Carl A. Grant

CARL A. GRANT

Carl A. Grant, University of Wisconsin, Madison. And I am a professor in the department of curriculum instruction.

Well, multicultural education today I—I believe is—is very much in the minds of most teachers uh and most—and many faculty people. Uh, and over the past 10 years, there has been a resurgent in energies and efforts toward multicultural education. Although at times one thinks that there have been setbacks in the area of—of—in the area of multicultural education. But on the other hand there are many positive signs. Now much—some of these signs have been caused by changing the—the demographic patterns in the United States. A clearer awareness of the fact that we live very much in a global society and very much also peoples of color who are beginning to demand as they did during the Civil Rights era, the need to—for attention in these particular areas. Additionally, we have seen the growth of many other uh groups. At one time it was black and—and women, now we have gay and lesbian groups. We have uh the—the ablelism, inclusiveness in classrooms. So multicultural education today, I would say, is very much alive and well and I see it that way for the foreseeable future.

Well, today’s teacher needs a range of skills and competencies and dispositions. Let me first start with the dispositions. As a teacher we always bring who we are. Let me call it our baggage, to what we do, the way we work, how we think of curriculum, the way we teach, the examples that we use in the classroom, what we say to parents in that parent/teacher conferences. The disposition of how we act or how we relate to people is very much in evidence in—in—in--in all of our actions, in all of our behavior. The skills that teachers’ need today is a wider range of understandings about different cultures and different backgrounds and groups. And they also need the willingness on their part to be able to go out and learn the things that they do not know. Now it is for certain that not everyone can know everything about every particular group. But there is also an awareness that teachers today need to be willing to learn about those groups particularly in their classroom. Now in no way am I saying if you have a classroom that is made up of all white students, you should ignore multicultural education because multicultural education is for everyone just like in an all African-American classroom or all uh Hispanic classroom. It is for everyone. Every child needs it. I mean we talk today about the world being a—a global village. People travel. They go all over. They encounter different groups of people and they need to have their head screwed on right when they meet these people.

The—the idea that education is neutral and should neutral is just absolutely false. There are politics in everything that we do. There are ways of thinking that people bring to the way that they teach. Education is not neutral. In fact, we don’t want education to be neutral. In this particular coun—country when we’re teaching about American democracy, we want to teach it in such a way that we instill in the—the students the importance of democracy, the value of it in relationship to other forms of government. It is not a perfect form of government, but it is for us the best form of government. So the notion of neutrality in education is something—is a myth that we need, basically, to put aside every teacher who comes to the classroom, comes with certain beliefs and ideas. And often these are brought to the students; the students come away with these. In many ways that’s healthy. But part of what we want to do is not the case of neutrality, but it is the case of fairness. It is the case of equity. It is the case of social justice as we pay attention to different concepts, different ideas from history that we present. We want to present them not in a neutral way, but in a fair way in which we help students to understand and realize multiple perspectives that are—are brought to them. Different interpretations that a teacher can bring and the different students can bring. Neutrality, no. Understanding, fairness, justice, is what we would like.

Yeah, but the representation of different groups and textbooks—to start with textbooks next to the teacher, has always been the most signific—significant teaching tool. Textbooks provide the curriculum. Textbooks tell the story of the past and in many ways, they provide the way of thinking for the future. And what we need to see in our textbooks in the world today is a wide representation of different groups of people. But not only different groups of people in particular areas, but different groups, men, women, people of color, uh people who are uh disables, so to speak, who are—let me say, who have disabilities, so to speak, who are represented in many different occupations, many different careers. Students learn as they read textbooks about their opportunities of tomorrow, what they can do today, goals they need. And for many students who may not attend an art museum, who may not go to uh, uh an aquarium or some other kinds of social events, the textbook is something that they have daily where those particular models are there before them so they can learn by reading and look—and looking. So textbooks are super important. And—and—and I think that uh textbooks will be with us even as we discuss the Internet and—and students going online, we need to carry some of those ideas to what we are seeing and reading on the Internet because lesson learned from what we discovered about textbooks and a fair representation also needs to be carried over very much to the Internet.

