A Call for Change in Multicultural Training at Graduate Schools of Education: Educating to End Oppression and for Social Justice

by Barbara Wallace - 2000

This article puts forth a call for change in multicultural training at graduate schools of education in order to prepare future professionals to work effectively within our increasingly diverse society. It is suggested that professionals well versed in multiculturalism need to consider how to revise and further refine multicultural training in order to better address linguistic and other diversity to be found among immigrants, as well as issues around sexual orientation, disability, and spirituality. Those relatively new to the field of multiculturalism are similarly encouraged to embrace the task of preparing themselves, appropriate curriculum, and their departments for the task of educating to end oppression and for social justice. Graduate schools of education are challenged to pursue the goal of organizational multicultural competence. Such a goal should be incorporated within the vision and mission of graduate schools of education across the nation, given the new demographics characterizing our increasingly diverse society.

This article puts forth a call for change in multicultural training at graduate schools of education in order to prepare future professionals to work effectively within our increasingly diverse society. It is suggested that professionals well versed in multiculturalism need to consider how to revise and further refine multicultural training in order to better address linguistic and other diversity to be found among immigrants, as well as issues around sexual orientation, disability, and spirituality. Those relatively new to the field of multiculturalism are similarly encouraged to embrace the task of preparing themselves, appropriate curriculum, and their departments for the task of educating to end oppression and for social justice. Graduate schools of education are challenged to pursue the goal of organizational multicultural competence. Such a goal should be incorporated within the vision and mission of graduate schools of education across the nation, given the new demographics characterizing our increasingly diverse society.


Short (1999) reminds us that the year 2000 has been heralded as a turning point for changes in the U.S. educational system, given the increasing diversity in schools' student populations. This diversity is projected to rise steadily in decades to come. Moreover, the call to change the way school systems educate children is coming from federal education legislation, state and local education initiatives, and even from business interests (p. 107).

It is therefore timely to call specifically for change in multicultural training at graduate schools of education. The dawning of the new millennium suggests the appropriateness of closely reviewing, revising, and further refining that which is currently in place as graduate level multicultural training for teachers and other professionals. In a journal covering the theme of multiculturalism directed to an audience that includes faculty and administrators at graduate schools of education, a call to review, revise, and further refine current multicultural training is essential. The dual goals of (1) ending the oppression of all marginalized and miseducated groups, as well as (2) teaching for social justice serve as twin guideposts for the nature and direction of that change for which this article calls.

Following the presentation of background information supporting a call for change in graduate level multicultural training, two categories of questions will form the second and third major sections of this article, guiding the discussion of pertinent issues. The fourth section of the article emphasizes the importance of graduate schools of education as institutional wholes responding to the call for change. Answering the call may mean consciously electing to move one's department, or self, and home institution toward an educational mission that embraces educating to end oppression and for social justice. Multiculturally competent organizations are needed in order to educate most effectively to end oppression and for social justice. The call put forth suggests the importance of graduate schools of education embracing the goal of multicultural competence as part of their vision and mission.


Background information may provide a context for this article's call to change graduate level multicultural training. As for myself, I am a member of the audience of faculty and administrators I seek to address through this article. I am also a member of underrepresented and marginalized groups, speaking as an African American woman who has been impacted by multiple oppressions during my lifetime. Chalmers (1997) emphasizes what happens when there is not a critical mass of faculty of color in an academic institution. The "effect of this disparity is chronic licencing of the experiences and opinions of faculty of color, limiting their impact on the core educational experience provided by the school" (Chalmers, 1997, p. 69). As the only tenured female African American woman currently on the faculty of Teachers College, Columbia University, dare I raise my voice to impact the core educational curriculum within the college? Dare I assert that other graduate schools of education—perhaps with as few faculty of color, and perhaps with equally sparse numbers of faculty from other historically marginalized and oppressed groups—need heed a call for change, revision, and further refinement in graduate level training in multiculturalism? As Associate Professor of Health Education and a psychologist, and betraying any silencing, I elect to call for change at graduate schools of education. I must take on this "challenge of multiculturalism" and select the road less traveled (Sue, 1992).

Yet I am not alone. Other educators and psychologists echo my call. Indeed, a number of contemporary researchers and scholars collectively create a chorus of voices. They speak of the needs of children and parents, as well as teachers and administrators, and even society as a whole, given the reality of a nation that we are compelled to recognize as increasingly diverse. Darling-Hammond (1997) offers a compelling call, spelling out the dimensions of what is entailed in educating educators:

The work of educating educators is, at root, the work that will enable us to sustain a productive and pluralistic democracy, for it is the capacities of teachers that make democratic education possible—that is, an education that enables all people to find and act on who they are; what their passions, gifts, and talents may be; and how they want to make a contribution to each other and the world." (p.viii)

The chorus of voices includes prominent educators such as Gordon (1999) who also speaks eloquently on the matter at hand:

High on the list of goals for education in a democratic society is the enablement of intellective development and, ultimately, understanding of the diverse people of the nation. . . . Increasingly, we in the United States are required to function in more than a single language, adapt to the demands of more than a single culture, meet the behavioral demands of more than a single situation, and understand the symbols and rituals of people other than those with whom most of us have been socialized, (p. 171)

Multicultural competencies seem essential to functioning as an educator and professional in a democratic society of the kind of which Darling-Hammond (1997) and Gordon (1999) speak. This suggests the need for graduate level multicultural training that produces such competencies in students. Yet this is also a revolutionary call to end the oppression of all those who have been historically marginalized, dehumanized, and miseducated. Indeed, the graduate level training I envision is rooted in a call for ending the oppression of humankind. But, it is consistent with the ideas of experts in multiculturalism who collectively call for a "multicultural revolution" (Sue, Bingham, Porche-Burke, & Vasquez, 1999); their vision is for multicultural competence to become a defining feature of psychological practice, education and training, and research. They recognize that "never before has a truly multicultural psychology existed" and a "multicultural psychology calls for revolutionary changes in our science, education, training, and practice" (p. 1067). So, this article's call for a review and refinement of current graduate level multicultural training is both timely and essential if we are to realize such a vision and liberate the oppressed.

