Building a Framework for Classroom-Based Multicultural Democratic Education: Learning From Three Skilled Teachers


by Anand R. Marri - 2005

Recognizing the increasingly racially and ethnically diverse politically disengaged population along with the central role of schools in preparing democratic citizens, this study investigated how 3 skilled secondary social studies teachers taught about and for multicultural democracy to prepare students for active and effective citizenship through a collective case study. The article discusses their pedagogy, the ways in which they provided their students with "codes of power" and skills for effective citizenship, and how they extended the curriculum beyond "official knowledge." In addition, it presents a framework for classroom-based multicultural democratic education, which incorporates critical pedagogy, building of community, and thorough disciplinary content and skills, based on a combination of the theoretical frame and the practice of these 3 skilled teachers.

Recognizing the increasingly racially and ethnically diverse politically disengaged population along with the central role of schools in preparing democratic citizens, this study investigated how 3 skilled secondary social studies teachers taught about and for multicultural democracy to prepare students for active and effective citizenship through a collective case study. The article discusses their pedagogy, the ways in which they provided their students with “codes of power” and skills for effective citizenship, and how they extended the curriculum beyond ‘‘official knowledge. ‘‘ In addition, it presents a framework for classroom-based multicultural democratic education, which incorporates critical pedagogy, building of community, and thorough disciplinary content and skills, based on a combination of the theoretical frame and the practice of these 3 skilled teachers.


There exists a gap between multicultural and democratic education when addressing the question of how to educate members for democracy in a multicultural society. According to Parker (1997), neither field has been able ‘‘to mount the larger perspective and embrace the big picture needed to educate a diverse student population for democratic living ‘‘ (p. 12) because multicultural and democratic education have developed as distinct topics, literatures, and professional communities. This separate development has led to a clash over the aims of public schooling. Gutmann (1995) believes that this clash between securing civic values and respecting cultural aims has led to many of the contemporary controversies about public schooling.


This study is an attempt to bridge the gap between these two fields. As Gay (1997) astutely notes, the relationship between multicultural and democratic education is a natural, healthy, and complementary one. The classroom-based multicultural democratic education (CMDE) framework presented in this article shows one possible way that these fields may be combined to prepare a thoughtful, active, and effective citizenry. This framework provides an initial model of how to bridge this gap by incorporating principles from both fields to transform a racially and ethnically diverse, politically disengaged population into such a citizenry.


It is important to note the CMDE framework discussed in this article is the result of a combination of both theory and practice. A theoretical frame was used to guide observations and interviews with three practitioners, recommended for their excellent teaching. On the basis of both, the CMDE framework was formulated. The next section discusses research questions and the theoretical frame that guided observations.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS


The primary research question posed was: How do three skilled secondary social studies teachers teach about and for multicultural democracy in their U. S. history courses? In answering this question through an instrumental collective case study (Stake, 1995), I was able to generate an initial framework for how teachers can teach about and for multicultural democracy. The secondary question for this research focused on impediments: What factors serve as obstacles in working toward classroom-based multicultural democracy?

THEORETICAL FRAME


Multicultural democracy incorporates socioeconomic, cultural, and political diversity. For the purposes of this study, socioeconomic diversity was de-fined in terms of social class and cultural diversity in regard to ethnicity, race, language, gender, sexual orientation, ability/disability, and religion. Political diversity was defined in terms of political viewpoints, not simply political parties.


Multicultural democracy begins by asking two critical questions (Parker, 1996b):


1. Who is and is not participating in democracy and on whose terms?


2. How wide is the path to participation?


The first question closely examines the nature of participation of citizens, whereas the second question analyzes the formal and informal social structures that affect participation of citizens. Answering these two questions will “displace the longstanding assumption that liberal democratic institutions have effectively addressed the issues raised by diversity” (Parker, 1996b, p. 192). These questions also serve as a foundation for the three theoretical tenets of multicultural democracy:1 democracy as a shared path, membership in both large and little publics, and diversity as strength.


Multicultural democratic education, simply put, is a combination of democratic and multicultural education. It aims


to improve race relations and to help all [italics added] students acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to participate in cross-cultural interactions and in personal, social, and civic [italics added] action that will help make our nation more democratic and [italics added] just. (Banks, 2003, p. x)


Multicultural democratic education begins in the classroom through CMDE. As Cuban (1984) states, true long-lasting educational reform must start in the classroom.

CMDE


CMDE consists of three elements (critical pedagogy, building of community, and thorough disciplinary content), each of which is explained below.

Critical Pedagogy


Critical pedagogy engages students in social problem solving by enabling them to think about which problems are worth solving, according to whom, to what ends, and in whose favor (Parker, 2001). This critical approach begins with the teacher. Students may more easily learn about multicultural democracy if the teacher starts with a critical reconceptualization of democracy. For this to occur, the teacher must allow the lives, histories, and experiences of diverse socioeconomic and cultural groups, especially those who have been “shortchanged,” to play a critical role in the study of multicultural democracy. Socioeconomic and cultural diversity must be studied along with political diversity. This does not mean including more voices from various little publics. ‘‘This approach is merely additive and leaves the primary stories unchanged ‘‘ (Perry & Fraser, 1993, p. 19). Instead, critical stories must be told that provide “a much clearer picture of the society's already unequal cultural, economic, and political dynamics” (Apple, 1993, p. 26). This is important because even though students have a general sense that there have been multiple histories, they seldom hear multiple voices or examine multiple perspectives on events (Hahn, 2001; Crocco, 2003–2004). Teachers must provide students with a critical account of U. S. history and, more importantly, aid students in gaining critical thinking skills to learn about multicultural democracy.


