Donna Gollnick

DONNA GOLLNICK

I’m Donna Gollnick and I’m the senior vice president at NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Well, multicultural education uh today um reflects a lot of work and thinking of scholars and practitioners over the last uh 20 to 30 years. But I think in—in many schools and many teacher edu—education programs, uh we deal with it still at a rather superficial level uh so that we don’t get into uh things that bother us. Uh, issues like race and sexual orientation and language uh diversity. Uh and I think we—we need to begin to grapple at all levels with what those issues mean to us uh to me as a person uh and to society. Uh to really begin to implement multicultural education in a way that um proponents want it to be reflected in schools.

Um, the emphasis uh today—we’re in a performance assessment um environment—really does focus on knowledge, skills, and dispositions. And I’m very pleased that most of the uh—the national reports, the national standards, do require dispositions. And so if we start with dispositions—um I think one key one is a belief that all children can learn which really puts the student at the center. And if one believes that then I think it puts the responsibility back on us as educators to make sure all students learn. And when they’re not learning, we’re able to look at what the problem is. Not saying it’s the student’s fault, but in fact, how do um—what could we do different to encourage the learning. And I think the performance assessment and accountability can really help us do that if we learn to use it in multicultural ways. Uh, in terms of knowledge, there’s so much knowledge that teachers need but you can’t just get it in a workshop or in a teacher education program. It really is a lifelong learning process. So I can take it on myself, I think, as a teacher or a teacher education candidate uh to take some courses about groups who are different then my own group. Uh, one I know little about or about another religion so that I begin to expand my knowledge base about other groups. Uh, I think we have to do a lot of work, and this is in dispositional and knowledge based, on helping understand racism, sexism, homophobi—uh homophobia, discrimination against persons with disabilities. And as we—as we do that, uh we develop critical thinking and we learn where we need more information. So we really are just constantly learning. Now I think as we develop the dispositions and knowledge, um the skills will come because we begin to carry that out as we work with students. And um dispositions like caring, and fairness, and social justice, and equity begin to come out as we watch ourselves and others teach. And we’re—and we reflect on what we’re doing and we get better at it. So we develop the skills. And some of that we can certainly learn from others in workshops and in our teacher education programs by observing others. But it continues to uh evolve so that we become much better teachers in our third year then we were in our first year and better at 10 years and 15 years then when we started. And that’s the process of growth. So a large part of it is uh continuing to learn throughout our uh professional careers.

In developing curriculum or in using a package that your uh school says you have to use, for example, um the one thing you need to do I think at the beginning is to be very conscious about looking for how uh different groups, minority groups, woman, uh persons with disabilities are represented in the materials you’re using. And we have to consciously think about, particularly at the beginning until it becomes internalized. So as I’m looking at the materials, I want to see whether it’s representative of the people in this country. If it only talks in—in social studies you only see information about uh white men who were leaders, uh you’re leaving out most of the population today. They’re not seeing themselves. But I’ve got to be able to see that that exist, and when that exist, I can supplement. I can give uh my students other things to read so that they explore uh the perspectives of others, from different religious groups, from different genders, from different ethnic and racial groups, uh etc. So I begin to bring that in and I begin to hear other voices and I validate other voices. And I want my students to uh—to know that there are many ways of looking at issues or interpreting history, or looking at mathematics, or ecology, and that will make their learning richer uh as well as helping them begin to see the contributions of—of many others. Uh, now culturally responsive teaching really just picks up on this. It’s a—a methodology uh, let’s say. A methodology that could become the way you teach. It’s education that is multicultural is what—what you begin to do because you really attend to the culture of many, many groups. Uh, you also begin to bring the culture of students and the community into the classroom so that I’m not teaching just from my cultural background, but I recognize the backgrounds of the students in my classroom, their languages, and I use those. Uh, so again I think teacher has—the teacher has to be a learner. Uh, I may not have studied all of these, I may not be an active participant in those communities, uh I probably should start becoming an active uh participant in more and more communities, uh but I can learn from the parents and from the community and from the students uh so that I expand my knowledge base again. Uh, and that’s what culturally relevant or culturally responsive pedagogy means. Uh, it’s not just one culture we’re teaching or one perspective from which we’re coming. We’re really opening up the world and drawing on the experiences and cultures of many.

