Rethinking Multicultural Education 3rd Edition

Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice

Edited by Wayne Au

Available in:

Paperback: $24.95

Epub: $9.95

Publication Date: December 4, 2023

ISBN: 9780942961409

From book bans, to teacher firings, to racist content standards, the politics of teaching race and culture in schools have shifted dramatically in recent years. This 3rd edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education has been greatly revised and expanded to reflect these changing times, including sections on “Intersectional Identities,” “Anti-Racist Teaching Across the Curriculum,” “Teaching for Black Lives,” and “K-12 Ethnic Studies,” among others. Practical, rich in story, and analytically sharp, Rethinking Multicultural Education can help current and future educators as they seek to bring racial and cultural justice into their own classrooms. 

“While many folks have abandoned the term multicultural education in favor of social justice, anti-bias, anti-racist, and/or anti-oppressive education, this collection reminds us that no matter the terminology we use, highlighting the experiences of the marginalized is vital to our collective liberation. From uplifting decolonization, Black history, and queer joy to critiquing capitalism and offering a beautiful and often heartbreaking array of personal narratives and classroom examples, this volume is necessary reading for educators committed to offering young people the education they deserve.”

—Noreen Naseem Rodríguez, Assistant Professor of Elementary Education and Educational Justice at Michigan State University, co-author of Social Studies for a Better World and Teaching Asian America in Elementary Classrooms

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, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education Emerita, University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children.


“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, Founder, Acosta Latino Learning Partnership and Assistant Professor, University of Arizona



By Wayne Au

Anti-Racist Orientations

Taking Multicultural, Anti-Racist Education Seriously
An interview with Enid Lee

Decolonizing the Classroom By Wayne Au

Taking the Fight Against White Supremacy into Schools By Adam Sanchez

Doing Race Talks with Teachers
By Dyan Watson

The Attack on Anti-Racist Teaching Is an Attackon Environmental Justice Teaching
By Bill Bigelow

Racial Justice Is Not a Choice By Wayne Au

Honor Their Names
By Linda Christensen

My First Year as a Teacher of Color
By Juan P. Córdova

And Then I Went to School
By Joe Suina

You’re Asian. How Could You Fail Math?
By Benji Chang and Wayne Au

Intersectional  Identities

Fifth-Grade Detectives Uncover the Dominant Narrative
By Erin Green

As an Arab American Muslim Mother, Here Is the EducationI Want for My Children
By Nina Shoman-Dajani

How We Failed Nigel Shelby and Allowed the Abuse He Endured
By Maximillian Matthews

Queering Black History and Getting Free
By Dominique Hazzard

“Young Women Like Me”
By Camila Arze Torres Goitia and Kim Kanof

The Women of Juarez
By Amalia Ortiz

Language, Culture, and Power

Uncovering the Legacy of Language and Power
By Linda Christensen

Black English/Ebonics: What It Be Like?
By Geneva Smitherman

Raising Children’s Cultural Voices
By Berta Rosa Berriz

“No One Is Going to Tell Us What Is Right”
By Lauren Markham

Uchinaaguchi: The Language of My Heart
By Moé Yonamine

Language Is a Human Right: An Interview with Debbie Wei By Grace Cornell Gonzales

Colonizing Wild Tongues
By Camila Arze Torres Goitia

Anti-Racist Teaching Across the Curriculum

The Voice of a Seed
By Caitlin Blood

Beyond Just a Cells Unit
By Gretchen Kraig-Turner

Shape-Shifting Segregation Policies
By Maribel Santiago

Standing with Standing Rock By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

Celebrating Skin Tone
By Katharine Johnson

Whose Community Is This?
By  Eric (Rico) Gutstein

“My Family’s Not from Africa — We Come from North Carolina!”
By Waahida Mbatha

Welcoming Kalenna
By Laura Linda Negri-Pool

Rethinking Islamophobia
By Alison Kysia

Race: Some Teachable — and Uncomfortable — Moments
By Heidi Tolentino

The Other Internment
By Moé Yonamine

Sorry Not Sorry
By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

Teaching for Black Lives

Black Lives Matter at School: A Roundtable Discussion

Through the Lens of Those We Love
By Cierra Kaler-Jones

Choreographing for Justice
By Emily Todras

What We Don’t Learn About the Black Panther Party — but Should
By Adam Sanchez and Jesse Hagopian

Black Is Beautiful
By Kara Hinderlie

K–12 Ethnic Studies

What Is Ethnic Studies Pedagogy?
By Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, Rita Kohli, Jocyl Sacramento, Nick Henning Ruchi Agarwal-Rangnath, and Christine Sleeter

Six Reasons I Want My White Child to Take Ethnic Studies By Jon Greenberg

Barangay Pedagogy
By Arlene Sudaria Daus-Magbual, Roderick Daus-Magbual, Raju Desai, and Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales

Do I Need to Mail in My Spit? By Dominique A. Williams

Challenging Colonialism
By Carolina Valdez

By Wayne Au

The first edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education came out in 2009. Back then, despite our many articles on teaching for social justice, Rethinking Schools did not have a book that collected our work on multicultural, anti-racist education. The educational landscape was different back then, too. Obama was in his first term as president. The Common Core was just on the rise. (Technically we were still stuck in the No Child Left Behind era.) Folks weren’t including their pronouns in their introductions. It was only 14 years ago, but looking back now it feels like a different world entirely.