Other psychologists putting out such a call identify themselves with a Psychology of Liberation (Comas-Diaz, Lykes, & Alarcon, 1998; Ivey, 1995). Educators such as Gordon (1999) are equally frank in stating that ultimately, the purpose of education is to promote liberation of the oppressed. Gordon (1999) encourages minority scientists in honest declaration of those values both implicit as well as explicit in their work. "Critical theorists openly assert human emancipation as a guiding value" (p. 184). Gordon (1999) explains the validity of this position:

Liberation is a value worthy of science. That should be the perspective from which minority scientists seek to advance multiple perspectives, and methodological rigor: not for the purpose of simply predicting, controlling, and understanding, but for the purpose of emancipating (liberating) the bodies, minds, communities, and spirits of oppressed humankind. We join them in doing so, and invite you to do the same, (p. 184)

Furthermore, it is a matter of social justice and pedagogy for faculty and administrators at graduate schools of education to consider the means by which to achieve the goals upon which Gordon (1999) elaborates. The absence of social justice looms as more than a moral problem that each of us needs to contemplate. Gordon (1999) contends that it rises to the level of a plague upon all of our houses, and, specifically, I would add, upon all of our institutions of higher learning. Gordon's (1999) analysis urges all involved in the process and pedagogy of education in a diverse, democratic nation to realize that "concern for social justice is a necessary concern for education" (p. xiii).

The promotion of liberation of the oppressed is also at the core of the work of those pioneering "teaching for social justice." Indeed, teachers report their challenges, frustrations, and joys in teaching for social justice (Ayers, Hunt, & Quinn, 1998). Maxine Greene (1998) introduces their reports by first explaining what teaching for social justice means:

That means teaching to the end of arousing a consciousness of membership, active and participant membership in a society of unfilled promises—teaching for what Paulo Freire used to call "conscientization" (1970), heightened social consciousness, a wide-awakeness that might make injustice unendurable, (p. xxx)

Ayers (1998) elaborates on his own vision of teaching for social justice, explaining that it is teaching that "arouses students, engages them in a quest to identify obstacles to their full humanity, to their freedom" (p. xvii). However, the end result is action, for students are then motivated to move against those obstacles. Seeking to inspire teachers into realizing the full potential impact of their teaching for social justice, he asserts that one can change the world when teaching for social justice, delivering this as his essential message to teachers.

However, in order to teach for social justice, preservice teachers and teacher educators need "comprehensive professional preparation that requires transformation in their own thinking and in their lives" (Garcia, 1997, p. 147). King (1997) lends support to this reality, pointing out how student teachers who enter training programs often come without any critical comprehension of societal injustice, nor understanding the "constitutive role of teachers, schooling, and school knowledge in the production of school failure and the reproduction of inequity" (p. 157). They are equally unaware of their own miseducation and alienation from the struggle for justice, according to King (1997, p. 157).

Given this harsh reality, King (1997), Garcia (1997) and many others (Huber, Kline, Bakken, & Clark, 1997; Melnick & Zeichner, 1997; Murrell & Diez, 1997) have responded by developing an array of training models with experiential components. These seek to prepare teachers to work with ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse students, beginning the process of teaching for social justice. King, Hollins, and Hayman (1997) emphasize that the chorus of voices they compile in their edited volume represents an approach to the preparation of credential candidates that goes beyond the "additive model" where one course or special courses are offered to address the diversity issue.

Historically, multicultural teacher education has evolved through three distinct phases, according to Goodwin (1997): exclusion, inclusion, and infusion (p. 21). Goodwin (1997) reminds us that the idea of multicultural teacher education is relatively new. More specifically, it was only in the early 1970s that the idea of including cultural diversity training in preservice teacher education programs gained currency. Currently, the infusion phase means that the field of teacher education is beginning to undertake the challenge of preparing "teachers who are multicultural in their practice and their perspective" (p. 22).

Despite pioneering models from those engaged in teacher preparation (King, Hollins, and Hayman, 1997), as well as the scholarship and research of many others (Banks & Banks, 1995; Hollins, King & Hayman, 1994; Larkin & Sleeter, 1995), a call for educators, including experts in multiculturalism, examining the nature of what goes on in graduate schools of education is justified. There is also justification in directing this call to psychologists, including experts in multiculturalism (Fine, Powell, Weis, & Wong, 1997; Pedersen, 1991; Pedersen, 1994; Pedersen, Draguns, Lonner, & Trimble, 1996; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, &: Alexander, 1995), similarly urging examination of multicultural training in graduate schools of education. One may argue that those models in current use may not be realizing their full potential to prepare teachers and other professionals for the challenge of ending the oppression of all members of society.


This article sets forth a variety of questions to direct the recommended process of self-examination, review, revision, and refinement of graduate level multicultural training. The most pertinent or appealing question for a particular department, individual faculty member, administrator, or institution may be just one among those listed in Table 1. The questions fall into two categories: (1) questions for those well versed in multicultural training; and (2) questions for those relatively new to multicultural training.