I think to realize multicultural education um we really need to not only change curriculum but be engaged as educators in policy uh development. Um, there are—well let—just some policies that uh you could think about. Uh, and in—a school district that values diversity um might have policies in which they really are engaging the community into the decision making of the school. Uh and they begin to really reflect that diversity in the every day, so to speak. Um, they are um then modeling and carrying out what they’re talking about. Uh, the policies that allow them to do that could be established by a school board, uh by a teacher’s union, or by other groups in uh—in this system um to forward the goals of multicultural education. Uh, currently there are standards for almost every content area which is not a policy in the same way but certainly could be used by multicultural educators because almost all the standards I’ve seen for both K to 12 or P-12 uh education and for teacher education do include references to diversity and value diversity and talk about equity issue maybe using different words. I think as multicultural educators or hopefully that’s all educators, but those of us who are—are in the forefront in this area, ought to look at those standards and really use them for those purpose. N—NCATE, that is the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, we have just developed another set of standards um, we revise them about every five years. And in these new set of standards we have six standards. One of those six speaks to diversity directly. Um but diversity is integrated through most of the rest of the standards as well. And the focus on our diversity standard is that teacher education candidates and person’s preparing for other professions in schools, like principals and counselors, um must have knowledge, skills, and dispositions uh for integrating diversity throughout the curriculum and the school, and the classroom to support learning by all students. And I think that’s a very, very powerful standard. What we will be doing is actually asking uh teacher education programs and faculty to tell us, in fact, what candidates should know about diversity, what skills they should have, what dispositions they expect, and then we’ll look for evidence during an accreditation review that in fact their candidates can teach all students, uh that they have the appropriate knowledge, and they have the disposition. So I think that will actually push the field forward uh greatly, at least in teacher education. And that—those same kinds of standards could become a part of K-12 standards as their revised over the next few years.

Oh, politics around multicultural education can be quite um testy, exciting, interesting, um—you feel like you’re under attack at times but uh that to me means success. That we’re making a difference if groups uh that are not supportive of equity and diversity are attacting—attacking you. You must be doing enough uh to get attention. And that’s good. Um, but I think in working in communities we really have to start with where the community’s at, where parents are, where students are. And you may be working as a principal or a teacher in a community that does not value diversity. Uh, and understanding that at the beginning would allow me to develop strategies for actually uh expanding the knowledge base of students, families, and the community as well. But if I go into a community and I start uh teaching evolution or I start talking about sexual orientation, I may lose my job. That gives me know opportunity to expand the horizons of—of the students and families with which I’m working. Uh so sometimes it’s very slow and it becomes very, very frustrating. But I think we need to remember the goal, not give up. Keep working on it so we provide students uh the opportunity to know more about the world and the people who live in the world and how to use their own culture, build on their own culture, understand others toward fighting against racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Uh, and I think if we keep that in mind, uh we can deal with the politics. But not to recognize that they’re there and to think that you can go out and do this and not face attack would uh—would be very dangerous for you to do. So I think recognizing where people are and moving—developing strategies are good. Uh, let me give you one example from uh—from my own background uh at NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and NAME uh because I have been active in NAME for many years. And NAME is the National Association for Multicultural Education. Now because I work for those two organizations uh we find that we’re under attacked. Both organizations often buy the conservatives. Um, they have certain groups that have written letters to the chief state school officers in the state suggesting that we are about diversity of un-American activity in both organizations. And because I’m connected to both, I’m making the National Accreditation system um diversity—diversity that’s well uh and doing damage to or possible damage to the nation’s children. Well, the um chief state school officers in all the states that receive these letters have really been terrific. Uh, they write back to uh the conservatives who have sent the letters uh indicating how diverse the community is, the state is, how important it is for us to continue this work related to multicultural education and diversity. So there’s been support among the policy makers at the state level, which I think is very, very positive. But I think we will continue to face these attacks for years to come. And I think we confront them, and we develop strategies, and we need to be more politically wise ourselves so that our—the agenda that supports all people uh can move forward and not be derailed by attacks from others.

