The Merits of Anthropology for the 21st Century Teacher

“To build a culturally responsive practice, teachers need to have a broad set of teaching strategies for working with diverse children. Teachers need to know how to examine their own cultural assumptions to understand how these shape their starting points for practice. They also need to know how to inquire into the backgrounds of their students so that they can connect what they learn to their instructional decision making, in a sense, becoming anthropologists who explicitly seek to understand their students’ cultural practices.” [Darling-Hammond 2002: 243]

Education for All” by UNESCO

In April of 2000 over one hundred members of UNESCO and two hundred NGOs met in Dakar, Senegal. Their collaborative efforts over a three day period at the World Education Forum affirmed the Dakar Framework for Action, Education for All: Meeting Our Collective Commitments.  EFA describes UNESCO’s six lofty goals to be achieved “no later than 2015” (Barry, 2000:3). 

The first of their goals is to expand elementary education programs worldwide in order to support the families of young children and their communities and improve all areas of growth: Physical, emotional, social, and intellectual. They also wish to realize free and compulsory education for all children at the primary school level.  Their third goal describes the need to improve learning and basic skills for young adults, and their fourth objective is to see an increase in adult literacy by fifty percent. UNESCO’s fifth aim is to achieve an equal number of girls and boys attending primary school by 2015; and last but not least of their ambitious tasks is to see that every individual should receive a quality education.

Goal 1
Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children

Goal 2
Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.

Goal 3
Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes

Goal 4
Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.

Goal 5
Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.

Goal 6
Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills. [UNESCO, 2000]

The six objectives of EFA are unquestionably commendable as described in writing; yet even more apparent is the ultimate challenge of lifting the words from paper and transforming them into a reality. The director-general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, made a formal statement in April of 2010 during Global Action Week decreeing that the objectives established in 2000 are currently with out more financing, “Yet we will need an additional US $16 billion to provide basic education for all children, youth and adults by 2015” (Bokova 2010).

Resources are one issue. Another trouble point undeveloped by EFA is a formula for the localization and interpretation of their objectives, with out which, success will be challenging to attain. The follow-through of these goals is left up to national governments, some of which have been more successful than others at localizing the objectives to fit the needs of their communities. Finland, for example, has effectively internalized the values set forth by UNESCO by embracing an increase in immigration and hence the rise in linguistic and cultural diversity in their schools. “In some urban schools, total immigrant children or those whose mother tongue is not Finnish approach close to 50%” (Darling-Hammond notes Sahlberg 2007). Now the “…overall variation in achievement among Finish students is also smaller than that of nearly all other OECD countries” (Darling-Hammond 2000:165). Due to the increased social and ethnic diversities, teachers receive training on how to create challenging curriculum that is locally relatable to their students so that all have an equal opportunity to succeed. In their training programs, they are required to take courses that prepare them for “cultural competency,” and use anthropological research methods to do so. (Darling-Hammond 2000: 171)

At the other end of the spectrum are countries struggling to implement the needed institutional infrastructures, appropriate curricula, and teacher preparation courses to meet the demands of the globalizing world.

United States ranked 21st of 30 Countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in science, and 25th of 30 in mathematics… When non-OECD members from Eastern Europe and Asia are added to the list, the US rankings drop to 29th of 40 developed countries in science, sandwiched between Latvia and Lithuania, and 35th out of the top 40 in mathematics - between Azerbaijan and Croatia. [Darling-Hammond 2009: 8]

The United States face many challenges to bring the public school system back on par with the rest of the world, and one of those is effectively training teachers for diverse classes. As Geneva Gay articulately explains, an educator is someone who:

thoroughly understands different cultural systems, is able to interpret cultural symbols from one frame of reference to another, can mediate cultural incompatibilities, and knows how to build bridges or establish linkages across cultures that facilitate the instructional process. [Gay 1993]

While in 1972 only 22% of American school populations were students of color, in 2000 this number rose to 39% and by 2035 it is predicted that students of color will be the majority (Bransford et al. 2005). In order to meet the exceptional needs in the mainstream classroom, educators in the United States need to be not only masters of their discipline and classical pedagogy, but also must understand both the local role of their school in the community as well as the new themes present in the anthropology of globalization.

