Creating Solidarity Across Diverse Communities: International Perspectives in Education
reviewed by Felicia Moore Mensah - May 13, 2014
Title: Creating Solidarity Across Diverse Communities: International Perspectives in Education
Author(s): Christine E. Sleeter & Encarnación Soriano (eds.)
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807753378, Pages: 240, Year: 2012
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Christine Sleeter and Encarnación Soriano, serving as editors, bring together a collected volume of research studies that examines barriers to building relationships of solidarity between schools and marginalized communities. The book highlights the perils and possibilities for transcending these barriers within various communities, with research from the United States, Spain, New Zealand, Mexico, India, France, and Chile. Chapters throughout the book dispel negative myths about diverse populations in particular contexts and build relationships based on communication, respect, and mutuality (p. 3). Each chapter also outlines and uses solidarity toward social justice and social change within education. This indeed is a challenging endeavor since building solidarity is perhaps the most crucial yet undertheorized process in organizing people for social changean essential yet elusive component of any successful movement (Dobbie & Richards-Schuster, 2008, p. 138). As a collective, each research study extends notions of solidarity beyond making one feel good, thus challenging us to fully engage ourselves, to question the work that we do as educators and researchers, and to join allies in the work that is required to build strong schools and communities built upon solidarity. The studies communicate successful and not so successful attempts in working toward solidarity. This book frames solidarity by theorizing about it across multiple contexts so that readers are able to extend their understandings and definition of solidarityparticularly in how it is applied in education and with marginalized groups. The international context of the book brings to mind that issues of solidarity are not just issues that educators in the United States struggle with; rather, the international focus connects us all as agents of social change.
The book is organized into two main parts. The four chapters in Part One describe solidarity as a process of building while considering historical and political influences. For example, one chapter sets forth notions of implementing policies grounded in solidarity that can alleviate peer aggression among young people; and a second chapter makes comparisons between indigenous and nonindigenous teachers and how their views of solidarity can foster respectful dialogue among opposing viewpoints. Furthermore, researchers examine the historical relationship of linguistic diversity, language policy, and republicanism in France and its colonies, and discuss serious problems resulting from resistance to multicultural aspects of a French society impacted by globalization. In addition to these studies, how government policy maintains cultural and linguistic solidarity among its people living abroad is yet another way that solidarity challenges our sense of democracy, citizenship, and justice. This first part gives readers an opportunity to consider international issues in education that are not solely unique to an international context. The authors articulate quite well for readers a great sense of the challenges that are embedded within political and social arenas that certainly impact education on a global scale. A common theme in Part One is the challenge of letting children from minorities feel that their difference is legitimate and helping them to succeed in life by means of their education (p. 76).
In Part Two, which contains seven chapters, solidarity includes an examination of the tension and struggle to build allies across sociocultural and ethnic/racial differences. The chapters in Part Two examine possibilities of building solidarity as coexisting (p. 96), engaging in participatory democracy (p. 134), and decreasing social distance (p. 149) between diverse groups of people. Specifically, the studies in part 2 explore practical examples of solidarity from the perspective of teachers, parents, and administration who struggle to support the needs of students. For example, teachers sense the racism and discrimination that immigrant students face and are willing to engage with their students and their students communities. In one elementary school, an oral history project showcases the vast and rich community knowledge that traditionally goes untapped in schools. Mentioned previously, the book presents successful and not so successful cases, such as when teachers and administrators in one middle school in California attempt to build solidarity between Latino Spanish-speaking parent councils, and in another case, the mostly White teaching staff of one school does not take advantage of conducting home visits of ethnically and linguistically diverse students. These two studies aim to eliminate social distance with solidarity as a guiding theoretical and practical lens to effect change; however, in both cases, their desired goals are not fully achieved due to existing power structures within the school institution. Part Two concludes with a chapter where Sleeter synthesizes all of the studies contained in the book. Her synthesis is insightful and hopeful.
Solidarity often takes the idea of getting along together or convivencia (p. 27), or coexistingliving together (p. 97). Each chapter in the book extends these common ideas of solidarity and speaks in a strong and powerful way that solidarity is not optional; it is a way of living and supposes action (p. 97). And, solidarity is not easy. We seek to provide equitable and meaningful educational opportunities to all childrenat home and abroad. Due to this fact, we are connected in a global bond to improve the educational conditions of our schools and communities. The expertise, experiences, and cultural knowledge, wealth, and resources that our schools, administrators, parents, teachers, children, and communities hold are needed and invited and welcomed. Hence, the definition of solidarity as starting with the belief in the educability of all students, thus providing students from different social backgrounds, with diverse levels of ability and behavioral dispositions, opportunities to learn together to live together (p. 23), seems to be a well-integrated theme in the book.
In conclusion, the book as a whole offers a broad perspective of solidarity for educators and researchers and policymakers to consider. The authors offer implications for policy, curriculum, teacher education, and teacher professional development that everyone can gleam from each chapter. The collection of research studies should force schools (i.e., administration and teachers) and communities (i.e., parents and educators) to critically question those taken-for-granted policies and practices that reinforce actions and behaviors that they wish to alleviate. While some implications are quite explicit, others are not; nonetheless, our particular contexts and educational situations allow us to reflect and enact strategies, such as critical dialogue and open conversations that expose the complexity and creativity in making our work, practices, and policies toward social justice and solidarity empowering (Mensah, 2010). This book adds to that conversation and makes solidarity a necessary goal worth attaining.
Dobbie, D., & Richards-Schuster, K. (2008). Building solidarity through difference: A practice model for critical multicultural organizing. Journal of Community Practice, 16(3), 317-337.
Mensah, F.M. (2010). Toward the mark of empowering policies in elementary school science programs and teacher professional development. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 5(4), 977-983.