Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society

Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society

Smith, Karl A

Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society

by James A. Banks

Teachers College Press, 1997, 172 pp.

James Banks’ Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society is part of a series on multicultural education that includes Multicultural Education, Transformative Education, and Action (Banks, 1996) and the series is based on a conceptual framework that includes content integration, the knowledge construction process, prejudice reduction, an equity pedagogy, and an empowering school culture. Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society provides a thorough historical perspective and comprehensive summary of the educational research literature (over 15 pages of references).

Banks’ documents the increasing diversity of our schools: “In 50 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and other students of color made up 76.5% of the student population in 1992… Students of color will make up about 46% of the nation’s student population by 2020 (p. Vii).” He documents the challenges that people of color face in comparison to mainstream males: “Groups of color have experienced three major problems in becoming citizens of the United States. First, they were denied legal citizenship by laws. Second, when legal barriers to citizenship were eliminated, they were often denied educational experiences that would enable them to attain the cultural and language characteristics needed to function effectively in the mainstream society. Third, they were often denied the opportunity to fully participate in mainstream society even when they attained these characteristics because of racial discrimination (p. Xi.)”

Equity pedagogy, which actively involves students in a process of knowledge construction and production, is one of the strategies Banks’ presents for fostering change. Equity pedagogy challenges the idea of instruction as transmission of knowledge where the professor is the source of knowledge and wisdom and the students are passive recipients. It alters the traditional power relationship between faculty and students, and assumes a close connection between knowledge and reflective action (See Academic Bookshelf, Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 86, no. 2, April, 1997). “Equity pedagogy creates an environment in which students can acquire, interrogate, and produce knowledge and envision new possibilities for the use of knowledge for societal change (p. 79).” Equity pedagogy is guided by the following assumptions (p. 79-80):

1. There is an identifiable body of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that constitute critical attributes of equity pedagogy.

2. Critical attributes of equity pedagogy can be identified, taught, and learned.

3. Competencies in equity pedagogy can be developed through formal instruction, reflection on life experiences, and opportunities to work with students and colleagues from diverse populations.

4. All teachers need to be able to competently implement equity pedagogy and related teaching strategies because all students benefit from them.

5. In-depth knowledge of an academic discipline, pedagogical knowledge, and knowledge of students’ cultures are prerequisites for teachers to successfully implement equity pedagogy.

6. Competency in equity pedagogy requires a process of reflection and growth.

7. Equity pedagogy cannot be implemented in isolation from the other four dimensions of multicultural education described above (in first paragraph). It is interrelated in a complex way with the other four dimensions.

Though we have focused -on these particular books because of their powerful impact on one or both of us as we seek to reach more of the students in our classes, we want to at least to signal to you the existence of other trenchant studies dealing with teaching within a multi-cultural context.

Copyright American Society for Engineering Education Jul 2000

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