Course:EDCP562/Chapter 8

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Chap 8 Curriculum & Cultural Diversity p. 153-175


Critical Race Theory (CRT) Emerged from legal scholarship when scholars of colour began to challenge the ways that liberal legal scholarship failed to question or challenge the relationship between race, racism & power In essence it is a deep examination that works to discover how the racist culture embedded in the curriculum (whether obvious or hidden) of the US has undermined the learning of people of colour.

Cultural Deficit Theory Belief that some students cannot achieve because of their culture, ethnicity, language or race

Who are the Authors?

• The authors of this piece, Gloria Ladson-Billings & Keffrelyn Brown

o Gloria Ladson-Billings is a pedagogical theorist & teacher at the University of Wisconsin - her focus of late has been to address the educational incongruities of teaching African-American children in the 21st century (

o Keffrelyn Brown is an Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas (Austin)


The authors choose to start their chapter with a quote from C.G.Woodson (p.153):

Woodson says that the curriculum of his time glorified the cultural heritage of the dominant group in society while reminding the subordinate group that they were not contributors to the development of this civilization, scholarship and culture

• Ladson-Billings & Brown’s concern is that the possibilities and rationales for a curriculum for diverse learners seems unlikely, as there are mandated achievement levels that must be met, so the curriculum is very prescriptive and lacks flexibility • The authors use critical race theory to look at the curriculum as an educational and cultural property • In this article they review literature on curriculum and cultural diversity from 1970 to the present & finally they propose an idea for curriculum in the 21st century • Ladson-Billings & Brown clarify that when they speak of "curriculum" in their article, they are referring to the "official knowledge" as it is defined by Apple • Crucial question in all of this is "What knowledge is worth knowing?" p. 154 • There is a sense that Black Studies, Women's Studies etc. were really just a panacea - they were Band-Aids that only touched on crucial elements of cultural understanding, that these curricula never went beyond "contributions" or "additions" to the mainstream official knowledge


1. Is Woodson's statement still valid today? 2. Is this type of chapter warranted? - have we moved past all this (consider the term thrown around during the most recent Presidential election in the US - "Post-Racial America" - does this exists? Can it?

A Critical Race Theoretical Perspective on Curriculum (p. 154)

• The idea of power - who has it & who doesn't is crucial to this section • CRT incorporates narrative and counter storytelling (the idea of who speaks for whom) • These stories are key as it those who tell the stories are often marginalized • CRT rests on the premise that racism is not an aberration, rather it is a normal part of society - this is an attitude some are uncomfortable with because it goes against "all men are created equal" • Ladson-Billings & Brown argue that curriculum is a property that is differentially available to students based on their social positions • Example on p. 155 detail o Los Angeles example where an African-American student with 4.0 GPA was denied entrance to University of California b/c there were 'white' and Asian-American students whose averages exceeded 4.0 b/c their schools offered the AP Program that allowed students to take college level courses in high school - AP courses are weighted higher so students can possibly achieve higher than 4.0 GPA

• So Ladson-Billings & Brown contend that the curriculum property at this student's school was not as valuable as that of her "White" counterparts

• Another example of curriculum as property : o students in poorest performing schools read anthologies that contain key excerpts, rather than full texts o Explanation given (by whom?) is that the anthologies will provide enough information for the students to pass federally mandated tests • The bottom line here is that there appears to be little concern for these students' intellectually development or opportunity to compete successfully at the post-secondary level • Curriculum can also reinforce racial ideologies - the history of the United States as written in government sanctions textbooks is that of a nation founded & run by “White” people; students of European origin rely on the textbook & teacher to understand their past while African-American students rely on parents & family members interpretation of history - back to Woodson, that this curriculum lionizes one group while ignoring (& therefore undervaluing) another

• Alternate argument is presented, that great changes in curriculum have occurred since the 1960s; however, Joyce Elaine King suggests that we haven't come far enough o She describes 4 forms of multicultural knowledge (p. 156):

• Marginalizing Knowledge  The kind of curricular knowledge that distorts the historical & social reality  Example given - learning about the wonders of ancient Egypt without an understanding of Egypt in the context of the rest of the continent of Africa

• Invisible Knowledge  Knowledge that collapses social & cultural heritage into the generic "we"  e.g. "We came to an empty land…" this we refers to white America, not black America

• Expanding Knowledge  Efforts by schools to diversify the curriculum  Adding "colour" to the textbook - 'just like us' syndrome which ignores the fact that many live with joblessness, homelessness, poverty & violence on a daily basis

• Deciphering Knowledge  Knowledge aimed at changing consciousness - the archaeology of knowledge - which pushes teachers to excavate & analyze the prevailing narrative around race, gender & otherness that is always present in texts  e.g. examining contradictions in greatness - Thomas Jefferson despised slave while carrying on a long term sexual liaison with an enslaved woman

• Ladson-Billings & Brown make very clear (& as a historian this is the crucial part of this article) that their position on curriculum transformation is not something done only for the marginalized 'other' , but rather something that is meant to encourage democracy - social inequality is antithetical to what society stands for, so it is the responsibility of education system to address this

Theorizing National Panics (p. 157)

• Specific historical events tend to give rise to curricula changes in schools o 1957 Launching of Sputnik (p. 158) Result: • Realization by some that science needed to be of more importance in US schools & curriculum • "crisis" in the schools which led to overall more rigorous standards in science • 1 year later Eisenhower signed the National Defense Education Act which did not apply to schools specifically but was designed to get more students to study math & science by subsidizing (to the tune of 1 billion dollars) loans for tuition and assisting schools and colleges in the development of science and language laboratories

o 1960s Civil Right Movement (p. 159) • The population was changing, economic opportunities were shifting • National effort to dismantle racist and unequal social conditions - connected to 2nd Great Migration • City demographics changed; riots in major urban centers (Watts, Detroit) forced the nation to reconsider the social political and economic disparities that plagued these communities • Education was seen as the answer - under President Johnson's War on Poverty federal aid given for the development of compensatory educational curricula & programs targeted to poor students (usually of colour) who needed support to effectively move through school • Educators started to worry about the use of cultural deficit theory to explain black students difficulties in urban school settings - this is pretty much a racist view

• Change started to occur: o In the United States - through the publication of "A Nation At Risk" (1983) - the realization that the United States educational system was inadequate & needed a huge overall o In England - The Education Reform Act (1988) • This act called for the creation of a centralized, national curriculum o United States - No Child Left Behind (2001) • US Students still lag behind many foreign students, and the academic achievement gap between rich & poor, white & minority students still exists • This policy decided that it was now time to hold teachers accountable for the problem of "failing schools" o All of these changes came about through the fear that the US & the UK were not 'growing' individuals who could compete on the international stage

Change in Practice (p. 164-168) • Ladson-Billings & Brown reviewed current literature to see how and where diversity was being addressed • What they found was that diversity is discussed, but it is discussed without a grounding in what diversity means in our highly stratified society • None of the material focused specifically on culturally diverse curriculum materials for white or Asian descent students, however reference was made to "poor", "urban" and "immigrant" and this, the authors believe, were proxy words for racial others

Conclusions (p. 168-169) • By focusing on the notions of curriculum and cultural diversity they discovered the knowledge base is quite limited • They conclude that curriculum scholars still need to identify what elements of the curricula need to change in order to address the rapidly changing student population • The need for diversity should not be driven simply by panic but rather in an understanding of the nature of knowledge in a globalizing world culture - the democratization of knowledge & the need for all voices to be heard