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A Divergence of Interests: Critical Race Theory and White Privilege Pedagogy

by Ryan M. Crowley & William L. Smith - 2020

Background/Context: Informed by the increasing racial disparity between the nation’s predominantly White teaching force and the growing number of students of color in K–12 schools, along with the well-documented struggles that White teachers have in exploring race and racial identity, the authors critique the use of White privilege pedagogy as a strategy for promoting antiracist dispositions in White pre-service teachers.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: By deploying several concepts central to critical race theory, as well as critiques that note the shortcomings of past attempts at racial reform (Brown v. Board of Education, Voting Rights Act), the authors investigate the effectiveness of White privilege pedagogy within the teacher education setting.

Research Design: To construct our conceptual critique of White privilege pedagogy within teacher education, we reviewed the extant literature that discussed the range of shortcomings to this pedagogical approach. To create a more historical and structural critique, we demonstrated how the tenets of White privilege pedagogy conflicted with key principles of critical race theory and with lessons from past racial remedies. We contend that White privilege pedagogy arises from a racial liberalist worldview and requires an untenable convergence of interests that limits its long-term impact. We parallel our critiques of White privilege pedagogy with arguments used by critical race scholars to explain the limited impact of previous efforts at racial reform.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The authors urge teacher educators to move away from the individualized and over-essentialized representations of racism inherent to White privilege pedagogy in favor of historical, structural, and intersectional discussions of race, racism, and the construction of White privilege.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 1, 2020, p. 1-24
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22942, Date Accessed: 9/19/2021 9:44:13 PM

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About the Author
  • Ryan Crowley
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    RYAN M. CROWLEY is an assistant professor of Social Studies Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Kentucky. His research uses critical race theory and critical Whiteness perspectives to analyze how White teachers' make sense of learning about race, racism, and White privilege within teacher education. He recently published “White Teachers, Racial Privilege, and the Sociological Imagination” in Urban Education and “Transgressive and Negotiated White Racial Knowledge” in International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.
  • William Smith
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    WILLIAM L. SMITH is an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona. William’s research and teaching interests center on issues of race, curriculum, and social studies education with a current focus on identifying and employing transformational pedagogies in race and teacher preparation. He recently published, "Why Do We Focus on Firsts? Problems and Possibilities for Black History Teaching," in Social Education and served as lead author on "Barack Obama, Racial Literacy, and Lessons from 'A More Perfect Union,'" published in The History Teacher.
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