Magazine article Multicultural Education

PREPARING SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS TEACHERS: A Social Justice-Oriented Teacher Education

Magazine article Multicultural Education

PREPARING SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS TEACHERS: A Social Justice-Oriented Teacher Education

Article excerpt


For decades, educators and researchers have observed practices of educational inequality in U.S. schools (Kozol, 1991). In a multicultural democracy, schooling without educational equality constitutes injustice. Stevens and Wood (1995) perceptively beg the question, "How democratic can a society be that provides unequal education?" (p. 312). In a multicultural democracy, education is a major means for achieving a more just and equitable society.

Historically, many Americans including teachers have been socialized to believe that America is a land of equal opportunity. The American creed and achievement ideology purports a social perspective that sees America as open, fair, and full of opportunities, and education is believed to be the great equalizer in matters of opportunity and upward social mobility (Oakes & Lipton, 2003). Those that succeed or fail, do so because of their hard work and ability or the lack of.

But is the educational playing field really level? Are schooling benefits and opportunities equally accessible to all? How well prepared are classroom teachers for urban students? Numerous reports document the low quality teaching in many urban schools (Delpit, 1995; Gay, 2000; Haberman, 1991; Haycock, 1998). Haberman (1991) characterizes this reality as the "pedagogy of poverty." Recently, President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind 2002 legislation recognized the poor teaching in urban schools.

The purpose of this article is to illuminate both the ideological, contextual, and political dynamics that contribute to the inadequate preparation of teachers for urban schools. Specifically, the paper highlights the many ways current teacher education programs ill-prepare teachers for urban schools and concludes with specific recommendations for transformation.

Literature Review

The need to prepare quality teachers for our nation's schools continues to receive considerable attention (Cochran-Smith, 2000). A host of federal, state, local and scholarly initiatives and research continue to question the viability of traditional teacher education programs to prepare new and experienced teachers for today's and tomorrow's classrooms (Blair, 2004; U.S. Department of Education, 2002).

Classroom teachers are directly linked to the quality and equitable delivery of education and student academic achievement (Ayers, 1998; Darling-Hammond, 1997a; Flores-Gonzalez, 2002; Kozol, 1991; Ladson- Billings, 2000; Nieto, 2000; Marzano, 2003; National Commission on Teaching, 1996). Unfortunately, studies indicate that prospective and inservice teachers who are predominantly White, middle-class, and monolingual (Futrell, 2000; Kailin, 1999) lack the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to successfully work with urban students (Gay, 2000; Haberman, 1991; Smith, 1998). As Garmon (1996) clearly points:

A large white and female teaching force may bring negative, unacceptable attitudes toward the growing numbers of student of color in their classrooms; these attitudes coupled with the attendant lower expectations, are major contributing factors to the widespread academic failure among minority students. (p.5)

Also, beginning teachers themselves report feeling inadequately prepared to teach diverse students and in multicultural school settings (Futrell, Gomez, & Bedden, 2003; Valli & Rennert-Ariev, 2000). Among educators and researchers, teachers' racial attitudes and beliefs about urban and lowincome students, are the most compelling reasons to prepare teachers for diversity (Buttery, Haberman, & Houston, 1990). Imperatively, researchers as well as professional organizations have called for educating teachers to cultivate the habits and minds of transformative intellectualism and change agents (Giroux, 1988).

For example, both the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment Consortium (INTASC), have diversity standards that specifically require teacher education programs to prepare their candidates for diversity and educational equity. …

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