Rethinking Multicultural Education book cover

Rethinking Multicultural Education 2nd Edition

Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice

Edited By Wayne Au

Available in:

Paperback: $24.95

Epub: $9.95

Publication Date: March 3, 2014

ISBN: 9780942961539

This new and expanded edition collects the best articles dealing with race and culture in the classroom that have appeared in Rethinking Schools magazine. With more than 100 pages of new materials, Rethinking Multicultural Education demonstrates a powerful vision of anti-racist, social justice education. Practical, rich in story, and analytically sharp!

Praise for the new second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education

“If you are an educator, student, activist, or parent striving for educational equality and liberation, Rethinking Multicultural Education: Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice will empower and inspire you to make a positive change in your community.”

Curtis Acosta, Former teacher, Tucson Mexican American Studies Program; Founder, Acosta Latino Learning Partnership.

Praise for the first edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education

Rethinking Multicultural Education is both thoughtful and timely. As the nation and our schools become more complex on every dimension–race, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, sexuality, immigrant status–teachers need theory and practice to help guide and inform their curriculum and their pedagogy. This is the resource teachers at every level have been looking for.”

Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor & Dept. Chair, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children.

“Hats off to Rethinking Schools for 25 years of positioning critical multiculturalism as the vehicle through which a more complete understanding of society may be nurtured and achieved.”

Angela Valenzuela, Professor, College of Education, University of Texas at Austin, author of Subtractive Schooling and Leaving Children Behind.

“Rethinking Multicultural Education is an essential text as we name the schools we deserve, and struggle to bring them to life in classrooms across the land.”

William Ayers, teacher, activist, award-winning education writer, and Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired).

Rethinking Multicultural Education powerfully reminds us that any attempt at ‘multicultural education’ that fails to raise critical questions among students, teachers, and administrators about racial justice is inadequate to the needs of this time. It’s an indispensable resource and a bracing call to action.”

—Jeff Chang, author Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation.

Section 1: Anti-Racist Orientations

Taking Multicultural, Anti-Racist Education Seriously

An interview with Enid Lee

By Barbara Miner

Multiplication is for White People

An interview with Lisa Delpit

By Jody Sokolower

What Do We Need To Know Now?

By Asa G. Hilliard III

Diversity vs. White

An interview with Christine Sleeter

By Barbara Miner and Bob Peterson

You’re Asian. How Could You Fail Math?

Unmasking the myth of the model minority

By Benji Chang & Wayne Au

Schools and the New Jim Crow

An interview with Michelle Alexander

By Jody Sokolower

Once Upon a Genocide

Columbus in children’s literature

By Bill Bigelow

What Do You Mean When You Say Urban?

Speaking honestly about race and students

By Dyan Watson

Section 2: The Fight for Multicultural Education

Decolonizing the Classroom

Lessons in multicultural education

By Wayne Au

Why the Best Kids’ Books Are Written in Blood

By Sherman Alexie

Those Awful Texas Social Studies Standards

And what about yours?

By Bill Bigelow

‘Greco-Roman Knowledge Only’ in Arizona Schools

Indigenous wisdom outlawed once again

By Roberto Cintli Rodrequez

Precious Knowledge

Teaching Solidarity with Tucson

By Devin Carberry

Your Struggle Is My Struggle

By Marcela Itzel Ortega

From Johannesburg to Tucson

By Bill Bigelow

Saving Mango Street

By Katie Van Winkle

Standards and Tests Attack Multiculturalism

By Bill Bigelow

Section 3: Language, Culture, and Power

Putting Out the Linguistic Welcome Mat

By Linda Christensen

My Mother’s Spanish

By Salvador Gabald—ón

Taking a Chance With Words

Why are the Asian American kids silent in class?

By Carol A. Tateishi

Black English/Ebonics

What it be like?

By Geneva Smitherman

Ebonics and Culturally Responsive Instruction

By Lisa Delpit

Keepers of the Second Throat

By Patricia Smith

Defending Bilingual Education

By Kelley Dawson Salas

Bilingual Education Works

By Stephen Krashen

Raising Children’s Cultural Voices

By Berta Rosa Berriz

And Then I Went To School

By Joe Suina

Section 4: Transnational Identities, Multicultural Classrooms

What Happened to the Golden Door?

How my students taught me about immigration

By Linda Christensen

Bringing Globalization Home

By Jody Sokolower

Arranged Marriages, Rearranged Ideas

By Stan Karp

Welcoming Kalenna

An early childhood teacher strives to make all her students feel at home

By Laura Linda Negri-Pool

Edwina Left Behind

By Sören Wuerth

Who Can Stay Here?

Confronting issues of documentation and citizenship in children’s literature

By Grace Cornell Gonzales

Aquí y Allá

Exploring our lives through poetryhere and there
By Elizabeth Schlessman

Putting A Human Face on the Immigration Debate

By Steven Picht-Trujillo and Paola Suchsland

Section 5: Confronting Race in the Classroom

Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club

By Rita Tenorio

What Color Is Beautiful?

