My name is Christine Clark and I’m the executive director of the Office of Human Relations Programs at the University of Maryland, College Park.
OK. Um, I think that the normalization of whiteness goes back to this notion of transparency that’s been discussed in the field of critical white studies, the idea that being white is something that is often not visible to people who are white. Uh, and in terms of how that plays itself out in the curriculum, um if we just look at the cannon in higher education or what’s considered the cannon in K through 12 education, I would say that um we assume in—in creating those cannons that the most useful knowledge is that which is already in place um, and implicit in that assumption is white transparency. Um, we don’t recognize or name the fact that the cannon is a euroscentric cannon, it’s a patriotical cannon, it’s a homophobic cannon, and so forth. Uh, I guess that’s how I would answer that question.
There’s two primary practitioners that talk about racial identity development for white people. Um, probably the more well known of the two is Janet Holmes. Um, the other person and the person who I actually identify with a little more strongly is Rita Hardaman. And I would say that the primary difference between their two theories around racial identity development is that Janet Holmes comes from a bit more of a psychosocial perspective and that Rita Hardaman comes from a bit more of a sociopolitical perspective. Um, the psychosocial perspective talks more about how the individual relates to society, but it also does have an in—an institutional component in terms of looking at systemic racism. Um, on the flip side, the Hardaman model looks basically at the opposite. At the notion that institutional racism in more ways then not determines um—determines the individual identity development and um as a result—I mean—let me start that over. There’s two primary people that talk about um white—the process of white identity development. Um, that would be Janet Holmes and Rita Hardaman. The more well known person is Janet Holmes, um and she talks about the process of racial identity development from a psychosocial perspective. Rita Hardaman talks from a sociopolitical perspective and I identity that—with that perspective a little bit more um because it requires us to contextualize individual experiences in the context of the institutional. Both of those models I would say are problematic in that they’re linear, which also is a form of thinking that I would identify as euroscentric, um academic, and exclusionary. Um, and both models have been critiqued um for not including a spiritual component. Um, they stay pretty much in a psychosocial or sociopolitical realm and don’t get into the—the spiritual. There’s an alternative model that’s not being proposed by a white person um but is proposed by Roberto Rodriguez in which he talks about—instead of thinking about a linear identity development, he thinks more about critical questions and essentially trying to create space between a dichotomy. You know that—you know, you have ‘a’ or you have ‘b’ or you move from ‘a to b’ and ‘b to c’ and ‘c to d’. He—he kind of looks at the—two perspectives, or three perspectives, or whatever the choices are and separates them out and finds all this space in between. Um, and he asks people to think more about um humanity. How do you reclaim your humanity as white people um and what does that mean to you? So, you know, I believe that you can talk about this intellectually whether from a psychosocial or sociopolitical perspective. What I want to know is what does that mean for you in terms of reclaiming how you’ve been dehumanized by racism. How will that inform your behavior? How will that inform your actions? Um, and drawing a little bit from the field of nursing, another practitioner who is white, um Wendell Oderkirk, talks about from a nursing perspective—again, in training nurses, he asks the question, “Who’s human for you um and how will that inform your practice as a nurse when you’re caring for a patient and how will your assumptions about who’s human inform how you’d take care of that person?” Um, and in both education and in nursing we’re talking primarily about a population that’s 80 percent white women. So those are important questions to be asking. Is that to drawn out?