Critical pedagogy works on a continuum. It encourages students to move toward action and human agency (Ball, 2000; Freire, 1990) by exercising agency through critical thinking, individual social action, and group social action. Students can be engaged in social problem solving by enabling them to think about which problems are worth solving, according to whom, to what ends, and in whose favor (Apple, 1993; Ball, 2000; Giroux & McLaren, 1994). Furthermore, it encourages students to move toward forms of action and human agency (Ball, 2000; Freire, 1990).

Building of Community


Building of community means teachers create a climate of mutual respect to help students build positive relationships, resolve conflicts, and develop group problem-solving skills (Browning, Davis, & Retsa, 2000; Nelsen, Lott, & Glenn, 2000; Schaps & Lewis, 1997). To build community, for example, students are encouraged to engage in discussion and interact socially with other students from different racial, ethnic, cultural, and language groups to build understanding. To do this, teachers can structure cooperative groups that enable students from different racial and ethnic groups to become acquainted as individuals (Banks, 2001). This is important because, as Dewey (1916) stated, it is by associating and resolving issues with people whose views are different from one’s own that democracy is learned (pp. 86–88). Even in homogenous classrooms, based on race, class, or gender, teachers can create cooperative groups that allow students to be seen as individuals, instead of as representatives, of a specific group.

Thorough Disciplinary Content


The principle of thorough disciplinary content contains two complementary elements. First, this principle emphasizes teaching the mainstream academic knowledge, behaviors, and values that reflect views accepted by the subject area or discipline. ‘‘Most of the knowledge that constitutes the established canon in the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities is mainstream academic knowledge” (Banks, 1995, p. 393). Such knowledge privileges a Eurocentric curriculum. According to Ross, “This approach is politically conservative, valuing stability and common standards of thought and behavior” (Ross, 1997, p. 7). An example of this approach is the work of the committee that led to the production of the National Standards for Civics and Government (Center for Civic Education, 1994). Advocates of this approach believe that children should know the past because ‘‘historical knowledge is the precondition for political intelligence ‘‘ (Gagnon, 1996, p. 243). Simply put, mainstream academic knowledge provides students with the ‘‘codes of power ‘‘ (Delpit, 1988) that students need to thrive in schools, colleges, and universities.


In addition to mainstream academic knowledge, thorough disciplinary content also incorporates transformative academic knowledge, which ‘‘consists of concepts, paradigms, themes, and explanations that challenge mainstream academic knowledge and that expand the historical and literary canon ‘‘ (Banks, 1995, p. 394). Students are exposed to multiple perspectives and multiple cases on the subject matter. Content is presented that challenges the notion that traditional interpretations are universalistic and unrelated to human interests (Collins, 1990; Ladson-Billings, 2001; Marri, 2003b). Teachers provide students with the content that illustrates more than the traditional viewpoint. Transformative academic knowledge emphasizes the content that questions and critiques the standard views accepted by the dominant society.

METHOD

CASE IDENTIFICATION


The present study focused on three public high school U. S. history teachers whose teaching was observed over the course of one semester. The three teachers were selected based on the following criteria: (a) They provided equitable opportunities for all students to learn through integrating multiple sources of information, (b) they used multiple perspectives in their teaching, (c) they encouraged students to expand learning beyond the classroom, and (d) they were involved in professional development activities. These four criteria were viewed as a proxy for ‘‘good ‘‘ teaching (Lightfoot, 1983). Good teachers, in this sense, are teachers whose work ‘‘might tell us about the myriad definitions of educational success and how it is achieved ‘‘ (Lightfoot, 1983, p. 11). Further, since the study’s goal was to generate an initial framework for how social studies teachers can teach about and for multicultural democracy, these criteria facilitated the generation of such an initial framework.


Eight teachers agreed to participate in the study. These teachers met the stated criteria based on preliminary observations of their teaching, recommendations of the district social studies curriculum director, recommendations from other teachers and administrators, and involvement in professional development activities. Additional selection factors included teachers’ willingness to be observed and to engage in interview discussions about the study, as well as logistical concerns such as travel distance to the school site, the times they taught, and their general availability for interviews.


The participants in this study were not initially familiar with the theoretical frame used to design the study for several reasons. First, this knowledge could have potentially influenced their teaching methods and approaches, creating bias. Second, as I mentioned earlier, the intent was to use the teaching observations in tandem with the theoretical frame to craft the CMDE framework. To minimize teachers’ exposure to ideas about CMDE during the course of the interviews, the CMDE components were not discussed until the final interview. Rather, from the onset of the study, the teachers were given opportunities to discuss broad aspects of multicultural democracy theory. After all observations concluded, I shared the CMDE framework and solicited the teachers’ feedback during final interviews.

