Home Articles Reader Opinion Editorial Book Reviews Discussion Writers Guide About TCRecord
transparent 13

History of Multicultural Education, Volume 2: Foundations and Stratifications

reviewed by Tara Beth Davidson - December 01, 2009

coverTitle: History of Multicultural Education, Volume 2: Foundations and Stratifications
Author(s): Carl A. Grant and Thandeka K. Chapman
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 080585441X, Pages: 386, Year: 2008
Search for book at Amazon.com

Volume II discusses the Foundations and Stratifications in the history of multicultural education by addressing three main themes that span three decades: the first analyzes society and schools as targets of change; the second reviews scholars’ resistance to assimilation and to the melting pot thesis; and the final theme analyzes the debates between deficit and difference models for explaining student achievement.  In reviewing Volume II, it is essential to note the expansion of the discussion of multicultural education today, however, the original foundational goals of multicultural education have shown a U-shaped, rather than linear progression as traditional ideas are once more brought to the forefront.  

The Brown decision in 1954, desegregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, all highlighted the inequalities that existed between students, teachers, neighborhoods, schools, curricula, and how these related to society writ large.  As researchers sought to understand the differences in student achievement, James Coleman (1966) identified students’ socioeconomic status and family background, not school resources, as the most influential factor in determining student achievement.  Researchers continued to search for the best pedagogical method to educate children of all cultures, whether it was a curriculum that focused on assimilation or cultural pluralism.  This debate is where Volume II begins the foundational history of the stratification of education that later was coined multicultural education.  Volume II is a representative sample (four parts, twenty-four articles) of multicultural education literature that spans three decades; the articles all touch upon the factors and ideologies that explain the institutional history of inequality in education, and how this coincided with the development of the concept of “multicultural” education.

Unlike William Wallace’s claim in the movie Braveheart that “history is written by those who win the wars,” the editors of this volume have attempted to include voices from all sides of the “wars” on multicultural education, highlighting both popular and less known scholarly works that have made a significant contribution to the field.  In Volume II specifically, the editors emphasize issues of access and equity in society and schools.  

In the introduction, the editors note how the articles demonstrate over a forty year period that society has failed to institutionalize equity both within society and the education system.  This volume of articles, however, has not failed in representing a thorough and well-thought out collection of research that explains how we have attempted to make education more equitable for all children regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, or geographic location.  

The debate between the “melting pot” thesis and the idea of cultural pluralism is described within the first section of the book, “Society and Schools as Targets of Change.” Krug (1977) supports the teaching of “cross-cultural” instruction and ethnic politics within schools as a historical force that has changed society.  Valverde (1977) explains how our attempts at multicultural education thus far, and our attempts to desegregate and equalize education have primarily resulted in programs that resegregate our students.  Pacheco (1977) explains and clarifies the difference between cultural pluralism and multicultural education, along with other language used in this field.  In the second section of the book, “Multicultural Education: 1970s,” the articles tackle the debates over the theory of assimilation in schooling, the cultural deficit, and cultural difference models used to explain differences in student achievement.  All three authors in Part A, Leyba (1973), Hiraoka (1977), and Valentine (1971), discuss cultural identity through a human relations approach, along with how students navigate their participation in dual cultures; both are important aspects of multicultural education and our discussion of educating children in our increasingly globalized society.  Valentine’s (1971) “bicultural educational model” offers a solution for supporting two cultures when educating students throughout their Pre-K-college education. In Part B, Hines (1964), Rist (1970), Baratz and Baratz (1970), and Solorzano and Yosso (2001), debate the difference between cultural deficit theory and cultural difference models in student achievement.  Hines (1964) was one of the first researchers to explain how minority acceptance of the majority’s expectations created a “double-standard of education and cultural achievement,” which limits the arenas in which African-Americans are willing to participate and contribute to society.  Rist (1970) takes this discussion one step further by explaining “the self-fulfilling prophecy” and how “labeling” of students based on social class and race influences both student and teacher expectations of their behavior, capabilities, and achievement.  Baratz and Baratz (1970) refute the idea of cultural deficit theory as a failed research idea that stems from an “ethnocentric liberal ideology, which denies cultural differences and thus acts against the best interests of the people it wishes to understand and eventually help” (p. 101). Their research on Headstart programs and the intervention model of education found that Headstart students’ contact with middle-class behaviors initially increased their level of achievement, but that institutional supports beyond the Headstart program were not in place to aid in students’ progress on future assessments, which become more middle-class in dialect and culture and based less on the students’ “individual identity and cultural heritage” (p. 113). The last article in this section by Solorzano and Yosso (2001) is the only more recently written article in Volume II, written thirty years after the other articles in its section.  Using critical race theory as a framework to examine teacher education, the authors give a valuable background to the history of cultural deficit models.  They also conclude with four suggestions for teachers to use in dispelling and challenging racial stereotypes and racism in their classrooms: 1) define, analyze, and give examples for the concepts of race, racism, and racial stereotypes; 2) identify racial stereotypes in different forms of media, which are used to justify attitudes and behavior toward students of color; 3) compare racial stereotypes in professional settings to media stereotypes, and then examine how both are used to justify the unequal treatment of students of color; and 4) find examples within and about communities of color that challenge and transform racial stereotypes (pp. 124-145).