I think it’s a real interesting question when you talk about white teachers wondering if they fit into the multicultural curriculum or if multiculturalism is about them or this notion that somehow diversity excludes white people. And the way that I would respond to that is using a problem posing approach; draw a lot on Ballo Freda. And one thing that I might do is to say, “Well, how don’t white teachers fit into multiculturalism,” or “Why wouldn’t they fit into multiculturalism,” or you know, turn it back around. “Tell me why—tell me why you asked that question. What are you thinking? Tell me a little bit more about that question. Explain that to me.” Um, rather then, you know, presenting content, I might um use it as an opportunity to illicit content, to teach through discovery. (Interruption) Um, I mean clearly it’s ridiculous to suggest that somehow white people aren’t a part of multiculturalism. Um, in fact—you know, in fact, the notion somehow that white people aren’t race or ethnic, I think is where that idea comes from, that somehow multiculturalism is about being ethnic and that white people aren’t ethnic, um, which is ridiculous. Um, it goes back to the discussion that people in white studies are having about his notion of transparency of whiteness um, that people don’t see themselves as raced or as ethnic. Um, I would also add that the idea that um white people don’t have ethnicity is tied to white privilege. This idea that we were ethnic when we came here, as Europeans, we were Irish, we were English, we were Swedish, we were German. And something occurred that made us choose or maybe not—not necessarily with deliberate choice, um but there was a rational for giving up ethnicity and becoming white, taking on the identity of white people and—and uh hiding, or escaping, or running from an ethnic identity. Um, and that’s not too terribly different from what happens to people of color in terms of escaping identity that’s been made negative. Um, the difference is that for white people there is a benefit to doing that and for people of color there’s not. Uh, and so one might argue that the reason that white people don’t see themselves as raced or as ethnic is because we gave up our ethnicity to become white and white doesn’t really—you know, it doesn’t have any meaning white. What is it? It’s a color um or the absence of color or however we want to define it. Uh, and therefore uh we perceive that as white people we are excluded from discussions around race and ethnicity, when in fact, not having or not seeing ourselves as raced or ethnic privileges us. And then to put ourselves at the center of the discussion by talking about being excluded when, in fact, everything about the discussion centers us, is another way of focusing a discussion that just seeks to include other people on ourselves as potential victims of that discussion. So it’s another way, I think, that white supremacy is manifest. So that’s a more complicated response um to that question, but I think that uh you can answer it either way. I mean, you can illicit that kind of a response from students using problem posing or you can present content either through readings and a reflective analysis or dialog around that or you can—you can talk. So I think there’s a lot of ways to respond to that conversation and get the same uh narrative to emerge, the same dynamics to come out of it.
Um, I have argued and a lot of my research has focused on this notion that somehow um, you know, what exists in society is violence and that the connection between violence and multiculturalism is that they’re both the anticithis of each other and, you know, uh mutual inclusive. That is that, um, the absence of multiculturalism is in and of itself violence and in the process of trying to create um a multiculturally affirmed society, violence also occurs. And so they’re integrated in these kind of deep and complex ways. Um, there’s a historical connection to um diversity. We often talk about multicultural diversity being something that’s relatively new and my response to that has been—there’s never been—we’ve never had a concern for an absence of diversity. I mean there’s always been a plethora of cultures, whether those are racial, ethnic, in terms of gender or language, or in terms of religion or spirituality or sexuality or disability. The multiplicities in those cultures have always existed. The question is not uh the presence of diversity, it’s how we relate to each other based on that diversity and—and that’s where we have failed. Uh, and that’s the—you know, that’s the context in which violence has emerged um, is that, you know, essentially for whatever reason in certain context, diversity has been identified as a—as a reason for violence to emerge. In another context it—it has not—um, it has not been. But, you know, so the—the relationship between violence and diversity or multiculturalism is deep and complex, it is both mutually exclusive and reciprocally inclusive.
Well, um I think one of the ways in which we interact that’s inherently violence is um this idea that we just ignore people. We’ve—we’ve learned to not see certain people. So um standing in line, you know, at a supermarket and knowing that there’s a person of color in front of me and having a store clerk look past that person and look at me and recognizing that um whether that’s an intentional or unintentional act um there’s violence in it in terms of how, you know, being made invisible makes that person in front of me feel. Um, but I think that’s a very kind of subtle um but extremely violently impactable um way in which we see violence interacting in our society. And then we could go the other extreme and look at, you know, incarceration of black men, or police brutality, or um social and economic programs that target certain groups and don’t target others, tax incentives for the rich and taxation for the middle class in order to make them poor, the absence of healthcare, and so forth. There’s a plethora of examples that we could give.
(Interruption) Well, people have even talked about violence that is not physical as being sy—symbolic violence. Um, it comes from Bordeaux, that notion. And I’ve always kind of rejected that terminology because to me the notion that something is symbolic kind of raises it to a theoretical level as though it’s impact is not um, you know, physically violent on a person in terms of, you know, the kin—the psychological impact, the economic impact, the political impact of “Symbolic” violence. Um, and ultimately the physical impact um, you know, as manifest in suicide or um intergroup conflict, horizontal violence, hurting the people who are closest to you, um starvation, um psychosis, um things that are manifestations of those um so called forms of symbolic violence. So I would argue that there’s—you know, there’s nothing symbolic about what’s named as symbolic violence, that it is—um, it’s real and its—you know, it’s physically, politically, psychologically, and economically violent.