The questions in category I as shown in Table 1 may guide discussion, permitting suggestions of that which may enhance graduate level multicultural training. In terms of readers' answers to the questions in this category, there may emerge a need to review, revitalize, and further refine current training models and methods.



Training needs to better assist students in fully appreciating how diversity includes both culture and linguistics, as well as the implications of immigration and linguistic diversity. Spanish is the predominant non-English language spoken in the United States, while immigrants also arrive from Asian countries, speaking Chinese languages, Asian Indian languages, as well as Vietnamese, and Korean languages (Waggonner, 1999). There is tremendous diversity within the groups of people who speak the same language. Paniagua (1998) nicely summarizes current standards for psychologists working with the linguistically and culturally diverse. Yet, all professionals and educators may still need to expand their understanding of the implications of this diversity.

Citing a large body of research, Short (1999) points out how language minority students lag behind their language majority peers in academic achievement, even as the group of students for whom English is not their first language is projected to continue to grow exponentially (p. 107). While Hispanics were found to be the most undereducated major segment of the U.S. population, Southeast Asians perform below average, and Pacific Islanders were found to have the greatest needs; of all (pp. 107-108). Others focus on the problems of Chinese American immigrant students, including those from Taiwan and Hong Kong (Harklau, 1999); these students, for example, as language minority students, are adversely affected by ability grouping practices in American schools, and they are typically being located in the low-track classes.

Faltis (1999) feels it is imperative that the "concerns of immigrant and bilingual adolescents be presented as distinct from those of elementary school students" (p. 2). For example, Lee (1996) investigates the problems of low-achieving Korean- and Asian-identified high school students who, as nonnative English speakers, need more academic support than they currently receive. He also asserts a relationship between identity, historical experiences, perceptions regarding opportunities in the future, and attitudes toward schooling—issues most central to adolescent school students.

Counselors and psychologists within graduate schools of education need to be trained to manage those emotional, psychological, and identity development issues that arise from the complex challenge facing immigrant bilingual adolescents. Prevailing stereotypes negatively impact many immigrant bilingual adolescents at a critical juncture in their development.

Despite the model minority stereotype for Asian American students, low-achieving Asian students do exist and the model minority stereotype "silences the voices of low achieving students" (Lee, 1996, pp. 68-69). Indeed, there is considerable diversity within Asian American communities (Lee, 1996, p. 69) and teacher training needs to prepare future educators for this reality. Also of note, Lee's (1996) analysis suggests that students who may be quiet and polite are in danger of being promoted based on their behavior.

Even with these kinds of findings across varied studies, Short (1999) describes U.S. schools as largely remaining traditional in nature, Euro-centered, and as not having begun to adequately value and respect the cultural heritages of students. The majority of teachers have been described as Euro-American, middle class, and from cultures different from those of English language learners. Short (1999) summarizes the consequences of this mismatch, citing how teacher preparation institutions rarely train teacher candidates in strategies for teaching linguistically and culturally diverse students. The lack of familiarity with their students' cultures, learning styles, and communication patterns translates into teachers holding negative expectations for students, while inappropriate curricula, assessments, and instructional materials are used with these students, compounding the problem (p. 107). Short (1999) goes on to advocate for this population, stressing the advantages of providing students with an adequate length of time to learn English, as well as with the sheltered instruction approach, wherein language and content objectives are woven into the curriculum of one particular subject area.

Waggoner (1999) similarly concludes that "teachers should have some preparation in understanding cultural differences and differences in the educational backgrounds of their students" (p. 59). Indeed, educators must "band together for social justice" in what may be described as a time in our history when "xenophobia, anti-bilingualism, and assimilationism" reign (Faltis & Wolfe, 1999, p. 271). This translates into an urgent mandate to substantially improve education for immigrant and bilingual students through research and action, including through a special focus on adequate teacher training (Faltis & Wolfe, 1999, pp. 269, 271). The goal is to end the current miseducation and oppression of immigrant and bilingual students, reversing the current xenophobic, anti-bilingual, and assimilationist era so that social justice prevails.


The field of diversity and multiculturalism as it is currently taught in graduate schools of education does not adequately meet the needs of children with gay and lesbian parents. General issues of diversity in sexual orientation in students within both elementary and secondary schools are not adequately covered in multicultural training. Nor is there adequate multicultural training to prepare future educators, administrators, psychologists, and professionals in the fields of health and other areas for working to end the oppression of those with diverse sexual orientations. The active promotion of social justice with regard to sexual orientation is sadly lacking, even in many well-established multicultural training approaches.

Casper and Schultz (1999) underscore how their research on gay parents functioning within straight schools supports a movement of education for change:

The challenge for educators ... is to legitimize the lives of all children, regardless of race, gender, class, culture, 2nd ability levels, and certainly even more challenging, to help children themselves become activists for this change. The point of view expressed . . . seeks to bring the education of children from lesbian- and gay-headed families within the scope of this larger educational project that seeks to change, not simply mirror, our society, (p. 15)

For Casper and Schultz (1999), training for teachers must include lesbian and gay issues in course work and supervised student teaching, "as teacher educators work with teachers-to-be on how to think about and work with any population that is different from themselves" (p. 176). Casper and Schultz assert that gender theory scripts that lie "codified deep within our collective minds" need be accessed for "examination, reflection and rebuilding," placing the responsibility for helping future teachers engage in this vital work with colleges and graduate schools (p. 176). For these authors, teacher training presents a unique opportunity for this kind of work, as potential educators need to be prepared to ultimately apply theories of gender identification in their practice with many different family configurations (pp. 176-177).

