Preparing K-12 Teachers to Teach for Social Justice

By Ward, Carolyn M. | Multicultural Education, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Preparing K-12 Teachers to Teach for Social Justice


Ward, Carolyn M., Multicultural Education


Promising Practices

An Experiential Exercise with a Focus on Inequality and Life-Chances Based on Socio-Economic Status

Introduction

I have found as an assistant professor ofa multicultural education and social foundations course that assists in preparing K12 and special education teachers to teach for social justice within a university drawing from urban, suburban, small town, and rural communities, that the problem of expanding awareness of social injustices within the United States is formidable. Nevertheless, lack of general awareness of injustices and how these injustices came about is an approachable conundrum which may be demystified somewhat within the university classroom.

While many students coming from urban areas maintain an appreciation and even celebration of ethnic diversity, their neighborhoods lack a sense of community found in many of the rural and small town communities oftheir peers. Conversely, the latter hail from close knit communities-- people helping their neighbors and solving community problems together-while lacking a positive sense of ethnic diversity and, at times, harboring fear of that diversity.

Additionally, many students coming from more affluent small towns and suburbia maintain the meritorious attitude: "If I have become successful to this point, there is no reason why others of various ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic classes cannot do the same-after all, I have experienced some difficult problems along the way, too!"

The overreaching goal of my multicultural education and social foundations course is to expand awareness and encourage a development of appreciation and eventually respect for those with various cultural backgrounds-racial/ethnic, language, socio-economic, gender, sexual orientation, and ability-in other words, to stretch individual awareness and appreciation boundaries. In order to do this, the multicultural education and social foundations course that prepares K-12 and special education teachers to teach for social justice promotes:

* Knowledge and appreciation of one's own cultural background;

* Knowledge of what multicultural education (MCE) is and the -various processes of implementing MCE, ranging from least to most effective;

* Knowledge and ability to describe historical and current U.S. macro-culture-warts and all-- which leads to;

* Knowledge of why multicultural education is needed in U.S. schools;

* Developing a historical perspective-how various cultural groups have been treated in the U.S. and the legacy of that treatment;

* Meaningful field experiences that further the expansion of knowledge and appreciation of people coming from various cultural backgrounds;

* Modeling and hands-on experiences concerning multiple teaching methods imperative to multicultural education, including but not exclusive to experiential exercises that encourage:

* Cooperative learning

* Critical thinking

* Individual and group empowerment

* Positive human relations

* Student-shared experiences and knowledge

* Classroom as community

* Teachers as facilitators and authentic individuals who share relevant personal experiences and growth in terms of racism, classism, etc.

One such experiential exercise that focuses on institutionalized inequities of socio-economic status and that I have found effective in promoting critical thinking, cooperative group work, and making use of multiple intelligences is the following (this exercise was designed for a 75 minute class period):

Illustrating Demographic, Economic, Social, Political, and Educational Circumstances of Children Coming from Various Socio-Economic Backgrounds: A Prediction of Life-Chances

Preparations

Before introducing this exercise, students have been involved in reading, discussions, experiential exercises, listening to guest speakers, and/or viewing video tapes concerning:

1. …

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