The notion of multiculturalism as a strategy for disarming violence in society and—schools and society at large, um, and in particular looking at gang violence, um it—it’s a very complex uh notion in a lot of ways and—and yet it’s also very simple. This idea that people are affirmed, um you know, that that will create positive results. In essence, a multicultural education is simply asking for all children what has typically been given to white middle class male students. The idea that we see representations of ourselves in the curriculum, in the teachers that teach us, in terms of the pedagogical approaches that affirm us in terms of the nature of relationships between teachers and students in the classroom. And we have, you know, a huge absence of that in um especially, you know, urban areas—in urban schools um where we have a plethora of what has been named, again, by the media as gang violence. Um, and so, you know, in a—in a very simplistic way multicultural education is, in fact, the anticithis to—to what we have—again, I’ll be clear about that, is gang violence. Um, other strategies that have been used um that have not been terribly successful have been um from Spergal’s research on gangs. And he talks primarily about two different tactics that would fall under that area of suppression and four tactics that would fall under the area of prevention. Um, suppression—the two suppression tactics are the most widely used and those have to do with arrest and police brutality and things of those nature—uh, things of that nature. And then um the other thing would be creating an organizational change in ways that would allow for increased arrest. So, for example, alterations in laws that give police more opportunity um to violate civil rights and so forth. Um, or changing disciplinary policies in schools um but then give rise to other suppression tactics, the use of metal detectors and um unlawful search and seizure—those kinds of things—in students’ lockers, right to privacy issues. On the prevention side, um generally the tactics are more along the lines of social programs that have been used, um, uh for example, community organizations and neighborhood mobilization. Um, and that can range from anything like what the Black Panthers did to try to protect their own community to something like a, you know, a community youth center to try, you know, give kids diversions. Um, also social—social intervention, like social services, um department abuse services, uh, you know, counseling and supportive services, um WIC programs (Woman, Infants, and Children), um welfare assistance, those kinds of things, uh, also youth outreach and street workers. Um, the idea of having interventionists go out and meet, you know, young people in the community and try to draw them into conversation, into dialog, and then eventually into activities and programs and school, um, engage them through tactics of that nature. Um, and then finally this idea of social and economic provisions, job programs, things that provide people the opportunity to change their circumstances of existence through education and employment. Um, those are the strategies that have not necessarily included multiculturalism. Clearly suppression tactics don’t, other then to the extent that we see trends in civil and criminal law changing and that that is race conscious and race neutral um, in interesting ways. Um typically we’ve had civil law be very race conscious, affirmative action and equal opportunity, and criminal law has been typically um race neutral. What we’re seeing in the 1980’s is a switch that as affirmative action is practically gasping its last breath, um that has to do with the fact that civil law is becoming more race-neutral. Um, this idea that we should not use race as a criterion for admission in employment, in higher education, and so forth. Uh, and on the same side criminal law has become more race conscious. The idea that you can use what are so-called identifying signs and symbols as a way of determining gang membership and what those identifying signs and symbols are, are—are baggy pants and bandanas, and identifying signs and symbols that would lead to racial conclusions. And so as a result we could argue that there is a component of—of uh, you know, kind of a distortion of a multicultural perspective um in kind of a backhanded way. But, obviously, you know, not with the intent or spirit of—of the—the goals or objectives of multicultural education. In terms of the um, uh—the prevention strategies, clearly a lot of those programs have been intentionally more multicultural, have tried to recruit, you know, in terms of who’s doing the kinds of outreach and work in those programs to be people from the community where they’re trying to do the interventions and the support programs, and so forth. Um, what’s interesting is that there haven’t—there—they have not been linked in any kind of systemic way to comprehensive multicultural educational reform in K through 12 public schools. Um, in a study done by Jenkins where focus groups were done with people involved in the criminal justice system from the bottom to the top—that is from a judicated youth, to their parents, to school teachers, to social workers, to probation officers and parole officers, to lawyers and social workers—if I didn’t already mention that—to um, judges, um to correctional officers and other uh people working in the criminal justice system. Uh, the only thing that all of those different constituent groups found in common about a way to systematically approach—um, addressing gang violence was that education had to be the outcome and that that education needed to be um multicultural in nature. Um, those are the only areas that all of those different constituent groups were able to agree on around how to adjust the issue of gang violence. Um, I don’t know if that answers your questions?