Well, any and all teachers play a major uh force—a major role in education. The teaching force today is predominantly uh white and it will remain that way for some time to come. So it really means that we have a significant job to do to educate many students who are well-meaned. At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I teach undergraduate classes. The majority of the students in those classes are white, female. These students are concerned about all kids. They are desirous of teaching, a good number of them, in the urban area. What we have to provide for them is an understanding and knowledge and an education that will prepare them to teach in an urban area and—and—and to teach all students regardless of where they’re teaching. Because in the country today I believe there are very few places where a teacher can teach, where he or she will not encounter different groups of kids of color, kids who are—who come from different poverty stations, kids who may come from homes where there may be two mothers or two fathers. So in today’s classroom, it is really—brings together students from all over and teachers today regardless of their color, have to be prepared to teach them. I also think that we have opportunity today to really encourage other groups of color to push toward having members of that group to become teachers. Teachers are so important to the future of tomorrow that we need a force that is much more multicultural then we are look—then—then what we are—uh the way we—oops, I blew that. (Interruption) So you cut that last part out. (Interruption) Yeah, just cut that last part out. (Interruption)

Uh, for many years part of the history of the—of our country—it started in many ways when the immigrants arrived. There was a notion of less knock—less knock the differences off because they were perceived as deficiencies. If we would go back to our urban areas, to the settlement houses and places, the reasons that they were set up was to eliminate, was to Americanize because they were perceived with their particular knowledges and their cultures as being deficient. Kids of color are perceived very much in the same way as when they come to the classrooms they are deficient. And what many teachers think, what many of us think, that in order to help them enter into the mainstream, we need to get rid of these proficiencies and “Americanize” them. Well, in part, I would argue, that these kids come with differences and differences are just as great as any other cultures’ differences. And we all come with our differences. And one of the beauties of the U.S. is that there are so many differences around. In fact, you will find some kids who will say that they appreciate the differences among the groups. Otherwise, it would be very boring. So what teachers have to do in part in their preparation, in their continual staff development, is to learn—to realize that the differences are not deficiencies, they are mainly differences that really should be used as resources to help all growth and to be used—to really help us in the United States very much in the present and in the future.

Um, educational policy. Policy at both the Federal, the State, and the local level is in our classrooms daily. What happens in the governor’s office, what happens at the local Board of Education affects what takes place in the classroom. Teachers as a group, we all have to be very much aware of the policies and how they affect us very much. For example, bilingual edu—bilingual education and bilingual legislation has affected how teachers can teach kids who’s first language is not English. This is an important policy that started basically at the national level, came to the state level, and very much is impacted and influences the work of the—the daily work of many teachers across the country. So as teachers, we have to be aware of Federal, state, and local policy. Policy as it relates to text materials in the selection of books. Uh, policy as it relates to tests, how often kids are going to be tested. We find that today that many kids—our kids are just tested and more tested, and more tested, and the tests are published in the newspaper. The reason for all of this testing is based up on policy. I mean policy that started up once again from words—words at the Federal level that went to the state level, became policy in very much of the local level. So teachers are affected by policies every day. And teachers need to be aware of the policies and how they affect them because teachers are also citizens. They have a role to play and they have a voice—and it’s important that they have a voice and that they stand up to let those who are making the policies and are pushing the policies, to let them know how the policies impact them, influence them and the students—the students especially, in—on a daily basis.

There are many definitions of multicultural education and that is one of the confusion areas within the field of multicultural education. Uh, there are definitions and thoughts about multicultural education, which relate to basically mainstreaming students, teaching them as though they are culturally different. Uh, that’s one particular notion. There’s also sometimes what we call a human relations notion of multicultural education where everyone says, “Let’s just be good to one another. Let’s treat people fairly.” But the notion of multicultural education that I like to think about is what I call an education that’s multicultural and socially reconstructions in which I argue, along with Christine Sleeter that we have in a book about, that all of education should be multicultural. The testing program, the curriculum, the staffing patterns, the—the testing program, the way the entire school is set up, it needs to responsive to multicultural education. Who teaches students in the classroom is equally important sometimes as the curriculum that’s going to be taught. When you look at the area of math and you realize that historically—that when the young—young girls have been socialized in the believing that they cannot do math, they have females who are teaching math in the math department, goes a long way in letting the female students there know that they can do both math and science. And additionally, not only having females in that area, but having some females who are of color lets then the girls of color know that they to can excel. I mean so when we’re thinking about an education that is multicultural, it is—it is very encompassing. The reconstruction part says to—to us that education is there to help us grow. It’s there to help prepare us for change. It is for certain that the U.S. is a great democracy, but it is also certain that we have much work to do. The change that needs to take place is change for the betterment in the area of social justice and fairness to all groups. And one of the things that we would like to see happen in education is for the students to be educated and to understand the kinds of changes that we need to do to make America really meet it’s dreams and it’s—fulfill the expectations that it can really become.