In section three of the book, “Multicultural Education: 1980s,” eight articles cover two areas of research, which “focus on the relationships between society and schools and an attempt to more closely define the paradigm of multicultural education” (p. 3). This is the bottom of the “u-shape” in the parabola, where our efforts to establish programs and curriculum that were more inclusive and equitable, actually served to resegregate the school population.  The first four articles discuss the impossible nature of separating inequalities in education from inequalities in society.  The next three articles in the section, by Gay (1983), Gezi (1981), and Sleeter and Grant (1987) give a survey of the research completed over the last decade. Sleeter (1996) explains the origins of classifying students as learning disabled and how special education classifications have advantaged some students and disadvantaged other students, especially poor and minority students.

Section four of the book, “Multicultural Education: 1990s,” presents six articles that criticize and challenge the field to move forward in their ideologies of multicultural education, suggest that researchers develop more empirical studies, and begin to provide a clearer explanation of multicultural education.  Anyon (1995) argues that “the structural basis for failure in inner-city schools is political, economic, and cultural, and must be changed before meaningful school improvement projects can be successfully implemented” (p. 268).  Boyle-Baise’s (1999) article on the history of multicultural education, interviews eight founding members of the movement in multicultural education, from which she identifies an agreed upon “center” of values that multicultural education emphasizes, along with a commitment to social justice.  However, there are still areas of disagreement within the field of multicultural education, such as with the inclusion of sexuality issues in multicultural education, and the direction in which it should focus.  Here, Boyle-Baise recommends that scholars determine a “common ground” to “help structure the field” (p. 288).

While one of the goals of multicultural education has been to make curriculum and schools more inclusive, the practice of “tracking” has served to resegregate schools.  Oakes, Wells, Jones, and Datnow’s (1997) article draws from their larger case study of ten secondary schools undergoing detracking reforms.  Their research tells us that detracking goes beyond student and classroom rearrangement, to the point that we must alter political and cultural ideologies if we want all students to be successful. Grant’s (1994) article debunks six myths about multicultural education.  This article is very useful for working with teacher candidates in order to dispel the myths about race, social class, ethnicity, and gender that they often express.  Banks’ (1993) article, is also useful for teacher candidates in helping them to understand different types of knowledge and the values and ideological positions that each type of knowledge reflects as they plan to teach multicultural curricula.  In the last article of the section and of the book, Payne and Welsh (2000) present a theoretical framework for examining how multicultural education came to be in the historical context of our democratic society.   