Well, I think that when we talk about, you know, this notion of um institutional racism and the formation of gangs, we have to look at, you know, what constitutes a gang um and really the historical ethnology of institutional racism. Um, the definition—the legal definition of a gang more of less is uh two or more individuals engaged in illegal activity with identifying signs and symbols. Again, this notion of identifying signs and symbols is uh unique in that it allows for descriptors that address racial and ethnic specifics. And instead of identifying people in baggy clothes or um with bandanas, we were identifying signs and symbols that were briefcases and three-piece suits, but still identifying two or more people involved in a gang, we would be talking uh maybe in an earlier time of the founding fathers. Uh, the founding fathers were by today’s standards—with the exclusion of the clause about identifying signs and symbols—a gang. They functioned as a gang. Uh, and they were the gang that instituted institutionalized racism. Uh, we don’t—we don’t name them as a gang, we don’t identify them as a gang. Instead we—we name people who are completely disenfranchised by a system of institutional racism and then blame them for their activities. Um, what’s more American then a gang? You know, in a—in essence, if we look at the founding fathers as a gang, what’s more—what’s more American then a gang? And again, it goes back to how we name what is and what isn’t. Um, I think that there’s a connection between the prevention of violence and the suppression of violence in multicultural communities that has to do with the notion of schools as breeding grounds for prisons. Um, and a lot of the work that I have done looks at uh the reality that we know where the good education is and we have known for a long time, but we’re not doing it. Uh, and that raises the question as—why aren’t we doing it? Uh, not that much of it would really require a huge investment of economic resources, which is typically the common argument, is that we don’t have the money. But what classroom teachers could do if they were given flexibility and creativity, um affirmed in that—you know, affirmed in that endeavor to be flexible and creative in the classroom, uh doesn’t require a huge investment of funds uh, maybe redistribution of funds. And yet on the few occasions when people or communities have been successful uh in addressing significant problems in drop out and violence, school failure, test scores, uh community health problems, systematically those programs have been discontinued, attacked, de-funded, dismantled. Again, it raises the question if we know what a good education is and have even been somewhat successful in providing one, why aren’t we doing it in a more systematic way? And the response to that is because we need—you know, we—we need something to occur. And what do we need to occur? We look at the history of education and we’ve always educated uh in a two-tiered fashion. We’ve educated for leaders and we’ve educated for workers. As we approach the 21st Century and uh enter that shortly, uh we recognize that we don’t need workers so much. We still need leaders, but we don’t need workers. We don’t need workers because technology has replaced a lot of our workforce and uh because business industry has gone to third world markets. As a result, uh what do we do with those people that we use to educate as workers? Uh, we—what do we need? What’s the commodity that we need? What’s the fastest growing Fortune 500 industry in the United States? Well, it’s the prison industry—the prison industrial complex. Uh, and so in fact, if we look at some of the classroom management practices um and how those classroom management practices lead to special education placements, especially for children of color and especially for men of color, uh and then we look at the connection between classroom management practices, placement in special ed, uh drop out, opt out, pushed out, kicked out programs, and then the link between those and criminality and the link between criminality and incarceration, uh and then the overall link between education and incarceration and the recognition that education is the huge—the largest deterrent to incarceration, um then we understand that there is a reason why we’re not providing a good education that we know how to provide. And that’s because we need inmates. Uh, and schools are systematically being structured to fail. And, in fact, they’re being funding by—by corporations. Um, and the example that I would give is uh in Cincinnati Proctor—and Gamble affectionally referred to in that community as Proctor and God uh in a backhanded way—has um super funded some of the public school education but only for programs that promote boring and repetitive tasks, not programs that identify opportunities for students to be creative and to think critically. And what are boring and repetitively trained students good for? Well, they’re really good to be factory workers, which Proctor and Gamble really needs in Cincinnati. Uh, and so there’s a way in which, you know, the link between business and industries needs and the need for, you know, a particular kind of person to be turned out of school, to be produced um exist. Well as those factories go overseas, then what happens? Well then businesses like Proctor and Gamble, and Spalding, and Eddie Bauer, and TWA uh they can either go overseas uh and—and use workers there um or they can identify third world labor markets in the United States, uh in prisons, which is exactly what’s happening. Is that increasingly um a lot of the work that was being farmed overseas is now being farmed to prisons. Uh, and through uh clever manipulation of state legislation and uh antitrust legislation and so forth, um there’s the ability for the state and private industry to collaborate in terms of how they manipulate and use prisoners and prison labor for the production of privatized resources under the opuses of state funded prison. Um, and to make matters worse, uh, uh major funders of the prison industry like Wakenhunt and Wakenhout and Corrections Corporation of America, have one of the strongest lobbies in Washington and therefore can actually guarantee that certain policy is created that will guarantee them profits. Uh, and so this connection between um, you know, violence and multiculturalism in urban communities um I think gets more and more and more deep, and in some ways becomes almost insurmountable uh to an extent.