DATA GENERATION AND ANALYSIS


I observed each teacher every day during the course of a unit of study (approximately 4 weeks). In sum, I observed a minimum of twenty 50-minclass periods for each teacher. I also interviewed each teacher three times: once at the start of the unit, the second time midway though the unit, and the third time after the completion of my observations. Finally, I collected and analyzed teacher-generated materials, such as handouts, quizzes, exams, and projects, during my observations. These materials varied by teacher. I did not interview students or collect any student-generated material, as this was not the focus of my study.


In instrumental-collective case studies, in which cases serve to help readers understand phenomena or relationships within them, there exists a need for categorical data (Stake, 1995). The present study analyzed the data to create codes and categories of data through line-by-line inductive coding (Miles & Huberman, 1984).

CONTEXT OF THREE CASES

DISTRICT


The Homestead2 School District, where all three teachers work, is the second largest in the Midwestern state in which it is located, serving approximately25, 000 students. Its 54 schools include 32 elementary (K–5) schools, 13 middle (6–8) schools, 4 comprehensive high (9–12) schools, and 5 alternative high schools. The district also has early childhood programs and secondary (6–12) alternative programs located at its 54 schools. The district covers approximately 65 square miles, including all or part of 11 towns, villages, and cities.

CASE 1: WILL SINCLAIR AT SEVENTH AVENUE SCHOOL

Teacher, School, and Students


Mr. Will Sinclair is a White, 7th-year social studies teacher in his mid-30s at the Seventh Avenue School (SAS), an alternative school that provides a4-semester sequence of academic courses and related work experiences that emphasize a core academic curriculum for each semester. Academic courses are scheduled for the first half of the day at the school. Students spend the other half of each day working at different work sites away from the school building. During my study, Mr. Sinclair’s 4th-semester class consisted of 15 students who started as a cohort at the SAS together as1st-semester students, meaning that these students had had the same classes as one another for the previous year and a half. They all arrived at SAS with zero to five credits (a very low number) after 2 years at a comprehensive high school.

Curriculum Unit


Mr. Sinclair taught a 1-month-long unit on the Civil Rights movement. The unit started with an examination of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development followed by an analysis of four dilemmas involving moral choices to set the stage for understanding the rationale for actions of the movement’s leaders. Next, Mr. Sinclair led his students in an in-depth examination of the Civil Rights movement through text-based discussions and inquiry-based lessons. The final part of the unit revolved around deconstructing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ’s Letter From Birmingham Jail.

CASE 2: CHRISTINE JENSEN AT TOWNSEND HIGH SCHOOL

Teacher, School, and Students


Ms. Christine Jensen is a 10th-year African American teacher in her40s. Teaching is her second career, undertaken after she served as an administrator for a number of educational organizations. In addition to her role as a social studies teacher, Ms. Jensen also heads the Minority Student Affairs office for Townsend High School, a traditional, comprehensive high school that serves over 2, 000 students and employs over 150faculty and staff members. Ms. Jensen’s U. S. history class had 21 ninth graders.

Curriculum Unit


Ms. Jensen began the 3-week unit I observed, ‘‘1920s to the Beginning of World War II, ‘‘ by having students think about the importance of women to families and to society during this period (and in general). She then focused on America in the 1920s. Next, Ms. Jensen’s class engaged in an analysis of the effects of the Great Depression and New Deal programs on various groups (women, Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants from Eastern Europe and Asia, and others) in American society. Finally, she reviewed the 1920s and 1930s through a study of 10 questions aimed to help students understand the significant issues for the United States and Europe.

CASE 3: JENNY WESTPHALEN AT MORNINGSIDE HIGH SCHOOL

Teacher, School, and Students


Ms. Jenny Westphalen is a 10th-year White teacher in her 30s. A history major in college, she decided to become a teacher after being a corporate trainer for several years. She teaches at Morningside High School, a traditional comprehensive high school that serves over 2, 000 students and has over 200 faculty and staff members. One hundred countries are represented in the student population, and the school has the highest attendance and graduation rates in the district. Ms. Westphalen ’s 4th-period American Experience I & II class had 26 ninth graders.

Curriculum Unit


Ms. Westphalen taught a 312-week unit on the Vietnam War through a simulation, Mission: A Simulation of American Foreign Policy in Vietnam. This simulation, created in the 1970s, was designed, according to the instruction sheet provided to the students, to help students “vividly experience the complexities of shaping foreign policy in American Democracy.” She divided the class into several factions (Hawks, Doves, Middies, Military, Goldies, and Brighties), and each faction competed with other factions to earn Presidential Influence Points for group and individual effort.

TEACHING ABOUT AND FOR MULTICULTURAL DEMOCRACY: CROSS-CASE THEMES


These three teachers taught about and for multicultural democracy by teaching the ‘‘codes of power ‘‘ (Delpit, 1995) their students needed to succeed, providing learning opportunities to help create effective citizens, and extending the curriculum beyond ‘‘official knowledge ‘‘ (Apple, 1993). The three themes are discussed below.