Although Volume II includes an important discussion of the ideological and foundational pillars that comprise the concept of multicultural education, the editors also sought to explain ways “in which school and society stratify and institutionalize inequity,” which should include more of a discussion on the historical configuration of schools and how it has impacted the movement towards a multicultural curricula and equity in education for all children.  As various disciplines have sought to come to a consensus on the concept of multicultural education over the last thirty years, schools and society have stratified themselves in a new way under the guise of the “school choice” movement; first, with the creation of magnet schools in the 1960s, followed by charter schools, vouchers, and the privatization of schooling.  Charter schools are advertised as the places where education, especially for minority and poor children, could be more creative, more individualized, and more “multicultural.”  While their aim has been to provide a more equitable education for all children, the school choice movement has been criticized for fragmenting schools along ethnic, racial, and religious lines, as well as for stratifying communities by “skimming” high-achieving students from traditional public schools, especially in inner cities, which are more often than not segregated by race and/or ethnicity.  Their aim to also be more accessible has often failed to attract students of the lowest socioeconomic class due to the application process required for admission into the charter school, or they continue to segregate them within inner-city charter schools.  While there have been some “no excuse” charter schools that have been successful, the school choice movement raises important questions as to whether we have moved past debates about cultural pluralism as a divisive or unifying factor in education (Krugg, 1977).

As our society becomes increasingly more globalized, the importance of the debate regarding the foundations of inequality and stratification of institutions and society has increased, along with our need to understand the history and future of multicultural education.  The levels of accountability have increased dramatically for schools, administrators, teachers, and students to prepare educated citizens since the 1960s.  Payne and Welsh (2000) discussed how we have legally eliminated most of the “legal barriers to equality,” established standards for cultural diversity within teacher education programs and other nongovernmental organizations, and passed many federal initiatives that promote some of the ideals of multicultural education.  Yet, the achievement gap between white students and students of color continues to persist.  Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the federal and state governments have held educators accountable for producing students that are on grade level in reading and mathematics and that will graduate high school on-time.  Prior to the enactment of NCLB in 2001, Payne and Welsh (2000) note that more pressure has been placed upon educators to teach to a diverse group and that the idea of multicultural education is on the path to institutionalization.  Since their article was published in 2000 and NCLB was passed in 2001, the number of high-stakes tests and the level of accountability have been heightened even further.  As Grant (1994) notes in his article, our population is shifting at a rapid pace.  Have researchers been shifting their views, levels of implementation, and definition of what encompasses multicultural education at the same pace? Other than examining assessment results disaggregated by race/ethnicity, gender, and disability, have we made progress in coming to a consensus within the field of multicultural education and in holding educators accountable for implementing a multicultural curriculum and pedagogy?  How can we ensure that we are accountable to the goals of multicultural education and not just to high test scores?  Since Payne and Welsh (2000) we have identified additional strategies that support a multicultural curriculum, but we have yet to identify a clear foundation within the discipline.  While the discussion of institutionalization of multicultural education is continued in Volume IV, it is evident from this Volume that researchers and educators, from all disciplines, need to come to a consensus on the foundations of multicultural education sooner rather than later, if we hope for the values that work to eliminate injustice and inequity to be institutionalized within all teachers, students, and society before the next thirty years.


Coleman, James S.  (1966).  Equality of Educational Opportunity Study (EEOS).  Washington, D.C.: The United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Retrieved December 7, 2009, from http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/studies/06389

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: December 01, 2009
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15856, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 8:05:21 AM

Purchase Reprint Rights for this article or review
Article Tools
Related Articles

Related Discussion
Post a Comment | Read All

About the Author
  • Tara Davidson
    Rutgers University-Newark
    TARA BETH DAVIDSON is a doctoral candidate specializing in urban educational policy in the Urban Systems Ph.D. Program at Rutgers University-Newark. She is a former New York City Teaching Fellow, who taught in the Bronx and Manhattan.
Member Center
In Print
This Month's Issue