Uh, there are a number of different strategies that we can use even though the picture is kind of grim when we look at the length between uh the prison industrial complex and school failure and the role that multicultural education can play in bridging that—that gap and addressing that—that ground picture. Uh, and some of them are not terribly radical um and that’s a—that’s a positive thing because they can be subversive in that regard or covert in terms of what they accomplish. And I would argue that, you know, the first thing that we need to do is to develop policy um at the school level or the school system level around class size issues. Um, and if we could reduce class size in pre-K through 12 as well as higher ed classrooms to no more then 20, which I am sure people will say is absolutely ridiculous, but if we could reduce class size—if we put all of our efforts into reducing class size and really virtually did nothing else, the amount of difference that would make in terms of reducing violence, reducing gang violence and increasing academic outcomes for students of all types would—you know, would just be astronomical. It would be phenomenal. Um, so I encourage um teacher education, students, and in-service teachers to talk to parents about this issue and I encourage um, you know, young people in college classes to get their parents to call institutions and complain about, you know, freshman orientation sessions that have 3- or 400 students in lecture halls. Um, class size um perhaps more then any other single factor, can have a huge impact on uh this particular issue. Um, probably even at a more localized level in terms of the classroom. Um, teachers can start looking at their own individual pedagogy. And I um talk a lot to my students um in teacher education uh classrooms about um first when you’re looking for a job um making a decision about uh what role you can play in the school that you get a job in, you know, and feeling people out in an interview process. Um, and there’s—I mean, obviously there’s more then three choices, but I narrow it down to about three choices and you can go into a school that’s absolutely, you know, uh completely unworkable, you know, it’s completely resistant, nothing that you do is going to work, um, they’re just really entrenched in a very negative thinking, very racist and homophobic, sexist, and so forth. Uh, so you could make a decision to go into a school like that and you really have nothing to lose. You can go in, uh you can start a fire, and then you could leave. You know, and nothing ventured, nothing gained. You know, it could start something um even if you become the causality of that war. You can go into a situation where there’s a school that while there are things that clearly need to be worked on, there are some positive things that are happening too. And you can recognize that there’s uh an opportunity to develop a workable situation there. And I think those are some of the most exciting situations. Uh, and the idea that you start with is developing allies anywhere you can. And, you know, that doesn’t matter if it’s another teacher, if it’s a secretary, if it’s a cafeteria worker, if it’s a maintenance person. The important thing is that you find somebody uh who shares your interests. And you can do that with parents, you could even do that with students in some contexts, that shares your interest in trying to create a classroom environment uh that will address some of these issues. And part of the way that we do that is through pedagogy, you know, how we engage students in learning. And if you have a decent size classroom, right, not 8,000 students, uh you can through uh what I call pedagogical engagement as opposed to classroom management, um you know, start to create an environment in which violence is no longer an issue. Uh, Enid Lee has talked about how we often look for violence to be external to the classroom and that we bring it into the classroom as opposed to looking at how—what happens inside the classroom is in fact where those—the source of violence, uh a classroom where students don’t have voice because there’s too many students to be able to speak and the level of frustration that produces in students and why would they continue to be excited to learn. If students don’t want to be at school, if they don’t want to be in our classrooms, we need to take a good look at why that is. Um, so I argue that there’s really very little need for “classroom management” techniques if what’s happening in the classroom is exciting and affirming. Um, and clearly classroom numbers um, you know, are really critical to that. Uh, and in those situations you start small, you build allies, you—you try different things, you see if they work. Um, you involve your students in dialog around “How did this feel?” You know, “I think we need to do some more work on this.” You start having those conversations. Um, another research—another researcher, Gwendolyn Stowers talks about having um policies like never sending children to the principal. Just having a classroom policy that no matter what happens, nobody gets sent to the principal’s office and how that creates a—a climate in the classroom where students feel honored and affirmed and that they have, you know, second chances and that there’s opportunities for negotiation um and that kind of thing. Um, and so—you know, I think that there’s that uh—that second piece and, again, the most attractive piece is finding an environment that’s workable. Um, some of the kind of humorous things that have been said, but there’s some truth in that, is that for uh new teachers going into schools who are optimistic and who are willing to try these kinds of things that uh it’s important to stay away from the teacher’s lounge um in that a lot of in—in-service teachers are—are teachers who did not have the benefit of multicultural curriculum or thinking outside the box or learning to think in terms of critical thinking skills and