TEACHING THE ‘‘CODES OF POWER ‘‘


According to Delpit (1995), codes of power serve as rules for participating in power. Gee (1999), similarly, calls these the actions, interactions, symbols, and beliefs necessary to produce, reproduce, sustain, and transform a given “form of life” or discourse (p. 7). Thus, success in these institutions—such as school and the workplace—requires the acquisition of these norms of power. In other words, getting actions, words, interactions ‘‘right ‘‘ in the discourses of school and work means that people are able to ‘‘pull off ‘‘being a good student or worker (Gee, 1999). Being explicitly taught these codes makes acquiring power easier (Delpit, 1995). As discussed earlier, this element emphasizes that students learn academic content and skills that are valued by schools, colleges, universities, and workplaces. By teaching the codes of power, teachers aid students in gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the larger society.


Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen aimed to help their students acquire these codes of power. One example I observed was that all three teachers emphasized the importance of effective verbal and written communication in their lessons. They provided students with numerous opportunities to improve their skills in these areas. Mr. Sinclair used discussions, whereas Ms. Jensen and Ms. Westphalen stressed short speeches and presentations for this purpose. In addition, they emphasized shorter and longer writing assignments as essential requirements of their courses. The teachers felt that students needed to be good communicators to succeed in school and beyond, and they stressed this code of power.


Another example is that all three teachers placed importance on students' gaining the skills to work with written text, pictures, audio recordings, music, and film clips. According to the National Council for the Social Studies (1994), acquiring and manipulating data means that teachers aim to ‘‘increase the student's ability to read, study, search for information, use social science technical vocabulary and methods, and use computers and other electronic media ‘‘(p. 8). These teachers expected students to engage with information in order to understand it and to bring in other related information. For example, Ms. Jensen and Ms. Westphalen asked students to use newspapers and magazines from the time period to support their claims, and Mr. Sinclair’s students relied on Internet sources to do the same. Mr. Sinclair stated in the second interview:


They’re historical skills. I mean analyzing a document and the picture in this case, really looking at it and seeing what can we decipher from that? You know, the only time I ever did that in my educational experiences was when I was an undergrad. I think we did a whole lecture with one photograph of a woman sitting in a chair and we were all involved. This is cool, this is neat, and this is important to know how to-do. That’s when I got the idea about Elizabeth Eckford picture, which is more of a popular photograph, you know; people have probably seen that. One the students right off the bat he knew, had noticed, and knew what it was. In the past people would say, would think she was a college student and so it was Mississippi or something or others would say ‘‘Forrest Gump. ‘‘ They’ll refer to that [picture] for bringing in history.


Teaching this code was meant to help students effectively work with various data sources both in and out of school.


The promotion of critical thinking serves as another example of a ‘‘code of power ‘‘ promoted by the three teachers. Critical thinking may be defined as a process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication (Scriven & Paul, 1996). The National Council for the Social Studies (1994) endorses critical thinking as an essential skill ‘‘that should be promoted in an excellent social studies program ‘‘ (p. 7). Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen emphasized this skill, albeit in different ways. Mr. Sinclair used a text-based seminar to examine King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, Ms. Jensen focused on examining the experiences of the ‘‘invisible people ‘‘ during the New Deal, and Ms. Westphalen used simulations to promote critical thinking (even though she limited critical thinking to political viewpoints). For example, Ms. Westphalen stated in the second interview:


I had this mom come up and catch me in the grocery store and tell me what a great liberal teacher I was. But you know, I’ve got some kids who are strong conservative kids who I don’t feel are alienated. I know for a fact . . . they feel very comfortable speaking in my classroom because they do; they raise their hand. There’s a young man who, very conservative, very happy to say so, is always raising his hand. A young man, who we spoke about earlier who’s doing an independent project, is also conservative. And we joked about, and talked about . . . he’s like the only conservative in that whole class. But you know, he feels very comfortable raising his hand and telling his opinion and I encourage them, and I tell them good job, and thank you so much; we need that perspective in this classroom. And I say to them, if you have a conservative view, we need you in this classroom to speak up because your teacher happens to often times not see that.


In all, the three teachers used multiple means to teach their students ‘‘codes of power. ‘‘ The codes these teachers emphasized (effective communication skills, skills to work with various forms of data, and critical thinking skills) were aimed to promote thorough disciplinary content and skills for their students.

PROVIDING LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP CREATE EFFECTIVE CITIZENS


Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen provided learning opportunities to help create effective citizens based on their personal views on effective citizenship. Westheimer and Kahne (2002) point out that the type of democratic education promoted in schools is based on how individual teachers perceive democracy and citizenship. They (Westheimer & Kahne, 2004) state that a central question that teachers use is: ‘‘What kind of citizen do we need to support an effective democratic society? ‘‘ Once teachers determine the kind of citizen that is needed, they employ a diverse array of strategies for achieving these goals (Hahn, 2001; Thornton, 2004).