The urgency of training teachers, administrators, other school personnel, counselors, and psychologists in issues of sexual identity and sexual orientation cannot be emphasized enough. A 1996 Seattle school study found that homosexual adolescents were twice as likely to have made a suicide plan and three times as likely to have attempted suicide, compared to their heterosexual peers (Wells, 1999). In addition, gay youths face an array of complex problems, including lack of self-esteem, school truancy and drop out, runaway behavior, and subsequent homelessness (Wells, 1999). They also face a greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS (East & El Rayess, 1998; Saewyc, Bearinger, Heinz, Blum, & Resnick, 1998; Wells, 1999).

Who is training teachers, counselors, and psychologists in how to provide parents of gay youth with assistance in raising children where there are issues of sexual orientation? Who is training professionals in how to effectively teach, or engage in outreach to this population, thereby providing effective social and therapeutic support, as well as health care for at-risk gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth?


Linton (1998) delineates the new field of disability studies as exploring "the critical divisions our society makes in creating the normal versus the pathological, the insider versus the outsider, or the competent citizen versus the ward of the state" (p. 2). This field refuses the medicalization of disability by reframing disability as a designation having primarily social and political significance. Moreover, the field emphasizes the manner in which the entire curriculum is inadequate with respect to the study of disability. Unfortunately, this field is marginalized within academia. Lin ton (1998) observes that the "enormous energy society expends in keeping people with disabilities sequestered and in subordinate positions is matched by the academy's effort to justify that isolation and oppression" (p. 3). Explaining how people with disabilities are a diverse group, bound together in having found their Voice in claiming disability, and work against the forces that deprive them of rights, opportunity, and the pursuit of pleasure, Linton (1998) describes this group as follows:

We are everywhere these days, wheeling and looping down the street, tapping our canes, sucking on our breathing tubes, following our guide dogs, puffing and sipping on the mouth sticks that propel our motorized chairs. We may drool, hear voices, speak in staccato syllables, wear catheters to collect our urine, or live with a compromised immune system. ... (p. 4)

However, despite people with disabilities' being everywhere, disability studies has remained on the margins for those working in diversity and multiculturalism. Linton (1998) recognizes that there is a debate over diversity and multicultural curriculum transformation. The debate involves those who favor maintaining the traditional canon and those who challenge its intellectual authority. Elaborating, Linton (1998) points out that there is a primary focus on scholarship^ that analyzes race/ethnicity and gender, placing those perspectives at the center of the discourse (pp. 88-89). She explains how the history and consequences of this construction are "for the most part invisible, giving the impression that 'multiculturalism,' as it is now rendered, should be the only focus on curriculum reform" (p. 89). Those representing a variety of multicultural and diversity initiatives—cultural, feminist, lesbian and gay, queer, African American, Asian American, Native American, and Latino/Latina studies—have failed to adequately recognize the perspective of the disabled. They fail to provide access and accommodation to panels or plenary sessions at their conferences (p. 91). Linton (1998) urges us to consider the social construction of "multicultural" and "diversity" along with the corresponding problems and pitfalls (p. 91).

It seems essential that in training future teachers, psychologists, varied professionals, and national and international leaders, we at graduate schools of education must learn to transgress the boundaries (hooks, 1994) of the construction of multiculturalism and diversity currently in vogue. Meanwhile, Linton (1998)» poses the uncanny dilemma facing this group: "It seems that scholars in these areas, given their struggles and their dedication to challenging privileged discourse, would welcome the types of inquiries that disability studies can provide" (p. 91). Linton (1998) provides several examples of compelling questions at the core of disability studies:

What functions do the creation of otherness, marginalization, and pathology serve in a society? How does cognitive, emotional, sensory, and physical variation relate to the formation of identity and, in turn, how do these facets of identity shape the formulation of scholarship? What are the particular intellectual and political formations that allow for a country's internal colonization of a group of people? How can current inquiries into the idea of the body be enhanced by an understanding of the social realities of people with anomalous bodies? How does group cohesion, culture, and identity form when there is no intergenerational transmission of culture, as with most lesbian and gay, and disabled people? (pp. 92—93).

In addition, the issues that disability studies brings to the fore involve why disability was ever disregarded as a subject matter in the academy, and why the academy was, therefore, complicit in the confinement of disability studies. Linton points-out that "each of these elements, worked through the curriculum, can serve not only to liberate people but to liberate thought" (p. 185). Moreover, this inquiry can be truly interdisciplinary, as psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, sociology, and history are "useful disciplines from which to examine disability" (p. 97).


What must also be corrected is how education, psychology, and diversity education, in particular, have largely ignored spirituality in professional training (Emmons, 1999; Miller, 1999a; Sue et al., 1999). Miller (1999b) asserts that spirituality "is the professional elephant in the living room: Everyone knows it is there, but no one talks about it above an occasional whisper" (p. xix). This is odd, for long before "there were science-based health care professions, people were served by culturally defined healers. The functions of healing were often blended with those of spiritual leadership within the community, as in the native shaman . . . and pilgrimage shrines. . ."(Miller, 1999b, p. 3).