have a—a pedagogical approach that encourages uh discovery and enquiry, and can often be very negative when you come in as a new person and try to do things as a bright-eyed, bushy tailed kind of, you know, the assumption being naïve person, uh when in fact, you know, many new teachers are—are more skilled in some ways to address uh the current concerns and generationally closer in age to the students, uh and maybe have higher tolerance level or a more inclined, perhaps to have had multicultural, you know, relationship building experiences, have been exposed to some of those things in the curriculum, um you know, the benefit of youth on their side in terms of energy. You know, um which is not to say that all in-service teachers are this way, but clearly one of the things that we hear over and over again or in-service—for pre-service teachers is that um—that they’re often looked at uh with distain when they try to do things that are creative or engaging, um and that when they don’t participate in the downgrading of students or the downgrading of parents, and so on and so forth. And so one, you know, strategy again in terms of that workable situation is just to find uh a strategic way to kind of avoid participating in those negative environments without necessarily alienating colleagues. And again, that piece about teaching students to think strategically. And then the third option, you know, is obviously finding a school in which there’s a real proactive and progressive curriculum already in place and just jumping on and going along for the ride. Um, and that can be a good place to be as well. And, in fact, that could be a positive environment for a new teacher to go into, learn some skills, and then go to a school where there is more of that kind of middle, workable ground situation uh so that you can take some of the strategies that you learned in the more evolved situation uh with you. Um, so there’s the state uh level with looking at this notion of uh classroom size and then what the teacher’s can do in their own classroom environment, and then going back to the policy level really needing to start um addressing at the—really at the global level. Uh, this notion of human rights violations in the United States and the length between our prisons and our schools as breeding grounds to prisons to our unwillingness to participate um with the UN around the issue of human rights violation in the United States, um and really needing to lobby um for that, um you know, at—at the global level. And really needing to say, “We can’t judge others unless we’re willing to be judged,” that we need to get our own house in order um and recognizing the impact that that will have on, you know, um the world market um in economic terms. And so that’s a huge battle. And then stepping a little bit back from that is, you know, strategically because of high stakes testing and this whole notion around test scores, um I would say that a fourth piece—um, a fourth issue would be to look at separating—and again, this is kind of a—not a terribly radical strategy in that we—we need to clearly get rid of standardized testing because we know that it measures, you known, more or less test-taking skills as opposed to content-area knowledge and is not a good indicator of what people are going to be able to demonstrate um in their profession. Um, but also recognizing that in and of itself is a huge Fortune 500 business as well. Uh, what’s the practical response to that, that’s tangible and that can be worked on as a way of kind of addressing this issue of violence and its impact. Um, it’s to split the notion of tests um from content. Uh, and so teaching students, using kind of a meta-analytical approach and saying to students, “Look, we have these tests, we know that they’re terrible, we have to do them, we don’t like having to do them,” teaching critical thinking about this, even talking about that testing is a big industry and we’re not clear that it measures things and having that conversation with students and say, “OK, but even though we no all this and even though it’s ridiculous, we still have to do the tests and so what we’d like to do is talk to you about strategies for being successful on the tests” and teaching test-taking skills. Talking about how to respond to test anxiety, talking about how to prepare for multiple choice forms of assessment. Talking about the propensity for answers to not have, you know, uh the same letter answer more then a certain number of times of a row, or the propensity for answers to more likely be uh the second and third choice versus the first and the fourth choice. Um, teaching students strategies for eliminating the answers that they no are wrong and then trying to gamble around odds for the ones that they think might be a possibility, how to take apart a question and read it and re-read it and use that as a vehicle for answering the question if you don’t necessarily know the content by heart. And teaching those test-taking skills uh separate from how we teach content area knowledge rather then teaching to the test and creating in the classroom environment um, you know, hostility because the teacher’s creativity is curtailed and they tend to take that out on students, and students apathy uh and withdrawal and the—the subsequent violent impact of that on—on creating this whole—you know, this whole vicious circle. Uh, and so really separating those two out, allowing teachers to be creative, engaging students as kind of co-researchers in this problem of standardized tests, uh and then taking on the test-taking piece as a kind of a—a battle to overcome, you know, together as opposed to kind of battering the children with the test and recognizing that those would be I think the four ways um that I would look at that and we could prioritize them by saying classroom, school or district, state, and you know, global um are—are variations on those things depending on how you conceptualize the strategy.