These three teachers also designed their curriculum and pedagogy to help students become effective citizens, as they interpreted that concept. Mr. Sinclair expected his students to be effective citizens who actively engaged with other citizens in their various communities. Mr. Sinclair aimed to help students see that they live ‘‘in a public place where they have to get together with others and respect other people and respect their opinions ‘‘(Interview 1) by placing emphasis on discussions and improving the discussion skills of his students:


At the beginning of the year I told them that “discussion is going to be a big part of this class. You’re not necessarily going to be graded on your discussion but your participation is going to be graded in class and you want to make sure that you’re doing something.” What's good about discussion? Hearing other people’s voices, other people's voices are heard . . . respect other people’s opinions. I think discussion is a very democratic . . . should be a very democratic thing.


Mr. Sinclair viewed democracy as a path and believed citizens must be willing to engage with each other on this path that may involve disagreement and difference. By emphasizing discussion skills, Mr. Sinclair prepared students to engage with others on this sometimes-difficult path of democracy.


Ms. Jensen believed effective citizens were those who ‘‘understand the United States on every level, the economy and the Constitution. They are also able to criticize how democracy has been designed but also what it's stated to be ‘‘ (Interview 1). She wanted her students to be knowledgeable citizens that were able to critically analyze democracy as it exists. Her emphasis on learning the traditional content with a critical eye reflected her idea of effective citizens. Ms. Jensen’s preparation of students with the skills to critically analyze democracy in the United States enables students to create and maintain public spaces of lively debate that contest an entrenched status quo.


Ms. Westphalen stressed the acquisition of in-depth knowledge about various political parties and viewpoints:


It is most important for these kids to know how to be good citizens in a democracy. If you don’t understand the politics, and if you don’t understand how the whole thing works and how different groups feel about it, and if we say someone is a conservative, what does that mean, and where are they coming from and why do they believe those things. Do you believe that too? Versus if somebody is on the other spectrum. I think if they don’t understand that, there is no way they can contribute in an intelligent way. (Interview 2)


She did so because she believed effective citizens are those who must be ‘‘informed, knowledgeable, and educated. They must really delve into the issues and look at the issues ‘‘ (Interview 1). She believed the acquisition of this knowledge would make them effective citizens. First, her practice prepares students for democracy as a path because they learn to engage with others for in-depth examination of issues. Students who aim to gain in-depth knowledge of issues learn deliberative skills such as critical thinking and appreciation of other people’s perspectives (Gutmann, 1999). Second, her practice also enables students to critique the normative practices of U. S. liberal representative democracy even though the critiques in her class were limited to political viewpoints. However, the critiques that Ms. Westphalen emphasized challenge the political status quo of U. S. liberal representative democracy.

EXTENDING THE CURRICULUM BEYOND “OFFICIAL KNOWLEDGE”


The classes taught by Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen had required curricular content goals specified by the social studies departments of the schools in which they taught. The curriculum put forth by the schools served as the “official knowledge” of the school (Apple, 1993), the knowledge that counted as legitimate knowledge.


Each of these teachers designed his or her curriculum to meet department and state-mandated curricular goals. However, the teachers used the departmental expectations only as basic minimal goals in their teaching. In other words, the expectations were viewed as a checklist when they created unit and lesson plans, as opposed to being the only curriculum they used. These teachers extended the curriculum beyond this ‘‘official curriculum ‘‘by infusing it with their own curricular goals in keeping with their views of citizenship.


Mr. Sinclair’s practice emphasized the critical thinking component of the critical pedagogy element. According to Mr. Sinclair, the school’s curricular guide required only that students learn about the main events of the Civil Rights movement. First, to go beyond the official curriculum, Mr. Sinclair used inquiry-based pedagogy and a text-based seminar to engage his students in critical thinking about the Civil Rights movement beyond the main events. Second, Mr. Sinclair also went beyond the official curriculum by focusing on the transformative academic knowledge and skills aspect of the thorough disciplinary content and skills element. He taught about the Civil Rights movement through an interdisciplinary curriculum that examined King's Letter From Birmingham Jail. By using this letter, Mr. Sinclair highlighted viewpoints that questioned King’s involvement in Birmingham (transformative academic knowledge) in juxtaposition to the traditional canon that King had the general support of Birmingham’s leaders and citizens (traditional academic knowledge).


Ms. Jensen’s practice also went beyond the official curriculum. Ms. Jensen broadened the study of the 1920s and the New Deal by examining how these periods affected various groups in U. S. society. For example:


Ms. Jensen: Civil Conservation Core (CCC)—Do you think young blackmen were affected as well?


Student: No, because of what we saw in the video. Just black men were left out!


Ms. Jensen: How about women? What about them?


Student: Equally affected because it [CCC] was created by Roosevelt and his wife.


Ms. Jensen: She knew what was going on because she traveled around and talked to people. You should know who it (each program) affected—Federal Emergency Relief Association (FERA)?


Student: The needy and poor.


Ms. Jensen: You are saying it took care of all the people. Where are the Native Americans during this period? Do people care?


Student: No, because everybody only cared about themselves.


Ms. Jensen: Put a question mark next to FERA so that you know for sure. Think about the needy and who we are talking about: African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, women, and whites in Appalachia.