Miller (1999b) points out the following:

. . . an understanding of people, individually and collectively, is incomplete without knowing about their spirituality. . . . (T)raining ... is expected to include education about cultural and individual diversity—preparation to work competently with a broad spectrum of people—and such diversity surely includes varieties of spirituality. . . . (S)omewhere along the way, spirituality and religion became unwelcome topics for health professionals in general and for .mental health professionals in particular, (pp. xvii-xviii)

Differentiating spirituality from religion can be helpful, according to Miller and Thoresen (1999). However defined, whether broadly as consciousness, or in relation to transcendence, spirituality (like personality or character) is an attribute of individuals. Religion, in contrast, is an organized social entity. Miller and Thoresen (1999) explain how individuals define their own spirituality. Spiritual experiences might include material experiences such as mountain biking at dusk, or quiet contemplation of nature. Or, they may involve reflection on the direction of one's life, as well as a feeling of intimate connection with loved ones. Clearly, spirituality and religion are not the same. Miller and Thoresen (1999) then pose and answer an important question: What are the dimensions of this multidimensional space of spirituality? People can be described by the extent to which they engage in spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, meditation, and contemplation. Also included here would be participation in specifically religious activities such as worship, dance, scriptural study, singing, confession, offerings, and public prayer (p. 7).

Quite practically, Miller and Thoresen (1999) indicate that "it is not necessary (or even feasible) for health professionals to be trained in the specifics of the broad array of spiritual and religious perspectives that may be represented among their clients" (p. 9). They suggest that clinicians need, beyond appropriate initial and continuing professional education, a set of culturally sensitive proficiencies. These include a nonjudgmental, accepting, and empathic relationship with the client, as well as an openness and willingness to take time to understand the client's spirituality as it may relate to health-related issues. Clinicians also need some familiarity with culturally related values, beliefs, and practices that are common among the client populations likely to be served. And, some level of comfort in asking and talking about spiritual issues with clients is essential. Finally, there is a need for a willingness to seek information from appropriate professionals and coordinate care concerning clients' spiritual traditions.

Gorsuch and Miller (1999) explain how "spiritual processes may be prognostic, contextual, outcome and intervention variables in treatment" (p. 48). Sue et al. (1999) assert that "psychology must balance its reductionistic tendencies with the knowledge that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" (p. 1065). This means that it is essential to understand people as cultural and spiritual beings, suggesting vital elements of a psychology of human existence (p. 1065). Given this importance, multicultural training must be further refined to ensure competence in regards to spirituality.


Table 1 displays questions in Category II for those who may be relatively new to the arena of multicultural training. These questions may guide a process of development in regards to multiculturalism. This may involve, first, further increasing knowledge, then changing important attitudes and beliefs, as well as moving toward a change in behavior. Perhaps, as teachers, we begin to teach multicultural content in courses, or, as administrators, direct the inclusion of multicultural course content across the curriculum overall, while moving our institutions toward organizational multicultural competence.

In order to take the first step of increasing knowledge, it is important to examine pertinent scholarship and research. This includes the work of those pioneering multicultural and diversity training within teacher preparation programs, as discussed earlier. However, the field of counseling psychology has also provided critical leadership to the "helping professions," pioneering what has been referred to as the "fourth force" in psychology, adding a new theory, research, and practice arm to the field, given the psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and humanistic-existential arenas (Pedersen, 1991). This new domain has also been referred to as multicultural counseling (Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 1995) and cross-cultural counseling (Pedersen et al., 1996). Yet others have also identified as "new" what has been called a global, international psychology (Greenfield & Cocking, 1994; Kitayama & Markus, 1995) and a cultural psychology (Shweder, 1995). Discussions of whiteness and privilege also fall within this domain (Fine et al., 1997). Recognizing the often oppressed status of cultural groups in need of empowerment, others have also spoken of a psychology of black liberation (Cross, 1971), psychotherapy as liberation (Ivey, 1995), and the psychology of liberation (Aron & Corne, 1994; Comas-Diaz, Lykes, & Alarcon, 1998). Finally, the pedagogy of oppression has long valued liberation (Freire, 1970), suggesting educators' stake in this domain.

Many of those who are relatively new to multicultural training may benefit from reviewing this scholarship, especially taking note of the latest discourse on whiteness and white privilege. Being white means accruing unearned privileges with the beneficiaries being oblivious and unaware (Sue et al., 1999, p. 1065). On the other hand, being a person of color means accumulating deficits and disadvantages (Sue et al., 1999, p. 1065). Faculty and administrators may need to develop the ability to engage in conversations about these invisible processes involving whiteness and white privilege, even if it involves a difficult dialogue. This is an important step in coming to understand one's own privileged position in academia and society in general. The capacity to speak about white privilege may be cultivated, reflecting the paradigm shift that is essential in order for faculty and administrators to fulfill their mission as educators in our increasingly diverse society.


Following Kuhn (1970), Sue et al. (1996) note the conditions under which a paradigm shift occurs: "(1) the science and theory of the day cannot adequately account for ideas, concepts, and data, and (2) a new and competing perspective better accommodates the existing data" (p. 4). A paradigm shift is critically needed to account for the reality of our increasingly diverse society, and for the necessity of ending the oppression and miseducation of humanity. Indeed, "the inclusion of diversity and multicultural-ism entails using new paradigms that may challenge traditional Euro-American assumptions" (Sue et al., 1999, p. 1066).


A significant body of knowledge can be considered as we prepare for the task of establishing adequate graduate multicultural training. Definitions, theory, research, and scholarship can be drawn upon to increase our knowledge, possibly also findings place in the course materials to be prepared for the training of graduate students.


Exposure to new and evolving definitions, perhaps within a multicultural-ism course, or through materials such as this article can begin to foster the desired paradigm shift. I offer a number of guiding definitions to increase knowledge, whether that of faculty and administrators, or of graduate students.

A new multicultural paradigm in the mind of graduate students may be metaphorically established within the intellect, being akin to acquiring a new set of lenses through which the world may be viewed. Course work may help establish a new "multicultural paradigm in the mind," replacing former Euro-American assumptions, including, for example, invisible concepts of white privilege and white superiority. A new multicultural paradigm in the mind may also serve as a guide for behavior when interacting with diverse populations in multicultural settings.

