History of Multicultural Education, Volume 5: Students and Student Learning
reviewed by Tatyana Kleyn - December 01, 2009
Title: History of Multicultural Education, Volume 5: Students and Student Learning
Author(s): Carl A. Grant and Thandeka K. Chapman
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 0805854398, Pages: 410, Year: 2008
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The fifth volume of The History of Multicultural Education places the focus on students, who are the most important [as] there are no schools, teachers, administrators or teacher educators without the students to teach (p. 1). The articles within this volume address students experiences with schooling, perspectives on different areas of schools and society, and their educational outcomes. It can be argued that all aspects of multicultural education converge with students at the nexus.
Although multicultural education is not defined explicitly in this volume, the phenomenon is viewed through four main sections: Attribution Theory and its Legacy in Research on Students; Single Group Studies; Intersections of Race, Class and Gender; and Matching the Needs of Diverse Students to Elements of Schooling. Taken together, these areas frame multicultural education as a concept that focuses on how students prioritize either themselves or society as key determinants of their educational opportunities and outcomes. Multicultural education also takes into account students racial backgrounds as well as how race interacts with the social class and gender of students. Finally, multicultural education is portrayed as a field that looks carefully at who students are and what they bring to schools, along with the connections and disconnections between them and the expectations and practices they find in schools. It then considers actions to be taken to create equitable schooling opportunities and outcomes for all students, but especially those who have historically been left behind.
The volume stays firmly connected to the roots of multicultural education, which can be traced back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Because of the focus on racial equality of that era, many of the articles in the volume have this social difference as their central focus. Additionally, considerations of class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity also hold a prominent place in this volume. Less evident is the area of linguistic diversity, while immigration, religion, and dis/abilities are practically invisible. All of these topics have become a part of the large and growing umbrella of areas multicultural education has grown to address over time. While the broadening umbrella of multiculturalism speaks to the fields more recent focus on inclusively regarding social and human differences, it would be nearly impossible for most books, such as this one, to address all that multicultural education includes in an in-depth and meaningful manner.
The group studies section includes articles about Asians, Native Americans, African Americans, Gays and Lesbians, and, to a lesser degree, Whites. However, a curious absence is Latinos, currently the largest minority group in the U.S. Although they are discussed in other sections of the book, one would think they are an important group to include in this part.
In spite of some noticeable absences, the volume touches on areas that are less talked about today such as the school experiences of gay and lesbian youth (Ginsberg; Pohan & Bailey) and identity issues of mixed-race students (Cortés). Since the beginnings of the field these areas were either too controversial for mainstream journals or were not even on the radar, especially related to students from mixed backgrounds. Their inclusion here shows how the focus on students from different backgrounds has grown and evolved.
The compilation of articles in this volume represents a combination of theoretical, quantitative and qualitative research traditions. For example, in-depth ethnographies include a study from Deyhles work on the struggles of Navajo youth and their conflicted values and beliefs in comparison to their Anglo neighbors. Moll and González show the power of teacher research in their students homes and communities. In the quantitative realm, Sizemore uses survey data to juxtapose the characteristics that Black and White students look for in their teachers, while Kao uses standardized test scores to illustrate the diversity in academic achievement across different Asian sub-groups in the U.S. The theoretical articles provide a framework from which to understand how schools can empower minority students (Cummins), while the research articles give us an overview of where different groups stand in comparison to others as well as the stories to help us better understand the intricate realities that complicate students schooling experiences.
There are a few aspects of this volume that could be added or changed to maximize its overview of what we have learned about students in relation to multicultural education. First, an overview of who our students are in terms to their demographic characteristics, and how that has changed in the nearly fifty year history of the field would contextualize the articles and provide a better understanding of why certain topics were more prevalent in the various decades as compared to others. Furthermore, for a volume that aims to provide an overview of the history of multicultural education, nearly all articles are from a twenty-year period in the 80s-90s. Of the twenty-three articles, only two were written in the 70s and one came from 2001. Additionally, while a list of the academic journals from which articles from the entire six volume set is included, it would have been helpful to know the specific journal in which each article was published, as it would give the reader more insight into ideological views and perspectives of the journal and subsequently the article.
Upon completion of each of the four parts of this volume as a whole the onus is on the reader to draw conclusions about how the field has changed, struggled, and grown over time; it would have been beneficial to have the editors take on this task. For instance, answers to overarching questions connecting students and multicultural education would leave the readers with a clearer sense of where the field began from, moved towards, and the directions in which it must continue to grow. Answers to the following big questions, related to each of the four sections, would have been enlightening for the editors to sum up for the readers:
Has the locus of control within students of color and white students remained consistent or changed? What factors contribute to this?
How have the perceptions and performances of different groups changed over time?
What have we learned from looking at the intersections of students identities, rather than just their isolated differences?
What, if anything, have schools done to change for their diverse students and what have students done to change for schools?
Since students are at the center of everything in multicultural education, this volume takes on an ambitious task. Although all aspects of difference students bring could not be adequately covered in one volume, the editors bring in a variety of articles that envelop a range of topics through different types of literature. The reader is left with a general sense of how the field has addressed students and their learning over time, but would need to look into different sources to get a fuller view of the key issues, foci, and movement of the field within the last half century. Volume 5 is an important starting point from which to understand the historical perspectives related to the challenges, achievements, and roles of students in schools.