First, through her practice, Ms. Jensen emphasized critical thinking by asking students to examine programs from multiple and critical perspectives. Second, Ms. Jensen incorporated the element of thorough disciplinary content and skills by extending the curriculum beyond the official curriculum to include groups that are traditionally excluded from the curriculum. In teaching about New Deal programs, Ms. Jensen had students learn about the programs (official and traditional knowledge) and how these programs affected the ‘‘invisible ‘‘ groups (transformative academic knowledge and skills).


Finally, Ms. Westphalen ’s department required that her students learn about the Vietnam War and its events and consequences. As stated earlier, Ms. Westphalen met this goal and extended beyond it by teaching a political history of the period. She stated in the first interview:


I don’t care whether the kids are memorizing facts, and knowing dates and that kind of thing. What’s important for me and what I expect of them with the content, is that they are able to understand it; to take a look at it and compare it and contrast it with different things. So that they could, if they wanted to, look at a situation that was happening in the United States, right now and compare it and be able to make some educated decisions or thoughts or ideas about where should our government go now? What should we do about this situation now based on what we know about what we’ve done in the past?


First, Ms. Westphalen emphasized critical thinking by using a simulation to have students examine the Vietnam War from various political perspectives and compare it to current events. Second, Ms. Westphalen also incorporated the element of thorough disciplinary content and skills. In teaching about the Vietnam War, she had students learn about the events of the war (official and traditional knowledge) and how individuals with various political viewpoints viewed these events (transformative academic knowledge and skills). Even though Ms. Westphalen examined events only from political viewpoints, she did extend her curriculum beyond the official knowledge.

OBSTACLES


Recall that the primary research question asked: How do three skilled secondary social studies teachers teach about and for multicultural democracy in their U. S. history courses? The secondary question asked: What factors serve as obstacles in working toward classroom-based multicultural democracy? This section examines how the obstacles of class context, limited conceptions of diversity, and lack of promotion of social action affected teaching about and for multicultural democracy for these three teachers.

CLASS CONTEXT


Class context served as an obstacle to teaching about and for multicultural democracy. In Ms. Westphalen ’s class, which consisted of upper-middleclass White students, this demographic makeup strongly influenced her practice. Ms. Westphalen felt that if her students were more ‘‘multicultural, ‘‘her curriculum would have been more multicultural (Interview 3). She would have used more multiple and critical perspectives to reflect her students’ demographics. Such an opinion ignores the importance of preparing all students to be thoughtful, active, and effective citizens in an increasingly diverse United States. Subsequently, by placing more importance on her individual class’s context to determine her practice, Ms. Westphalen did not incorporate critical pedagogy and thorough disciplinary content beyond political viewpoints in her practice.

LIMITED CONCEPTIONS OF DIVERSITY


The teachers’ limited conception of diversity also served as an obstacle as they worked toward multicultural democracy. In their first interviews, all three teachers were asked if their students were diverse. All three teachers determined the diversity of their students based on race/ethnicity. This limited conception of diversity marginalizes other forms of diversity (diversity in socioeconomic class, gender diversity, linguistic diversity, diversity in sexual orientation, religious diversity, etc.). For example, Ms. Westphalen wished Morningside’s students were more diverse: ‘‘And here I am again with no diversity. It’s more diverse than the rest of the state, but not as diverse as I hoped ‘‘ (Interview 1). When asked what she meant, Ms. Westphalen focused on the lack of ethnic and racial diversity, particularly in her classes. Ms. Jensen also felt students at Townsend in the past were more diverse than they currently were. In response to a follow-up question, she explained that Townsend had a more racially and ethnically diverse student body when she started teaching there.


These three teachers’ beliefs about diversity were limited because of the focus on racial and ethnic diversity. The teachers placed primary importance on race and ethnicity at the expense of diversity in socio economic class, gender diversity, linguistic diversity, diversity in sexual orientation, religious diversity, and so on. For example, Ms. Jensen aimed to teach about ‘‘invisible people, ‘‘ and she did to some extent by focusing on the role of women in U. S. history, along with an examination of class issues. However, the scope of this examination was far from thorough. Ms. Westphalen felt that her students were not diverse, ignoring forms of diversity other than racial and ethnic that might have existed among her students.


By focusing on race and ethnicity, these three teachers unintentionally marginalized other forms of diversity. As a result, this limited conception of diversity served as an obstacle as they taught about and for multicultural democracy. Multicultural democracy aims to incorporate socioeconomic, cultural, and political diversity. By focusing on race and ethnicity, teachers ignore other forms of diversity (i. e., diversity in sexual orientation, diversity in socioeconomic class, gender diversity, religious diversity, etc.) found in their classrooms.

LACK OF PROMOTION OF SOCIAL ACTION


The critical pedagogy element of the CMDE framework placed emphasis on teaching for social action. As discussed earlier, critical pedagogy works on a continuum by encouraging students to move toward human agency (Ball, 2000; Freire, 1990) by exercising agency through critical thinking, through individual social action, and through group social action. The practice of Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen stressed critical thinking, the first stage along the critical pedagogy continuum. However, none of these teachers promoted individual social action or group social action in their teaching. This raises several questions: Why were neither social action nor group social action promoted? What is the importance of social action or group social action in CMDE? This last question will be addressed when Ire visit the CMDE framework. Now I turn to the first question.