Um, I think that probably one of the most um positive opportunities for um schools and institutional collaboration have to do with school college partnerships um and that primarily is coming from a teacher educator. And so looking at the length between higher education and K through 12 public schools in particular and the rich partnerships that can develop between uh faculty and staff of uh higher educational institutions and K through 12 public te—public school teachers, faculty and staff and then also building linkages between uh higher education students and K through 12 public school students uh and establishing different kinds of programs. Um, some of my favorite programs um at—are things that are along the lines of upward bound programs or what are often referred to as 2 + 2 + 2 programs, uh the idea to following a student from their sophomore year in high school through to uh their uh two year community college degree and then on to a four year bachelor’s degree. Um, and that can be taken to the next level to a two year master’s degree and so forth. The idea being—getting uh students into a program where they can look at um a short period of time for a particular outcome, so a 2 + 2 + 2 rather then trying to see things in terms of this huge long term um opportunity and developing the opportunity for the students to um have su—academic support and um mentoring support um starting in high school to prepare them to make the transition to a community college and really utilizing community college systems for the intimacy that they provide and the focus on student support that they provide so that as the student develops their academic uh and interpersonal skills, uh they then are more prepared for the more interpersonal environment of larger institutions, of four year institutions um and/or university campuses. Uh, that’s one, I think, particularly provocative opportunity um for school and institutional collaboration. Um, I also think that it’s interesting um to provide opportunities for um community, uh private non-profit organizations to be a part of that discussion and to link um schools to social action uh and to be able to do that through uh the opportunity for service learning for students and then engagement in social action as a result of what service learning produces. So um really good example of this is the (speaks Spanish) Puerto Rican high school in Chicago, which is an alternative high school. Um, it’s a Latino centric—primarily Puerto Rican centric high school. And one of the things that they do as uh part of a coalition of alternative schools, they link with other alternative schools and do a lot of work together, but they also link with um private non-profits in their community as well as with um very small entrepreneurs, small business owners all in their community. So, for example, if they have students that are um looking to develop certain kinds of skills and abilities, uh, um say, for example, studying business and marketing, uh there’s a local bakery in the area and the students as a part of their classroom experience work in that bakery and learn how to book keep, learn how to do ordering of supplies, learn how to maintain records and so forth as well as how to do the actual baking. And so there’s the application of theory and practice, also the reliance on community. Um, they also buy buildings in the community and uh, uh subsidized uh housing for um the families of some of their students who can’t afford housing. And so it’s based on need. So somebody living in an apartment building that they own might pay a higher rate and other people might pay a smaller rate. Uh, and so that idea of kind of uh economic independence or community support for educating um students and connecting that back to the larger community in which those students are a part, um those kinds of ideas also um encouraging young people to be involved in social action as a result of learning about their history, um writing letters to inmates who are political prisoners from the Puerto Rican community, participating in protests against government policies. Um, inhibiting, for example, Puerto Rico from being able to achieve independence as one of the only remaining—what is essentially colonies um of a—of first world nations um at least in the traditional or formal sense in the world. I think one of three what would be considered remaining colonies in the traditional sense. Um, and helping students to—to problematize that. Not necessarily to agree with one particular point of entry into debate, but to learn to problematize, you know, government institutions, you know, from business and industry, from small business ownership, uh from uh, uh community action agencies. You know, learning to problematize the different approaches to how people are supported or not supported and what does that mean for me as an individual, as a Puerto Rican, as a member of a, you know, a school, as a member of a community, as a “American” um and claiming that term for one’s self or choosing to reject it. Um not having easy answers, not having easy outcomes, but allowing students to see both the good and the bad and to learn to uh not choose one or the other but to kind of problematize and live in the world where they have to struggle with both and not have an expectation uh that things will necessarily be resolved, or easy, or simple. Uh, you know, but that learning to kind of deal with duality and multiplicity, um the absence of resolution, being unfinished um and recognizing that that’s a dynamic process and learning in education. Uh, so I think that—and that also creates a very dynamic relationship um between schools and other institutions in a very complex and vibrant way. (Interruption) Right. Yeah, there’s definitively no easy answer. And, in fact, what we know a lot about student’s, you know, being preoccupied with grades is that um often when coursework is made more difficult um for them, not in a way that prevents success but creates more engagement and more thought and is more problematic in terms of that growth and development, we know that students feel more rewarded with lower grades if they had to work harder then perform courses where maybe they didn’t have to work so hard in uh emotional and intellectual ways rather then kind of