By Alejandro Segura-Mora

Race: Some Teachable and Uncomfortable Moments

By Heidi Tolentino

Exploring Race Relations

By Lisa Espinosa

Reconstructing Race

By Nathaniel W. Smith

Presidents and Slaves

Helping students find the truth

By Bob Peterson

From Snarling Dogs to Bloody Sundays

By Kate Lyman

‘If There Is No Struggle’

Teaching a people’s history of the abolition movement

By Bill Bigelow

The History All Around Us

Roosevelt High School and the 1968 Eastside Blowouts

By Brian C. Gibbs

For My People

Using Margaret Walker’s poem to help students ‘talk-back’ to stereotypes and to affirm their self-worth

By Linda Christensen

The Other Internment

Teaching the hidden story of Japanese Latin Americans during WWII

By Moé Yonamine

Bringing the Civil Rights Movement into the Classroom

By Larry Miller

‘We Need To Know This!’

Student power and curriculum

By Jody Sokolower

Burned Out of Homes and History

Unearthing the silenced voices of the Tulsa Race Riot

By Linda Christensen


Introduction to the 2nd Edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education

By Wayne Au

Rethinking Multicultural Education: Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice, second edition, has been a long time coming. Over its almost 30 years of existence, Rethinking Schools has published more than 200 articles that dealt explicitly with issues of race and culture. Even though Rethinking Schools has always kept racial and cultural justice amongst our main focal points, until the first edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education in 2009, we had never published a book that specifically focused on race and culture in education in their own right. This book does just that: provide a Rethinking Schools vision of anti-racist, social justice education that is both practical for teachers and sharp in analysis.

It is my hope that the selections included in the second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education: Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice offer a more robust and powerful definition of multicultural education than we see so often used. For instance, some educators and teacher educators say they teach multicultural education, but do it under the guise of “global education.” This form of multiculturalism feels safer to some because it uses the veneer of international cultures to avoid more serious and painful realities of issues like racism. Similarly, “diversity education” and “cultural pluralism” get used with the singular intent of promoting heroes and holidays and celebrate individual differences, again circumventing issues of power and privilege.

The terms “diverse students” and “urban students,” two more stand-ins for “multicultural” students, have devolved into meaning “poor African American and Latino students” or “students who aren’t white.” This is particularly ironic given that in some school districts in the United States, schools might be approaching 100 percent African American or Latino students, as is the case in Detroit and Santa Ana, California, respectively, and are regularly referred to as “diverse” by professors, teachers, and politicians alike. The right wing has also developed its own, sometimes contradictory definitions of multicultural education. While some conservatives have vehemently attacked multicultural education as representative of the downfall of Western Civilization, others such as E. D. Hirsch (founder of the Core Knowledge curriculum) have developed a different definition of multicultural education. As Kristen Buras, professor of education at Emory University, talks about in her book, Rightist Multiculturalism, Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum has recently taken up the banner of multicultural education by defining the United States as a multicultural nation of diverse immigrantswhile simultaneously covering up systematic oppression based on class, race, and nation status.

Multicultural education is also being narrowly defined as a path students can take to “higher” status literature. Teachers use Tupac’s lyrics to move students to Shakespeare; students can unpack hip-hop lyrics as a way to learn literary language like stanza and rhyme, but they need to study Frost and Yeats to be considered well read. Students in regular classes can read “thug” literature, but AP classes need to read the classics. (Does anyone read Morrison as a precursor to Chaucer? She’s harder than the Canterbury Tales). This version of multicultural education focuses on access to the canon of high-status knowledge. In doing so, such a definition not only keeps the Eurocentric canon of knowledge at the heart of “real” education, it also communicates to students the idea that the diversity of their identities, lives, and communities do not really matter when it comes to learning.

The second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education is an attempt to reclaim multicultural education as part of a larger, more serious struggle for social justice, a struggle that recognizes the need to fight against systematic racism, colonization, and cultural oppression that takes place through our schools. In the chapters included here, multicultural education:

  • is grounded in the lives of our students.
  • draws on the voices and perspectives of those “being studied.”
  • teaches through dialogue.
  • critically supports students’ identities.
  • embraces and recognizes the value of students’ home languages.
  • critiques school knowledge, knowledge that has historically been Eurocentric.
  • invites students to engage in real social and political issues.
  • creates classroom environments where students can meaningfully engage with each other.
  • is rigorous, and recognizes that academic rigor is impossible without it.
  • connects to the entire curriculum.
  • is rooted in an anti-racist struggle about which knowledge and experiences should be included in the curriculum.
  • celebrates social movements and the fight against nativism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.
  • explores how social, economic, and cultural institutions contribute to inequality.