The following essay first discusses the history of theoretical perspectives in educational anthropology to underscore how the creation of school and classroom culture is directly connected to the dynamics of the whole community. Second, veteran teachers perspectives on diversity from Laurie Olsen’s ethnography, Made in America, demonstrates that the “color-blind” approach practiced by many educators is actually discriminatory and advances an unequal education agenda for students of color and those who are limited in English proficiency. New themes in the anthropology of globalization as well as in psychology, specifically transnationalism and immigrant identity formation, are addressed to reveal the importance of incorporating an effective anthropology requirement in future teacher-training programs. The unique pre-service requirements of successful teaching programs at both the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as University of Alaska-Fairbanks reflect ethnographical research techniques of socio-cultural anthropology. Their first year teachers are more “culturally competent,” able to understand identity formation in youth, localize their curricula objectives, and overall make meaningful connections for all of their students not despite of but rather because of their diversity. Also, an entrepreneurial professor from the University of Hawaii who uses Banks’ multicultural typology to create hands-on group projects for her student-teachers serves as an example for how diversity preparation classes need to be infused with the same techniques the teachers are expected to employ to foster multicultural awareness in their own subject areas. Lastly, two lesson plans are explained from teachers who have effectively localized and interpreted their curricula in order to create successful integrated learning opportunities for their students. These actions taken by educators, to reinvent the given curricula for their students is necessary more than ever in order to produce an ethos of reception for students of diverse backgrounds and lesson plans that work. All in all, a further redesigning of the majority of teacher training programs and revision of existing ones to include more anthropological components like that of the aforementioned educational institutions and educators would be a significant step for realizing UNESCO’s six goals for education in a globalizing world. 

Educational Anthropology: A Brief History

The Public School’s Role in the Process of Socialization

Numerous sociologists and anthropologists have played instrumental roles in the development of theory in the field of educational anthropology since the sixties, transforming a perspective of “culture deprivation,” to one of “reproduction theory,” to a more encompassing framework that historically situates the complexities of cultural identity formation with in a globalizing world. This approach keeps in mind the various ideas of scholars, who have brought unique critiques to schooling, from Bourdieu’s “notion of status competition,” to Gramsci’s “notion of cultural identity struggles,” to “Marx’s theory of political economy, class struggle, and alienation” (Foley 2002: 219). An educator’s ability to appreciate the unique role he or she plays in the formation of school and classroom culture as well as the ability to realize the connection between their educational institution and society at large is made evident by tracing the trains of thought of past and present scholars who have impacted educational anthropology.

The seventies were characterized by a very Marxist approach to the system of schooling, such as Bowles and Gintis (1977) who emphasized a structural process, in which educational institutions could readily “produce obedient workers and citizens” (Foley 2010: 215). These prominent sociologists brought a rather pessimistic approach to Schooling in Capitalist America, stating that “It is clear that education in the United States is simply too weak an influence on the distribution of economic status and opportunity to fulfill its promised mission as the Great Equalizer” (Gintis et al. 1977: 48).  They did not bring a fair balance to culture, race, gender, or other factors of identity but chose to favor economic factors in their interpretation of educational outcome. They overall deemed the function of schools to be to produce “an adequate labour force in a hierarchically controlled and class stratified production system” (Olsen 2004:11). Also of their era, Paulo Freire shared his critical pedagogy and had a huge impact on educational anthropology through his work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. From his experiences working with peasantry in Brazil he stressed developing “critical literacy,” the right for every citizen to be able to understand his or her history and oppression and argued that “education could transform society” (Foley 2010: 216). Douglas Foley highlights one very significant characteristic of educational theory from this time: “In short, educational anthropologists of the 1960s-70s eras were still not infusing cultural theory with class concepts of alienation, power, exploitation, and inequality” (Foley 2010: 216).

One anthropologist from the sixties who began to meld theoretical perspectives was Jules Henry in Culture Against Man.  He tackled the process of socialization in schools from a wider angle by analyzing “pecuniary logic,” revealing, “…how this logic filtered down into the schools and encouraged extreme forms of individualism and competition. Henry conceptualized US capitalist culture and its schools as a callously competitive, consumer-oriented culture that, from cradle to grave, robbed people of their humanity” (Foley 2010:216). He directly questioned the authority of educational institutions, period.

In the 1980’s the fusion of class theory and culture theory was under way with Sherry Ortner’s work in 1984, Theory in Anthropology Since the Sixties and with the works of George Marcus and Michael Fischer’s Anthropology of Cultural Critique in 1986. However, the true leap forward was not until the 1980’s with the works of Pierre Bourdieu, Antonio Gramsci and the “New European Sociology” (Foley 2010:216-218).

Bourdieu analyzed the school’s role in the process of socialization, emphasizing how the actions of educators and the institution as a whole reproduce the inequalities pre-existing in society.

He seems Marxist because he entreats mainstream sociological stratification theorist to adopt Marxian political preoccupations with inequality, capital, ideology and exploitation. His emphasis on “Practice theory” (Bourdieu 1977) shifts inquiry toward how individual actors interact and intentionally challenge or acquiesce to normative sociocultural systems. [Foley 2010: 211]