physical ways. Uh, you know, that there’s less satisfaction overall. Um, but I think it’s possible, obviously, to structure education so that student’s can be supportive if they choose to engage and that the lack of—the lack of success um has more to do with the choice about whether or not to engage rather then the ability to do the work. Um, and you know, creating—so creating an environment where students are challenged but also supported to—to rise to the challenge if they’re willing to do the intellectual and emotional work that makes that happen. Uh, and it becomes more about what you learn, your ability to kind of reflect on that, then the letter that’s on the—the transcript. Um, I always go back to—to a personal example in my life between two—two chiropractors that I had. Uh, one who um turned into this really horrible chiropractor who um got—started living way beyond his means, couldn’t afford his mortgage, started telling people ahead of time how much treatment they were going to need and asked them to pay for it up front. It was a guy who got straight A’s as a chiropractor and then his colleague who in school would start studying for a test, find something that he found more interesting in the book then what he was suppose to be studying for for the test and would go off on a tangent. Ended up with C’s in chiropractic college but is one of the most gifted, and I would say, you know, not just a practitioner chiropractor, but a healer, a real healer who has like intuitive ability. And yet if you looked at their transcripts you would argue, you know, that the A student was—would be the better practitioner. In fact, you know, the reverse was the opposite. And so kind of looking at the whole package and um, you know, recognizing that education is a process of making choices and that sometimes the choice is choosing to develop, you know, heart and soul instead of, you know, mind and money. (Interruption) Well, and also what I’ve learned a lot in working with students about why they have trouble really um developing their own perspective is that they’ve learned systematically that the way to be successful is to find out what the teacher wants them to say and then to regurgitate that. And that when you actually start asking a student to take responsibility for their own learning and to engage and to form their own opinion, that at first that feels um overwhelming because you’re actually requiring them to do more work um, you know, and so you can’t take notes anymore in the back of the class or work on your homework for the next class because there’s not a lecture going on. And, in fact, you’re not being told something but you’re being, you know, questioned about something and being asked to engaged in the—you know, and the response to that is uh “You’re not telling me the answer um and this is very frustrating for me.” Um, but ultimately what I have found over the course of time is that if the student can with—you know, if I can support the student to kind of withstand that frustration tolerance, that at the end, the reward is that they say to me uh “I am so happy. I was so angry at you for not helping me in the way that I thought you should, but in retrospect, I now realize what you were doing and I’m so proud of myself for being able to figure it out.” Uh, and the idea then is that they don’t have to rely on somebody else’s model or somebody else’s template but can construct and create from scratch because they’ve been given kind of the tools. I use that uh—that African parable a lot, you know, “If I give you a fish you’ll eat for today, if I give you—if I teach you to fish you’ll eat for a lifetime,” and so I—I tease my students a lot about how—“OK, today I’m going to give you a fish tail, but for the rest of the class we’re going to be constructing a fish and rod together. You know, or “OK, I’m going to give you one of the gills today.” Um, or you know, “We’re going to construct the hook,” or something. So using that kind of reference in a variety of clever ways and reminding students of that tension between being given something and—and learning to, you know, develop kind of the skills to get it themselves.
Um, well the soap box issue for me uh is just the present industrial complex connection, this notion of schools for breeding grounds for prisons uh and really feeling the need to affirm—I mean, I think there’s a general sense—at least in the field of multicultural education, I feel that while a lot of people are studying for the industrial complex and um sociology and law, uh there has been less attention paid to the link between schools um and prisons in the field of education but um I have hoped because it seems that more recently a number of people who are involved in multicultural education, especially in urban areas are starting to recognize at least at an intuitive level that there is something, you know, kind of wrong. Uh, and so having the opportunity to affirm that through dialog—it’s not necessarily new, it’s—it’s helping people to kind of recognize what they’re already feeling, name it, um and then put statistics on it that kind of reaffirm it and reinforce it and give people voice to be able to point to it and say, “This is a real thing. It’s not just something I was feeling or kind of having a sense of or couldn’t quite put together because it was so um dispersed and intentionally um subsumed,” um and finding a way to bring it out of the closet and talk about it and put it on the table and then develop action for addressing it in terms of our classroom practice and um policy development. So that gives me hope that there’s—there’s discussion and dialog now starting to happen. If not in education as a field, at least among multicultural educators and that people are starting to recognize that. And that it also reinforces the work that we do as multicultural educators and recognizing that this is a problem that we’re recognizing, but we already have begun to address the problem without necessarily realizing it. Uh, that the answer, you know, to the problem is, in fact, multicultural education and making that comprehensive, and making that rich, and making that socio-politically located. And—and uh—and so um not necessarily new knowledge um but a nuance in terms of the way that we look at old knowledge.