Multiculturalism can be defined as existing or living in a condition or state where there are many or multiple cultural influences (Wallace, 1996, p. 103). In this manner, we both exist as multicultural human beings and live in a nation that is multicultural. For example, if we are multicultural human beings living in the United States, most of us reflect the impact of several cultural influences on us. There is the transmission of traditions, practices, and beliefs from generation to generation and from group member to member, coming from at least three sources. These sources include (1) the culture of our family, (2) the culture of our ethnic and/or religious group, and (3) the larger culture of the United States of America. Our existence reflects these three cultural influences at the very least. Others of us may be biracial, may also be bisexual or homosexual, may have parents from two different ethnic or religious groups, may even be multiracial, and may have spent many years of life in another country. Because of the media and technology, we increasingly perceive and feel what it means to live in a global community that is multicultural. When we interact socially with others who are from other types of families, other ethnic and/or religious groups, and also from other countries, this social condition further constitutes multiculturalism. In this way, we arrive at a definition of multiculturalism that goes beyond our personal condition or state and reflects multiple social and cultural influences (Wallace, 1996, p. 103).

This view of multiculturalism can also be seen as fostering the goal of our becoming a pluralistic society. A pluralistic society has been defined as one in which we all respectfully learn about each others' experiences, practices, values, traditions, and beliefs as we interact socially—as members of different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups (Wallace, 1996, p. 103). Within a pluralistic society, we strive to achieve more than just tolerance of each other's values, traditions, and beliefs. Ideally, we arrive at a level of acceptance and respect for those who freely practice traditions that are different from our own. Clearly, our society in the United States is far from realizing this goal (Wallace, 1993, p. 103), supporting the importance of graduate schools of education adopting appropriate course work on multiculturalism.

My work also emphasizes the systematic conditioning of cognitions, or systematic learning of thoughts that may produce certain attitudes and lead to particular forms of behavior, including discrimination and hate crimes. These learned thoughts cover, for example, negative racial and ethnic stereotypes and notions of white privilege and superiority. This is a way to understand how prejudice and subsequent acts of discrimination are systematically learned—being taught via family, ethnic/religious, and larger cultural influences (Wallace, 1996). This learning about affects of hate, violent behavioral practices, and cognitions of hate occurs via membership in our families, ethnic and religious groups, and the larger violent culture within the United States (Wallace, 1996, pp. 106-107).

Multicultural sensitivity involves awareness of multiple cultural influences, and the ability to be able to adopt an attitude and stance of inquiry regarding what is appropriate in interacting and communicating with diverse others. An individual with multicultural sensitivity understands that all prior conditioned affective responses (for example, disdain or hate), assumptions (all conditioned cognitions), and automatic conditioned behaviors should be questioned or suspended, as one seeks to discover what is appropriate interpersonal behavior. Often this requires entering the worldview of the individual (utilizing one's multicultural paradigm in the mind) and coming to understand the values, traditions, expectations, and behaviors that are a part of that culture. This involves observation, empathic listening, asking well-timed and appropriate questions, or entering into an on-going dialogue with an individual member of a cultural group. New affective, cognitive, and behavioral responses may be established to replace the old conditioned ones.

Multicultural competence involves an individual going beyond the mere possession of multicultural sensitivity to also attain an acceptable level of knowledge, a sufficient shift in attitude, and the production of a repertoire of behaviors consistent with successfully interacting with diverse populations in multicultural settings. The ability to convey genuine respect and acceptance is a part of multicultural competence.

An obvious advantage of mandatory multiculturalism training across more than one semester, or when infused in content across the curriculum, is that there may be sufficient time to discuss, debate, and analyze the merits of various approaches to multiculturalism. According to Sue et al. (1998), multiculturalism has 10 major characteristics: (1) it values cultural pluralism and teaches valuing diversity rather than negation or even "toleration," being a "national resource and treasure"; (2) it is concerned with social justice, cultural democracy, and equity, actualizing ideals in the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights for all groups; (3) it values helping all of us to acquire the attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed to function effectively in a pluralistic democratic society and to interact, negotiate, and communicate with diverse peoples; (1) it is reflected in more than race, class, gender, and ethnicity, including diversity in religion, national origin, sexual orientation, ability and disability, age, geographic origin, etc. . . . ; (5) it promotes understanding of the history, conditions, and social reality, as well as contributions, achievements, and positive and negative aspects, of the multiple groups in our society; (6) it challenges us to study multiple cultures, is an essential component of analytic thinking, and teaches how to integrate broad and conflicting bodies of information to arrive at sound judgments; (7) it respects and values other perspectives, not being value neutral, but involving an activist orientation and commitment to social justice—investigating differences in power, privilege, and the distribution of scarce resources as well as rights and responsibilities; (8) it means change at the individual, organizational, and societal levels, encouraging the development of new theories, policies, and organizational structures that are more responsive to all groups, suggesting a long- term process and hard work; (9) it means owning up to the painful realities about oneself, our group, and our society, requiring a willingness to honestly confront and work through potentially unpleasant conflicts; and, (10) it is about achieving positive individual, community, and societal outcomes, as a result of valuing inclusion, cooperation, and movement toward mutually shared goals (pp. 5—6).

