In response to the need to provide her own students with "the most exemplary thinking in curriculum studies," (p. xi), editor Etta Hollins has assembled a collection of reprinted essays by 12 scholars whose work examines a range of issues undergirding the development of curricula that are responsive to the diversity of the nation's students. Collectively, these essays address such questions as: What is and should be the purpose of schooling? Whose participation in curriculum planning would render such planning "representative?" What methods of systematic inquiry are appropriate for designing curriculum and determining its outcomes and impact? How should/can results of systematic inquiry be used to create "informed practice," wherein curriculum that is neither separate from policy making nor isolated from its social and political context is planned and assessed?

The conceptual and organizational framework for the text is articulated by Hollins in the first chapter. Central to this discussion is the not-uncommon observation that curriculum exists, not only as an explicit or planned phenomenon, but also as the implicit and omitted knowledge, learning, routines, and interactions that occur as a function of schooling. Twelve subsequent chapters, organized into four text sections, reflect the erudition and perspectives of scholars such as Linda Darling-Hammond, James Banks, Linda Spears-Bunton, and others regarding the purpose, planning, differentiation, and evaluation of curriculum.

Part One, "The Purpose of Schooling," is designed to stimulate critical analysis of the role of education in a democratic, culturally diverse society. It consists of three chapters that provide, respectively, a description of Native American schooling at the turn of the century (by David Wallace Adams); a delineation of varied categories of multiculturalism and their concomitant educational responses to pluralism (by Jerry Smolicz); and a discussion of the ongoing debate between Western traditionalists and multiculturalists (by James Banks). In essence, Part One encourages a look at the deep structure of U.S. education, defined by Hollins as "the interaction between the predominant ideology, the prevailing social paradigm, and educational policy" (p. 22).

Part Two, "Curriculum Planning," is concerned with how this vital pedagogical aspect takes shape. In this section, a trio of authors describes the roles and attributes of curriculum planners and emphasizes the necessity for addressing local considerations. They also discuss the variables and commonalities prevalent in all curriculum planning efforts: subject matter, teachers, learners, and milieu. Especially noteworthy in Part Two is the sixth chapter, in which Henrietta Schwartz presents a matrix for curriculum analysis that links Schwab's "commonplaces" in curricular planning with Herskovitz's nine universals of group behavior. …

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