Well, when I think about multicultural education um you—I think about how we really all are multicultural. Um, and I call that in my writing uh being members of many multicultural groups. Uh, many sociologists might call that a—a subgroup or have another name for it. Uh, but within the uh culture in which we live, uh the US culture that we all share, we belong to different gender groups, we’re either male or female, we belong to different ethnic and racial groups. Uh, we have—uh we’re at a different economic level, which may change over our lifetime. We have different religious uh heritages, language heritages. We’re different ages as well, which affect the way we’re looked at by others uh as well as how we see ourselves. Uh, so in this way all of us our multicultural because we belong to many of those different groups and they have different impacts on who we are and how we see ourselves. Uh, they also influence how others see us uh as part of uh the oppressive group, the dominant group that’s white and heterosexual um and protestant for the most part. Uh, the dominant group that holds the power and privilege in our society. Um or I might be part of a—an oppressed group uh which does not have privilege in society. So I think this helps me think about it. You know, another—another important part of uh our thinking of multicultural education is both that we’re all multicultural, individually multicultural, but even if I’m white, I have culture, I am male or female, I belong to a religious group, a racial group, uh an ethnic group and I need to start with my own cultural identity uh and what those mean to me. So at different times my being white may have uh not seemed important to me. Uh and I think what we need to do is first realize our own culture, but if I’m white, I have privilege, and really digging into that and what that means is going to be important in working in this field. Um, so whiteness is a race and I belong to an ethnic group that I recognize. And to say that I don’t have culture because I’m white is not—not being very educated really. We all have culture and you need to acknowledge it and know what it means to us and to others uh particularly as we learn to work with—with others from different cultural backgrounds. Once I see myself then I’m able to see the importance of culture and meaning uh to others as well.

In my work at NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, uh we often hear from institutions that they are in uh all white areas, there’s no diversity. Uh, first there is some diversity. There’s some economic diversity, probably religious diversity. Um, often people, I think, think only in terms of black and white and we’re—our team will be at an institution and realize that there is uh an American Indian reservation only a few miles away and that’s not recognized by the institution as a diversity uh to explore, and value, and experience, and learn about. And it is. It’s the one closest to—to you and it’s great place to start. Now all students, uh but particularly white students need the opportunity to really um explore both their own culture and other cultures uh because they, unlike most uh persons of color, grow up in a monocultural uh world. They don’t get to know people who are from different races or different ethnic groups or even different religious groups. They—they’re very um parochial in that sense and that limits their—their knowledge, their experience in uh very, very important ways. Uh, so we do have to continue to learn. We need to study; we need to read the literature by others. We need to look at other perspectives and give them validity, um give others voice. And so even if the community is not ethnically and racially diverse, uh we can study, we can use I believe the Internet probably today to really begin to talk to others, uh that is persons from different backgrounds with different experiences then our own. Uh, and I think especially in teacher education uh teacher candidates really need to be working with students who are disabled and with students from different language and racial backgrounds because our country is becoming so diverse. Not to have those experiences by the time—at least some experiences by the time I start my first job, is not serving our students or our teacher candidates well. (Interruption) Right. And they do—they do complain about that now that—you know, it use to be discipline now it’s—they’ve been taught to work (Interruption) with diverse populations.