Sue et al. (1998) define ethnocentric monoculturalism as much broader than racism, sexism, and homophobia, and as being dysfunctional in a pluralistic society like the United States (pp. 14-15). They identify at length the five elements of ethnocentric monoculturalism as follows: (1) a strong belief in the superiority of one's group's cultural heritage, which includes doing things in the "best way"; (2) a belief in the inferiority of all other groups' cultural heritage; (3) the dominant group's possessing the power to impose their standards and beliefs on less powerful groups, given unequal status relationships; (4) ethnocentric values and beliefs manifested in the programs, policies, structures, and institutions of the society, including chain-of-command systems, and management systems, as women and minorities may be oppressed; and (5) because people are all products of cultural conditioning, they have a resulting worldview with values and beliefs that operate outside the level of conscious awareness—often resulting in the erroneous assumption that the nature of reality and truth are universal and, shared by everyone, regardless of race, culture, ethnicity, or gender (p. 16).

Theories of Identity and Related Research

Pertinent theories and models of identity development may further increase knowledge. Through refinements in theory and ongoing research, great progress has been made in understanding the development of racial identity (Gross, 1971), white racial identity (Hardiman, 1982; Helms, 1984; Rowe, et al., 1994), black and white and people of color racial identity (Helms, 1990, 1995), Chinese American identity (Sue & Sue, 1971), Japanese American identity (Kitano, 1982), Hispanic identity (Ruiz, 1990), as well as identity development for American Indians (Choney, Berryhill-Paapke, & Robbins, 1995), feminists (McNamara & Richard, 1989), and gays/lesbians (McCarn & Fassinger, 1996). Indeed, it have been asserted that the past 16 years have given birth to a leading new theoretical and research direction termed racial identity development that effectively focuses on understanding how individuals come to accept themselves as racial beings in a racist society. Furthermore, racial identity development is viewed as a central component of training professionals (Sue et al., 1998), drawing upon a vast scholarship. Again, Lin ton (1998) urges us to consider and learn how identity forms when there is no intergenerational transmission of culture, as with disabled people. Spirituality identity development theory and research is also needed. This suggests the need for yet further evolution in the knowledge base within multicultural research.


Knowledge of definitions and theory also begins to stimulate the process of shifting attitudes and beliefs. However, exposure to scholarship also directly serves to accomplish a change in attitudes and beliefs. Carter (1997), for example, highlights how white racial identity is a "psychological template which operates as a 'world view' and serves as a filter for race-based information" (p. 199), so that viewing whites as superior, for example, and people of color as inferior, may follow (p. 200), illustrating the underpinning of key attitudes and beliefs.

What passes as knowledge may actually reflect unconscious attitudes and erroneous beliefs of which individuals lack conscious awareness. Much research reflects this view of superiority and inferiority, as researchers claiming to engage in science have projected this schema internationally. There have been extensive critiques of mainstream psychology for lacking an adequate cultural and international focus (Ingleby, 1995; Shewder, 1995; Cushman, 1995; Greenfield, 1994a, 1994b). These critiques help to debunk myths and shift students' attitudes and beliefs—which may involve notions of the implicit superiority of Euro-American and Western perspectives in research.

For example, Greenfield (1994b) has analyzed how Euro-American scientists assume that independent and school based cognitive development are universal goals of development, leading to labeling of culturally different children as lacking in initiative and being exposed to authoritarian child-rearing. This negates the cultural value often placed on the interdependence of children within a family context, as well as respect for elders (Greenfield, 1994b). Another compelling example involves how field independence is viewed as superior to field dependence, which needs to be reconceptualized as field sensitivity (Greenfield, 1994b). Greenfield's (1994b) analysis is compelling in seeking to debunk the myth of a value-neutral science, as does that of many others. This body of work is critical in shifting attitudes and beliefs about the superiority of Euro-American scholarship, while also revealing much about that historical paradigm away from which Gordon (1999), hooks (1994), Greene (1998), and Ayers et al. (1998) seek to move us. Exposure to this kind of scholarship may serve to shift our attitudes and beliefs, and fundamentally move us toward a new paradigm that seeks an alternative to the historical, ethnocentric, monocultural paradigm.


The ultimate goal in increasing knowledge and shifting attitudes and beliefs is the production of behavior that incorporates interpersonal and communication skills consistent with multicultural competence. Evidence of the production of actual behavior change is scant, but exists. Lawrence and Tatum (1997) recognize how so few studies have focused on the effects of antiracist education for teachers. These authors found in their own research, however, that 85% (n = 20) of teachers showed evidence of some changes in attitude and behavior following exposure over seven months to a three-hour session that met every other week after school. According to Lawrence and Tatum (1997), "all 'actions' represented positive movement out of the silence and complicity which have worked in tandem to maintain the cycle of oppression" (p. 340). Of note, these authors discuss the dilemma facing these educators after exposure to the course. "They knew they would find little support for continued dialogue about race in their buildings and questioned whether they would be able to maintain their commitment without a strong support network" (p. 341). However, at least these teachers had begun the process of creating a new identity, "that of educator as ally, an advocate for students of color, and a much-needed antiracist role model for white students" (p. 341). Hence, those engaged in diversity training in school settings claim success in providing training in essential skills that result in an actual change in behavior. Similarly, the research and work of those training teachers and counselors, respectively, suggest success in the area of behavior change and skill building toward multicultural competence (King, Hollins, & Hayman, 1997; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 1995).


A relevant issue is whether or not a graduate school of education values the goal of becoming a multiculturally competent institution, beyond promoting multicultural competence in graduate students. Ideally, professionals find in both their larger graduate school of education and the diverse organizational settings within which they work—whether schools, colleges, universities, community-based organizations, hospitals, or clinics—a supportive network of others who are also multiculturally competent. Better yet, they find themselves situated within a multiculturally competent organization, or one systemically working toward this status as a valued goal— something fundamental to the institution's vision and mission. While Sue et al. (1998) have identified many elements of a multiculturally competent organization, most pertinent is the suggestion that "deans and chairs of institutions of higher education might be held responsible for recruiting, retaining, and promoting minorities and women within their own units. Professors might be held accountable for incorporating diversity into their curriculum," necessitating "being unafraid to address topics likely to create difficult dialogues in the classroom (race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on)" (p. 45).