The 2nd edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education was published in 2014. Again, the world had shifted significantly since the previous edition. Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program fight had gone national. Major movements opposed high-stakes testing across the country as the Common Core hit its stride, and in the organizing that culminated in its inspirational 2012 strike, the Chicago Teachers Union showed the country how to build community solidarity and incorporate educational justice into union activism.

In the interim between the second and third editions of Rethinking Multicultural Education, we’ve had two rounds of massive Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by the 2014 murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. This revived anti-racist activism produced Black Lives Matter at School, and we’ve seen local and state-level movements (and struggles) over the adoption and implementation of K–12 Ethnic Studies. Through the decade, students and teachers across the country have protested for gender, Queer, and racial justice. The Standing Rock Sioux-led protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline revealed the inextricable link between Indigenous rights and environmental justice. Notions of gender, sex, and sexuality have expanded, and language of intersectionality and identity has evolved greatly. And, following in the footsteps of the Chicago Teachers Union, other unions across the country have engaged in “bargaining for the common good,” and self-identify as social justice unions. In important ways, people think about themselves differently now than in 2009 and 2014.

These inspiring movements and social shifts led to a reactionary backlash. We may have survived the Trump administration, but we must still deal with the ascent of the right wing, white supremacist, neo-fascist movement attacking our schools and communities. This includes the ongoing conservative, white supremacist attacks on diversity, multiculturalism, critical race theory, reproductive freedom, and the LGBTQ community. We’ve also had years of the COVID-19 pandemic and fights about public health relative to schools. And we cannot forget the massive spikes in anti-Asian violence as well as the national response to that violence.

In response to these changes, classroom teachers across the country have come together to build curriculum, to teach lessons, to help students understand the world and envision a better, more just one. These are the grassroots efforts reflected in this third edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education. As we know, many educators do this at great risk — they have been fired, reprimanded, and even faced violence for teaching the truth and creating inclusive classrooms.

Organizationally, Rethinking Schools has evolved too. Since the second edition came out, in just the area of diversity and multicultural education alone, Rethinking Schools has published Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality, Rethinking Bilingual Education, Teaching for Black Lives, Rethinking Ethnic Studies, and Teaching a People’s History of Abolition and the Civil War, and that’s not counting all the other content on racial and cultural justice that has appeared in the magazine and as part of all of our other book projects. In the early days of the pandemic, our Zinn Education Project launched online “Teach the Black Freedom Struggle” classes that have featured prominent scholars and activists. And ZEP has sponsored Teaching for Black Lives study groups, so educators in every corner of the country can explore how to teach about racism, resistance, and joy in teacher-led learning communities. We have a different language available to us now. For instance, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, we can (and do) name white supremacy more openly, since people’s understanding of the term has expanded beyond spaces like the KKK and into a deeper connection to histories of institutional racism and settler colonialism.

As I write this, I am reminded of how passé, how old school, the language of “multicultural education” feels now. Truthfully, I felt this to some degree even for the first edition. This is why I used the subtitle “Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice.” As a term, “multicultural education” sometimes feels too easy and safe. I wanted to signal that this book was sharper in politics, that it had some teeth. In the context of white supremacist attacks on curriculum and schools, I now feel this even more so. We’re in the midst of a fight to be able to teach the truth about racism, gender, sexuality, and U.S. exceptionalism, and we need tools to name it, understand it, and fight back. The easier-to-digest versions of multicultural education are not up to this task. Conservatives are attacking so much under the guise of being anti-Critical Race Theory that they’ve gone after diversity, social-emotional learning, inclusion, and just about anything associated with being accepting of difference or addressing inequality. Ironically, in this context, even the old-school multicultural education is too radical for them.

This third edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education reflects these changes and struggles. It is almost entirely new content from the second edition — Rethinking Schools has published so much new articles on racial and cultural justice in the last 10 years — mostly written by classroom teachers who have responded to every crisis, every changed circumstance, by creating curriculum to address the new world they encounter. In editing this collection, I faced a crisis of having too much content to choose from. In making these changes, I wanted to make sure that the chapters of this third edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education both stayed true to the heart and intent of earlier editions but also speak more directly to our current context.

Here in this volume, there are new sections entirely. Section One is still “Anti-Racist Orientations,” but although I kept a few “classic” chapters from previous editions, I’ve swapped in more recent material addressing white supremacy and environmental justice, among others. The second section, “Intersectional Identities,” is entirely new. The language around intersectionality has evolved, and I wanted to make sure that this book spoke to the ways that gender, sexuality, and other aspects of our identities intersected with race and culture in the classroom. Section three, “Language, Culture, and Power,” is a holdover from the previous edition, but with many new pieces that speak to a wider lens of content, including Indigenous languages. The fourth section, “Anti-Racist Teaching Across the Curriculum,” takes an expansive view of teaching for racial and cultural justice that spans grade levels, ages, and subject areas. The point here is to help readers see that yes, this work can and should happen everywhere in our curriculum. The final two sections reflect the movements to Teach for Black Lives and to take up critical Ethnic Studies in the K–12 classroom. These two areas are at the forefront of teaching for racial and cultural justice, and it is important for teachers to understand how this work is done concretely in our classrooms.