These three teachers did not promote social action because they placed a higher priority on other pedagogical goals, such as critical thinking. Mr. Sinclair and Ms. Westphalen mentioned the importance of social action to their students but did not specifically design their pedagogy to promote it. During the third interviews, all three teachers indicated that they felt that social action was important. However, based on my observations, none of these teachers made teaching for social action an important goal of their teaching. As a result, none promoted social action in any real sense.


The lack of emphasis on social action by teachers raises the question: What role does teaching for social action and group social action play in teaching about and for multicultural democracy? I incorporated these two stages in the critical pedagogy framework because social action informed by social critique and structural analysis is closely tied to structural change of society (Westheimer & Kahne, 2002). The close relationship between social action and societal change reinforced my belief that schools can serve as transformative vehicles by emphasizing individual and group social action. However, Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen believed in schools as vehicles for social transformation but did not emphasize teaching for social action or group social action to accomplish this goal.


Data analysis shows that Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen taught for and about multicultural democracy, except they did not specifically teach for social action or group social action. Although these teachers felt emphasizing social action and group social action was important, they did not teach for social action, as defined in the literature (Bigelow, 1990;Freire, 1990; Shor, 1992). This finding was surprising for several reasons. First, given the prominence of teaching for social action in the literature of critical pedagogy that aims to promote human agency and social transformation through schools (Freire, 1990; Goodman, 1992; Shor, 1992), I was struck by the difference between the theory and the actual practice of these three excellent teachers in teaching about and for multicultural democracy. This lack of evidence may mean that such teaching, as currently defined in the literature, may not be necessary for promoting human agency or for social transformation for these three teachers. As a result, I updated the CMDE framework to reflect this finding. Second, the lack of promotion of social action was also surprising given my belief that the promotion of social action enables schools to serve as vehicles for social transformation. However, this finding may not be surprising to those who strongly believe that schools are by their nature conservative and thus sources of social reproduction. Based on my observations and interviews, these three teachers do not fall into the latter category. Instead, teaching skills for democratic living, discussed in the next section, may help Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen promote human agency or social transformation through their teaching.

ADDING SKILLS FOR DEMOCRATIC LIVING


Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen promoted other skills to help students achieve human agency and work toward social transformation. These skills can be characterized as skills for democratic living—skills designed to create and maintain a democratic and just society (Banks, 1995; Taba, Brady, & Robinsons, 1952). These skills for democratic living aim to provide students with the skills required to be thoughtful, active, and effective citizens and extend beyond the realm of school and to the larger society. Discussion anddeliberation3 skills are some examples. Data from the three teachers serve as examples of teaching students skills for democratic living.


For example, Mr. Sinclair expected his students to actively engage with other citizens in the various communities in which they participated. Mr. Sinclair believed citizens must be willing to engage with each other even when it may involve disagreement and difference. He felt that discussion skills helped students to better understand others’ viewpoints because such skills can help young people develop the group discourse skills and dispositions for participatory citizenship (Hess, 2002):


You know the journal entries I got yesterday and actually, one of them was from Candice. She felt that people’s voices were being stifled. She, you know, she thought that there definitely were voices being stifled. And I thought about it and it’s just that these are the things you don't see all the time when you’re sitting in one of those discussions. And I'm going, ‘‘Wow. I wonder who it was? ‘‘ I wrote back to her and I said, ‘‘You know . . . this . . . yeah, that might have happened. You know, I don’t disagree with you. ‘‘ Overall she said it was a good discussion but she just said that. I said, ‘‘You know, what can we do to make sure those voices are heard? How can you do it? ‘‘


I suggested asking that person a question . . . or ask them . . . or getting back if somebody’s voice is kind of being drowned out by another group of faction or something . . . how can you get that out there and maybe ask that person a question, ‘‘What were you saying when you meant this, then? ‘‘ to kind of help them out. But you know those are democratic type values so to speak that . . . we see in class. So, hopefully be a model of what goes on in there and take it outside of class.


By emphasizing this skill for democratic living and based on my observations of his students, Mr. Sinclair may have prepared students to engage with others on the difficult path of democracy.


As another example, Ms. Jensen prepared students with the skills to critically analyze democracy in the United States, aiming to help students create and maintain public spaces of lively debate that contest the status quo. Ms. Westphalen also prepared students with skills to engage with others of different perspectives for in-depth examination of issues. This is important because, as Gutmann (1999) posited, students who aim to gain in-depth knowledge of issues learn deliberative skills such as an appreciation of other people’s perspectives.


Skills for democratic living emphasized by Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen align closely with critical pedagogy’s notion of preparing students to be transformers of their current life situations (Giroux &McLaren, 1994). Mr. Sinclair believed making better decisions would enable students to improve their own lives and those of others around them. For example, Mr. Sinclair prepared students with discussion skills to work through disagreement in order to make better decisions about school and life choices (Interviews 1, 2). His students were previously academically unsuccessful in other schools and had disengaged with school. These students, based on their demographics, were more likely to become disengaged citizens. He aimed to create thoughtful, active, and effective citizens and taught them to make good decisions. Mr. Sinclair’s emphasis on learning skills for democratic living provided students with the skills to engage with others to make better decisions both in and out of school.

