Multicultural Education as Social Activism
Ford, Donna Y, The Journal of Negro Education
Multicultural Education as Social Activism, by Christine E. Sleeter. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1996. 284 pp. $19.95, paper.
Reviewed by Donna Y. Ford, The Ohio State University.
Multicultural Education as Social Activism is a compilation of a dozen articles written since 1988. In it, Sleeter addresses multicultural education from multiple perspectives, including her personal and professional struggles with race, class, and gender. She discusses both the pitfalls and promises of multicultural education, ultimately concluding that a significant goal of multicultural education is social activism. The book begins with Sleeter's description of multicultural education as a form of resistance to dominant modes of schooling. She attempts to clarify the field's political underpinnings, particularly as they relate to challenging notions of White supremacy:
. . .the field of multicultural education must develop in ways that are consonant with its original mission: to challenge oppression and to use schooling as much as possible to help shape a future America that is more equal, democratic and just, and that does not demand conformity to one cultural norm. (p. 15)
In this book, Sleeter implores teachers and teacher educators to think critically, prescriptively, and proactively about their curriculum, and to take decisive action to eliminate the pervasive miseducation of students. Throughout, she shares strategies and curricula that promote the practice of multicultural education as an emancipatory curriculumthat is, as one that is contentious, that raises more questions than answers, and that invites debate and engages students actively in critical thought. She also connects multicultural education with political issues of power, reminding readers-be they opponents or advocates of multicultural education-that multicultural education can never be disconnected from politics. She critiques the growing influence of conservative ideology on American education and boldly discusses the many important issues of power, privilege, and prejudice faced by both Whites and people of color. She describes how schools, as social institutions, endeavor to maintain the status quo by relegating many minority students to lower-level academic tracks and coursework that qualify them for the lowest rungs of the employment ladder. …