It is critical that I take a moment here to address an issue regarding how I am defining “multicultural” in this book. Some friends and allies, for instance, critiqued the first edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education for focusing too narrowly on typical categories of race, ethnicity, and culture, to the exclusion of more expansive definitions of “multiculturalism” that might include, for instance, an attention to the identities of LGBTQ youth in our classrooms and curriculum, or to the religious diversity of our students and communities. I understand and appreciate these concerns. The identities of our students and their communities are diverse and exceedingly complex, and certainly one approach is to define “multiculturalism” in ways to match every aspect of those identitiesevery aspect of “difference.” My answer in conversation with these friends and allies has been along two lines. First I attend to the context of Rethinking Schools itself. Two of our earlier, widely used books, Rethinking Our Classrooms Volumes 1 & 2, take up a broad definition of teaching for social justice, and in doing so, both volumes seek to embrace an expansive definition of culture, and also span grade levels and subject areas. Granted these two volumes are not perfect, but in many ways, my choice of focusing on more typically defined notions of race, culture, and ethnicity was a conscious one within the context of Rethinking Schools. We had already worked with the more expansive notion of culture in those two volumes, but had yet to take up a book that focused on race, racism, and the ways culture intertwines with them. The second part of my decision to define “multiculturalism” in the manner that I have for Rethinking Multicultural Education is connected to my experience teaching multicultural education and diversity courses at the university level. As I discussed earlier in this introduction, I worry that multiculturalism has been equated with “diversity” and has become the “everyone else” category. Teacher education credential coursework at many universities, for instance, require some sort of “diversity” class as a part of their core sequence of courses. Although I generally believe in the importance of requiring such courses and certainly do not want them taken out of teacher credential programs, the “every aspect of difference” nature of these classes oftentimes means that studentsfuture teachers in this casemay talk about race, privilege, and myriad issues associated with diversity but give short shrift to the painful and powerful systemic racism, the legacies of colonization, and the realities of cultural oppression.

To be clear, I’m not opposed to more expansive definitions of multiculturalism and diversity, and I’m open to hearing the critiques of my friends, colleagues, and allies regarding the definition of multiculturalism I’ve chosen within the context of Rethinking Schools as a whole and the field of multicultural education as it currently exists. But this book represents the need to defend the conscious and explicit attention to race and ethnicity, and the aspects of culture that extend from them, as I have done here in this second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education.

Changes and Organization of the 2nd Edition

This second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education is significantly different from the first edition. There are more than 15 new chapters included here, drawn from the strong articles about race and culture printed in the pages of Rethinking Schools since the first edition was published in 2009, and I removed some chapters that I felt became redundant in the context of the new edition. This second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education also has been reorganized to include a new section, “The Fight for Multicultural Education.” This new section came about because the last five years have seen immense struggles over state standards, especially the banning of the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District.

The first section is “Anti-Racist Orientations,” and it examines the importance of recognizing the role of race and culture in education in our schools today. Here, chapters focus on general anti-racist orientations that are important for teachers to carry into the classroom, on dispositions that take justice seriously and examine privileges as they exist in practice. This exploration includes understanding the relationships among teaching, culture, and privilege, as well as recognizing the more historical and institutional inequalities that we see today.

Section two, “The Fight for Multicultural Education,” is new for the second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education. This section highlights how the establishment and maintenance of anti-racist, multicultural curriculum is always steeped in struggle over the politics of curriculum and what knowledge is deemed important and worthwhile for students to learn. These chapters document the fights about what should or should not be included in state-level standards for history, as well as the banning of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona, that have taken place. Further, it highlights how regimes of high-stakes, standardized testing pose a constant threat to multicultural education.

Language is central to culture, and how we understand and treat language in our classrooms speaks to issues of power both inside and outside of education. The chapters in section three, titled “Language, Culture, and Power,” look at the relationship between language and culture, finding connections between the cultural politics of Black English, Bilingual Education, and the cultural norms for communication. It also addresses the ways in which we deal with culture and language in the classroom that speak specifically to student identities.

Section four, “Transnational Identities, Multicultural Classrooms,” includes chapters that look at what it means to be an anti-racist, social justice educator within the context of immigration, globalization, and colonizationwhere our students’ identities are transnational, both rooted in the United States and not rooted in the United States. This section attempts to stretch our normal categories for students, many of whom are immigrants, and many of whom, while not immigrants themselves, hail from immigrant communities. The transnational, even globalized, identities of our students sometimes make issues of cultural identity relative to the U.S. and “home” countries mixed up and even contradictory, forcing educators to recognize the dynamic nature of cultures and communities.

Although concrete examples exist throughout the book, the final section, “Confronting Race in the Classroom,” focuses specifically on examples of anti-racist teaching at the elementary and secondary levels, in multiple grades and across multiple subject areas. Even though other chapters in other sections are clearly grounded in classroom practice, here the focus is on how elementary and secondary teachers have critically considered issues of race and culture into their curriculumoftentimes experiencing both success and difficulty in raising such important and complex issues.

In these times of high-stakes testing, the standards movement, shrinking budgets, and increased workloads, teachers are continuously being pushed to leave justice and equality behind. Instead, they find themselves having to focus on test scores, pacing guides, and scripted instruction. But, as W. E. B. DuBois once said, “Education must keep broad ideals before it, and never forget that it is dealing with Souls and not with Dollars.” Teaching for racial and cultural justice is one of those “broad ideals” that we can’t lose sight of if we are to live up to our commitments to teach all children. Rethinking Multicultural Education is a tool for educators to address these ideals in their classrooms, to take a stand against the dollar-zation of education and for the soul of our students, communities, and world.