Breaking through Preservice Teachers' Defensive Dispositions in a Multicultural Education Course: A Reflective Practice
Ukpokodu, Nelly, Multicultural Education
The Urgency To Prepare Preservice Teachers for Diversity
As we begin a new millennium, nothing is more important to parents, leaders, educators, and communities than the quality of education that all children receive. During the 2000 U.S. presidential election campaign, education became one of the top issues in the parties' and candidates' platforms and continues to receive priority in the new administration's agenda. Today, there is widespread recognition that many of the nation's schools are failing their students, especially students from minority and low-income backgrounds (Darling-- Hammond 1997; Riley 1999).
In 1999, former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley publicly acknowledged that many African American, Latino, and other minority children still do not get the top-notch education they deserve. He pledged a commitment to ending "the tyranny of low expectations that has held these children back, and declaring that quality education for every child is the new Civil Rights Movement" (Riley, 1999). Also, Quality Counts 2000, the fourth annual 50-state report by Education Week, detailed the dismal academic performance of many students, especially those in urban schools and argued that the ill-preparation of teachers is one of the factors contributing to the problems of low academic achievement for a vast majority of minority and low-income children.
Achieving quality education for all students means teachers must be adequately prepared to develop the essential knowledge, skills, and dispositions to work with students from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds as today's students come to school with an array of backgrounds and needs. As Darling-Hammond, Wise, and Klein (1995) point out: "If all children are to be effectively taught, teachers must be prepared to address the substantial diversity in experiences students bring with them to school-- the wide range of languages, cultures, home conditions, learning styles, exceptionalities, abilities, and intelligences" (p.2). The challenge of student diversity has become as real as life itself. For example, demographics reveal that more than one-third of the students in the nation's schools are students of color (Banks, 2000). Projections are that by the year 2020, students of color will comprise about 48 to 50 percent of the school-age population (Banks 2000; Nieto 2000) and by 2035, 50 percent of the public school-age student population will be children of color (Tamayo-Lott 1993). Hodgkinson (1993) notes that this demographic trend is projected to continue at a rapid rate and that states experiencing the fastest growth-California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas-already have the highest percentage of minority students.
In addition, in many schools, whether in rural or urban communities, an increasing number of students speak languages other than English. Some schools have documented over 100 different languages spoken by students. In other words, many students in the nation's schools are Second Language English learners. Further, many students in the nation's schools are poor. Hodgkinson (1993) reported that more than 23 percent of America's children were living below the poverty line and thus were at risk of failing to fulfill their physical and mental promise. An equally related issue is that many students come from homes other than the traditional two-parent type, including those headed by single parents, and those with differential sexual and family orientations. These demographic, socio-economic, and cultural conditions and trends have significant implications on students' learning motivations, achievement patterns, and education in general in the 21st century.
Despite this reality of student diversity in the nation's schools, current data on the teaching force reveals that those in teacher preparation programs are predominantly white, low-middle or middle-class, monolingual, and rural or suburban (Banks 2000; Sleeter 1994; Grant & Secada 1990; Zimpher 1989). …