Universities and school uh should begin to work together uh to address head on some of the problems um that have led to the need for multicultural education. I’m thinking particularly racism, sexism, and such a—um and equity. I mean, we need to begin to ask questions and I think if we do these together we can help each other in finding solutions. Um, in terms of—of equity, why is it that minority students, students of color, students um who are English language learners are not performing as well on standardized tests and other assessments being given to students right now? Uh, I think the tendency now is to say, “That’s the student’s fault” or “It’s the family’s fault.” Um, instead I think we need to turn that together to look at uh what we might do differently as teachers or in schools to make sure uh we have um—we’re performing at equitable levels. The same would be true for all—all other aspects. Who’s in the advanced placement classes? Who’s in the uh, uh classes for uh low ability uh students? And I think if we begin to look at those patterns we’d have to say, “Why? What can we do to change this? How can we prevent this from happening?” Then we begin to change uh our practices in this area. Uh, now how can uh universities and schools work together to do this? One way that we have found um at the National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education, NCATE, as a—as a real positive move is um the development of professional development schools in which faculty from the university, teachers, uh student teachers and other interns actually work together to teach. (Interruption) Uh, one of the uh positive developments has been professional development schools and at NCATE, the National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education, we actually have a set of dis—of standards for professional development schools. In these settings, faculty from the university, teachers, student teachers, and other interns work together as a team to teach. Uh, an emphasis is on uh inquiry together. Um, in professional development schools that are working really well, if you go into the school, you probably would not be able to identify who’s the student teacher, who’s the faculty member, the teacher, because they are actually working—focusing on student learning. And in that process, looking at equity issues uh and how they can help all students learn. I think that that’s the bottom line. We’re going to begin to work with equity issues. Our standards actually call for equity—attention to equity throughout the professional development school. That’s in terms of the makeup, of the teachers, the faculty, so you really have a diverse group working with students, not just representatives from one group and then you integrate multicultural concepts and issues throughout the curriculum. And uh I think this is a really positive way for universities and schools to begin to attack the problems and—so one—one way would be what schools they select to have professional development schools. Uh, professional development, by the way, is not just for the student teachers, it’s also for the university faculty and the school faculties so that we do a better job as we work with students and families. Uh, but if we chose schools in an area where students were not performing well because of economic conditions in that community, for example, and our goal was to make sure we bring those students up to uh the average at least, probably even above average to show the success we had, uh we would—we would really be on the right tack I think of not—of reforming education and not saying, “It’s your responsibility. I have no responsibility in this as a university or vice versa” because we both have responsibilities in both teaching students and teaching teachers for the future. So I think uh professional development schools certainly are one promising way to move our agenda forward.

I like to talk—talk about equity and social justice, actually. Um, in most of my work I try to talk about both of those together. Um, equity to me means um having equal results. So if when we’re talking about having all students learn, then I’m talking about uh African American students, Latino students, uh immigrant students, refugee students, as well as white students. I want them all to learn uh and to learn and perform uh at the same level. Um, that’s part of the disposition that’s so important I think in multicultural education. So if that is not happening—uh, we don’t have the results—then uh I’m not providing equitable education. Uh, here’s where social justice really comes in. Um, if I’m providing social justice and I’m concerned about that, that doesn’t mean that I treat or give the same um treatment or curriculum or instructional—use the same instructional strategies for every student because every student is different uh based on their own lived experiences, uh their own cultural backgrounds, um and other factors that I have to consider. So I may develop one strategy to help one student or a group of students to learn something and half to use another one to help a different uh set of students learn something. So in social justice what I’m concerned about is making sure that the student who um may need the most help in this case or the most attention actually gets it. So always caring about the person who has the uh—the least uh in resources or perhaps knowledge and if I can help that student learn, probably the same techniques are going to work for all students. Uh one of our speak—a speaker I heard recently actually referred to the fact that if we gave gifted education to all students, all students would be learning at high levels. And those who need the most would benefit the most from—from this. But—so in terms of equity, I think we need to ask ourselves lots and lots of questions about students and learning and why there are differences and reduce, eliminate those differences.