CMDE FRAMEWORK


Data provided evidence that the borders between critical pedagogy and thorough disciplinary content and skills were not clearly defined. These borders were more permeable than originally explained because the use of multiple and critical perspectives may help teachers teach about and for multicultural democracy by meeting the criteria for both critical pedagogy and thorough disciplinary content and skills. In addition, skills for democratic living needed to be added to this element. Figure 1 presents the CMDE framework.


In the CMDE framework, the borders between critical pedagogy and thorough disciplinary content and skills overlap in the areas of multiple and critical perspectives. The borders may also be permeable between critical pedagogy and building of community insofar as positive peer relationships or building understanding may foster skills for democratic living. For example, building of community may have helped Mr. Sinclair and Ms. Jensen teach skills for democratic living, although the evidence is not sufficient to fully support this hypothesis. Further studies are needed to explore how other borders in my CMDE framework may be permeable.


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IMPLICATIONS


The ultimate goal of this research is to uncover ways in which to transform a racially and ethnically diverse, politically disengaged population into a thoughtful, active, and effective citizenry. As a first step, I have investigated a conception of democratic education, CMDE, designed to help students become thoughtful, active, and effective citizens. Teaching future secondary social studies teachers how to prepare such citizens is one way to address this problem. Teacher educators, then, have a responsibility to teach preservice students about CMDE. This section outlines two specific ways that teacher educators might profitably use this study to inform the teaching of preservice students.


First, teacher educators might want to share the updated CMDE framework in this study with preservice teachers to help them think about possible interactions among teachers’ rationale, instructional plans and strategies, practice, and contexts. By doing so, teacher educators would be working to help preservice teachers think about the purpose of teaching about and for multicultural democracy in complex ways. This might help preservice teachers grasp the reality that teaching students to become thoughtful, active, and effective citizens in these diverse United States is a challenging enterprise that requires intense preparation and focus.


Secondly, this study might help teacher educators make the link between critical pedagogy and implementation in actual classrooms for practitioners. As I created the initial CMDE framework, I undertook a literature review of the concept of critical pedagogy. 4Advocates of critical pedagogy press teachers to help students become critical thinkers, decision makers, and transformers of their current life situations (Giroux & McLaren, 1994). However, several scholars have criticized critical pedagogy for its lack of applicability to classrooms. The inaccessible language of critical pedagogy made it difficult for practitioners to make links between the rhetoric of critical pedagogy and its implementation within actual classrooms (Ball, 2000). Ellsworth (1989) also criticized the literature on critical pedagogy because of its lack of usefulness in assisting educators to think through and plan improvements in actual classroom practice. The classroom practices described in this study can aid teacher educators in operational zing such a philosophy for their own students.

CONCLUSION


The present study confirms that teaching about and for multicultural democracy is difficult. Mr. Sinclair, Ms. Jensen, and Ms. Westphalen are skilled teachers whose practice illuminated for other teachers and teacher educator show to implement the three elements of the CMDE framework. Their practice also served to provide insights on how to revise my theoretical frame. The resulting CMDE framework, I believe, makes it more feasible to teach about and for multicultural democracy in social studies classrooms by providing a model for implementation along with practical examples for implementation.


It seems unlikely that teachers will work toward multicultural democracy without evidence that teaching about and for such a democracy will actually help students become thoughtful, active, and effective citizens. Whether that occurred in the classrooms observed in the present study remains unclear and beyond the study’s scope. Such findings may result from further studies that build from the conceptions of democratic education presented here.


Further studies that critically examine these conceptions are needed because, simply put, U. S. liberal representative democracy is in danger of continuing to foster a population that, though racially and ethnically diverse, is politically disengaged. Such a disengaged population threatens to jeopardize democracy itself. One can hope that schools can help overcome this trend. The present study showed engaged students in three classrooms who possessed the knowledge and skills to become thoughtful, active, and effective citizens. Again, it seems possible to be optimistic that follow-up research will help educators work toward a democracy that incorporates socioeconomic, cultural, and political diversity and helps prepare thoughtful, active, and effective citizens.


I am indebted to Maria Scott Cormier, Margaret Smith Crocco, Vincent Falivene, Diana Hess, and Stephen J. Thornton for their critiques of earlier versions of this article. I am also grateful to Lyn Corno and three anonymous Teachers College Record reviewers.

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ANAND R. MARRI is an assistant professor of social studies and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. His current research examines the ways in which students can be better educated for active citizenship in a multicultural U. S. society by integrating the goals of citizenship education and multicultural education. In addition, he critically examines the uses of technology in education. Most recently, he is the author of ‘‘Educational Technology as a Tool for Multicultural Democratic Education ‘‘ (Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 2005); ‘‘Social Studies, Race, and the World Wide Web ‘‘ (in Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ed., Critical Race Theory Perspectives on the Social Studies: The Profession, Policies, and Curriculum, Information Age Publishing, 2003); and ‘‘Multicultural Democracy: Toward a Better Democracy ‘‘ (Intercultural Education 2003). His work has also appeared in Social Education and Urban Education.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 5, 2005, p. 1036-1059
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11849, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 12:11:56 AM

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