Critical Race Theory in Teacher Education: Informing Classroom Culture and Practice
reviewed by Kay Ann Taylor - July 11, 2019
Title: Critical Race Theory in Teacher Education: Informing Classroom Culture and Practice
Author(s): Keonghee Tao Han & Judson Laughter (Eds.)
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807761370, Pages: 192, Year: 2019
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Critical Race Theory in Teacher Education: Informing Classroom Culture and Practice is an ambitious challenge to teacher education programs for faculty, preservice, and in-service teachers. It calls for informed resistance and action to transform dominant White, hegemonic, patriarchal, ethnocentric teacher education programs and curricula. The central premise is a transformative education that empowers students to move beyond what we are to what we could be. Common themes of reflection, action, and transformation to enact social justice are infused in all chapters, thus aptly representing Critical Race Theorys agenda. Overall, a social reconstructionist philosophy permeates the chapters, undergirded by the power of ethics, morality, and compassion.
Tyrone C. Howard sets the tone in the Foreword for Keonghee Tao Han and Judson Laughters edited book. He identifies the embedded dilemma of dismantling White supremacy, white fragility, and white privilege in order to reclaim the humanity of people of color and places teacher education... at the forefront of this work (p. viii). In so doing, he states that racial literacy (Stevenson, 2014) must be integrated into authentic learning in teacher education and be a prominent endeavor for in-service teachers.
Chapter One, by Han and Laughter, provides the foundational background on Critical Race Theory (CRT). A brief overview of CRTs historical development is provided with its entry into education via Ladson-Billings and Tates (1995) seminal article. Scholars often vary regarding their emphasis on the central tenets of CRT and Han and Laughter are no exception. Table 1.1 details a helpful overview of the tenets as per the editors definition. The table bypasses some of the seminal scholarly work behind the tenets; for example, interest convergence is listed as a tenet, but its originator, Derrick Bell (1980), is not among the authors in the table (although a fresh interpretation of Bells interest convergence is provided in the text). Pioneering contributor to CRT via intersectionality, Kimberlé Crenshaw (1991), is mentioned in the historical context of Critical Legal Studies but is not cited among the authors/tenets in the table. While it may not be considered a tenet by some, Crenshaws intersectionality is crucial to CRT as it provides the framework for how race interacts with other elements of identity and its overall impact on peoples lived experiences. Similarly, whiteness as property rights is attributed to Ladson-Billings and Tate, whereas Cheryl Harris (1993) original conceptualization of this premise is absent.
Three parts follow the introductory Chapter One: Part One: CRT and Teacher Education; Part Two: Beyond Black and White; and Part Three: Beyond CRT. A common feature at the end of each chapter is a list of Next Steps.
Part One, Chapter Two authors review CRT literature that has addressed teacher education over the last 20 years. Table 2.1 is a useful resource in which the authors list 27 articles, their main points, and the CRT tenets of each article. Publication dates range from 1997 to 2018. The literature reviewed is discussed in alignment with the three main themes identified.
Chapter Three authors identify their positionality as two White women. They analyze the persistent demographic divide between diverse K-12 public school students and their overwhelmingly White teachers. Their discussion is framed historically and the coded language of diversity is situated in an interest convergence context. They conclude with a call to upend the teacher status quo and to move beyond binaries. They also emphasize the moral obligation of educators to address the ongoing issues of inequity perpetuated in teacher education programs.
Chapter Four authors share personal experiences to emphasize the challenges of confronting ones own Whiteness, arguing that there is no simple checklist or quick fix. They address issues of paternalism and the rhetoric of giving back as well as identity and the accumulation of assets. Finally, they suggest using Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) in conjunction with CRT as an effective approach to interrogate Whiteness and its effects on people of color.
Chapter Five, written by an interracial research team, completes Part One. The authors share their racial literacy research in their graduate literacy education courses. Their differences in interpretations of findings reveal the researchers own racial learning, growth, and awareness during the process. They recommend forming cross-racial alliances and caution future teams that the most important component for an interracial team is trust.
The chapters in Part Two: Beyond Black and White each describe a theory that evolved from CRT: LatCrit, AsianCrit, TribalCrit, QueerCrit, and Anti-Blackness/BlackCrit. The origins and literature base for each Crit are provided. Importantly, the authors delineate the tenets of these Crits and how they are specific to the experiences and contexts of their respective groups. The relationship of each Crit to teacher education and research is explained, offering readers a welcome centralized source to explore various Crit theories.
Part Three, comprised of Chapters Eleven through Fourteen, explores international epistemologies, such as Ghanaian, Fijian, Kenyan, and Confucian. This is essential reading to move people from a Western, individualized, competitive, capitalistic, materialistic, hegemonic perspective to the realization that Western representations are not universal. Readers are exposed to cultures based on values of cooperation, community, spirituality, context, and where the concept of time does not dictate peoples lives and is not connected to a profit-making motive. Nevertheless, the negative impacts of colonization are apparent. The concepts represented are necessary to begin to understand international epistemologies. They are cultural proof that competition is not hard-wired into our DNA as many pre-service teachers and others believe. Further, faculty must be well-versed in this knowledge and understanding in order to teach it.
The final chapter issues a call for compassion. The authors note that empathy is not enough and can often result in a false empathy. Therefore, compassion is described as a virtue that moves beyond empathy; it is an ethical and moral response that involves active listening. These efforts, the authors argue, are the foundation of a transformational movement for social justice in teacher education.
The critique likely to be made by pre-service and in-service teachers or by uninformed faculty teaching courses in teacher education is that the book doesnt offer any practical implementation strategies. Nevertheless, the authors present foundational knowledge that teachers must have before they are able to incorporate transformative social justice concepts in their curricula. However, the question remains: how do those engaged in the work of social justice and who infuse this work in their courses encourage, recruit, or convince status-quo colleagues of the ethical and moral necessity to do so? This will be required in order for teacher education programs to have informed teachers, attract a diverse teaching force, and transform education for social justice.
Bell, D. A. (1980). Brown v. Board of Education and the interest-convergence dilemma. Harvard Law Review, 93(3), 518533.
Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 12411299.
Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2001). Critical race theory: An introduction. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Harris, C. (1993). Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review, 106(8), 17071791.
Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. F. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers College Record, 97(1), 4768.
Stevenson, H. (2014). Promoting racial literacy in schools: Differences that make a difference. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.