Consistent with the changes recommended in this article, fuller inclusion of linguistic diversity, sexual orientation issues, disability studies, and spirituality would mean that those individuals recruited, retained, and promoted would also have expertise in these areas. And, those difficult dialogues supported would cover these areas, as well as whiteness and white privilege.

Zane (1997), an advocate of diversity training within organizational settings, points out that "while facilitated talk may be a prerequisite to altering white male discourse, a larger institutional context that supports change guided by a powerful champion is required as well" (p. 352). Whether the CEO, President, Dean, or chair of a department, the organization needs to perceive a leader who is "quite serious about creating a more humane, diverse organizational climate—in which he [is] willing to commit financial and human resources," as was true in a successful organizational case Zane (1997) presents.

It is important to appreciate that it is not only a long process for individuals to arrive at multicultural competence, but also a long process for organizations to arrive at multicultural competence. Relevant is the developmental continuum of cultural competence for caregiving organizations (cultural destructiveness, cultural incapacity, cultural blindness, cultural pre-competence, cultural competence, cultural proficiency) developed by Cross, Bazron, Dennis, and Isaacs (1989). Cultural competence is characterized by a continuing assessment by the organization regarding culture, paying close attention to the dynamics of difference, and a continuous expansion of the knowledge base on culture. It also includes a variety of adaptations to service models to better meet the needs of diverse populations (Cross et al., 1989, p. 17; Sue et al., 1998, p. 105).

It is also recommended that organizations engage in an institutional audit of programs, policies, and practices as part of determining whether the organization is appropriately pursuing multicultural organizational development (Sue et al., 1998). These authors caution that it "does little good that individual instructors may present multicultural content to students when the very organization that employs them is filled with mono-cultural policies and practices" (p. 135). Sue et al. (1998) also recognize the possibilities that an organization may "actively discourage, negate, or punish multicultural expressions among faculty and students" (p. 135). It is because of these factors that the authors suggest that the process of developing "new rules, regulations, policies, and practices, and structures that enhance multiculturalism are important and requires an institutional audit" (p. 135).

Pang, Anderson, and Martuza (1998) point out the importance of professional development for university faculty in the area of multiculturalism, as well. She articulates quite eloquently just how entrenched the status quo may be at such institutions:

Although professors of color may be recruited or new books with cultural content added to the bookstore shelves, the power structure remains solidly in place; this structure is based on the legitimacy of the Western construction of knowledge, value orientation, and historical tradition, (p. 55)

Pang et al. (1998) expound further, as follows:

Although it is possible to create programs that "sensitize" professors to the need for cultural literacy, the basic structure of universities, remains largely dominated by Western thought and an entrenched system of control. The hierarchical nature of higher education is thus an enormous obstacle to real change. The mask of control and power exercised by administrators must be removed to advance systemic reform in teacher preparation. We need leaders who have deep ethical convictions and the moral courage to move forward in the face of oppressive conditions. They must be willing to risk questioning, isolation, animosity, and hostility from others. Movement toward a socially just, transformed society in which marginalized groups are included within an expanded definition of community ... is a slow process that will not occur without grave pain. The struggle is a difficult one. (pp. 69-70)

However, it is also an essential process. Given the need in the new millennium, hopefully, institutions of higher education will play their role in preparing teachers and other professionals by valuing a process and pedagogy of education that liberates the oppressed.


This article put forth a call for change in multicultural training at graduate schools of education across the nation. The article posed questions for those with considerable expertise in the area of multiculturalism and diversity and for those relatively new to the field, and put forth a challenge for graduate schools of education to incorporate multicultural competence as a part of their vision and mission. Discussion sought to begin the process of increasing knowledge, shifting attitudes and beliefs, as well as stimulating a change in the behavior of those faculty and administrators reading this article. Ideally, new behavior that follows from reading this article includes the teaching of either mandatory multicultural core course (s) or an infusion of multicultural course content across the curriculum, as well as working within one's institution toward the goal of organizational multicultural competence.

A graduate school of education is in a unique position to impact many fields, and to, specifically, prepare professionals to function effectively within a multicultural society. Multiple fields may be transformed and made more amenable for effective engagement with multicultural populations, nationally and internationally, by virtue of graduate students receiving exposure to theory, research, and practical supervision consistent with obtaining multicultural sensitivity and competence. The possibilities include creating a cadre of professionals who have the potential to make a global impact in any arena where multicultural sensitivity and competence may help resolve historical, contemporary, or potential problems. The impact of dispersing multiculturally sensitive and competent professionals across diverse fields in national and international settings can include increasing school children's academic achievement, improving their levels of school retention, improving public health, reducing many forms of violence, and even helping to resolve international ethnopolitical conflicts. Indeed, educating for social justice means the potential for changing the world as we know it. Oppressed humanity and those forging the pedagogy of teaching for social justice join my voice in collectively calling for such change. The promise of joining in the task of ending the oppression of all of humanity looms as a great hope that graduate schools of education may yet embrace as part of their vision and mission.


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BARBARA C. WALLACE is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is the author of Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families: Prevention, Intervention and Treatment for Community Mental Health Promotion (Praeger Publishers, 1996).

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 102 Number 6, 2000, p. 1086-1111
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