In his comparative ethnographic work with French schools and the Kabyle in Algeria, Bourdieu draws attention to the existence of different “modes of domination.” With the Kabyle men he explains how they develop stocks of “symbolic capital” through face-to-face confrontation. These symbolic contests of honor lead to a pattern of domination of one individual over his kinsman or an entire family over another. “Cultural Capital” is a symbolic credit one has if one is able to enact signs of a particular social standing, which there fore leads to one’s legitimacy, acceptance, and overall higher social standing (Olsen 2004:78). This can include perceptions of “good taste” and “true intelligence” as well as behaviors when interacting in a social group. “Habitus” is one’s learned disposition for a lifestyle that contains certain cultural capital, “… the superior, more civilized bourgeoisie and the inferior, less refined working class – differ markedly in aesthetic and expressive cultural preferences for art, literature, music, language and manners” (Foley 2010: 217). The French schools also validate and distribute symbolic capital, but the process is by comparison more hidden. Schools, such as those in France, according to Bourdieu, reproduce the value and content of “elite” cultural groups since they structure the school curriculums and they decide what constitutes as “knowledge.” Therefore, anyone coming from a “bourgeois” background has a societal advantage“Symbolic violence” is imposed on non-elite students since the particular knowledge is actually arbitrary and only made to look universal and objective. In this way, teachers foster the development of unique skills in their students and also transmit the desire of certain culture’s knowledge (Olssen 2004:13-17).

However, Bourdieu’s “neo-Weberian stratification theory” (Foley 2010: 218) does not come without faults. Since the early 1980’s scholars have investigated how cultural production is an ongoing social process that enters complex relationships with social reproduction of class structures. Stuart Hall (1981), Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (1985) “shifted class analysis towards ‘identity politics” and by reviving the work of Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s version of class theory “as a way of incorporating the cultural identity struggles of various oppressed groups,” they were able to reassign an equal emphasis on factors of class, race, gender, etc. as well as the importance of historical situations (Foley 2010:218).  American anthropologists such as Paul Willis and Michael Apple took part in the revival of Gramscian theory and also brought a fresh critique to the school system. Apple specifically examined “the elites’ ideological control of school curricula (1979), the de-skilling of professional teachers (1986), the market-driven politics of textbook selections (1991) and ultimately, the rise of the Christian Right as a historical bloc (2006).” Also, Willis importantly “helped popularize the view that the working class, contrary to much mainstream thinking, had a distinct, resilient, functioning culture.” (Foley, 2002:219)

There have been various ethnographies in the United States by Douglas Foley (2000), Peter Demerath (2009), Annette Laureau (2003), Pascoe (2008), Urrieta (2009), Laurie Olsen (2010), etc. as well as cross-comparative cultural studies abroad by Amy Stambach in Kenya (2000), Bradley Levinson in Mexico (2001), Aurolyn Luykx in Bolivia (1993), etc. that have continued to examine the theoretical approaches of anthropology in education. Foley characterizes the new mode of thought as being:

…more nuanced, less essentializing, less deterministic portraits of actors and schooling. This new generation of anthropological studies of schooling has tow main foci: (1) institutional microtechnologies of control and ideological socialization, and (2) group and individual identity struggles against such institutional control and socialization… This new generation of educational anthropologists is tackling the ageless structure-agency debate and is dedicated to representing the negotiated, historical character social change and social order. [Foley 2010: 223]

Undoubtedly, culture theory in educational anthropology has taken significant strides since the cultural deprivation hypothesis of the sixties due to the work of prominent sociologists and anthropologists. They have played key roles in the development of culture theory as related to the public school’s role in the process of socialization. The following section of this paper, The Voice of Veteran Teachers consults anthropologist’ Laurie Olsen’s ethnography of a public school in southern California, in which she follows the new more critical take on reproduction theory, highlighting the multiple factors at play in individual agency.

The Voices of Veteran Teachers

Anthropologist, educator, and social advocate Laurie Olsen spent two years conducting ethnographic research in an increasingly multicultural community, examining the political and societal crises that affect the United States as educational institutions struggle to respond to growing diversity. Made in America (1997) examines immigrant stories in public schools in Southern California, as well as tells the stories of the teachers who have been their advocates and the new second language programs that have been created to support them. Olsen asks, “How are we as a society going to respond to our diversity in the last decade of the twentieth century?” Her goal is to break down what integration really means and how fairness and equal opportunity truly play out in our public school system in order to draw attention to the inequities our nation is founded on, and how a culture of education translates to the social exclusions and racism that continue to plague our society outside of the classroom walls. In order to do so she focuses on one high school and looks closely at race, language, and culture and how they interplay in the formation of identity for youth and the significance of what it means to be “American” from the voices of many different students:

I entered this research with the perspective that schools are contested territory in struggle with whether they will serve a democratizing purpose of inclusion, creating access and a level playing field in our society, or will be institutions that simply reproduce current class, racial and language relations. [Olsen 1997: 7]

Her theoretical foundations combine class and economic as well as racial theories of reproduction and resistance. Referring to Bourdieu, she introduces reproduction theory’s explanation of how social class arrangements pass from generation to generation, and that such theorists argue that:

Schools…are critical in the process because class relations and the capitalist division of labor requires a school system that reproduces a system of inequality by selectively transmitting skills according to which class people are in, sorting people by granting credentials from the school into appropriate social positions, and serving to shape an individual’s attitudes and identity to fit their class positions. (Olsen 1997:7)

However, she then acknowledges the role of cultural change, the agency that each individual student has to go against the system instead of conform to it, and notes that there has not been as much attention drawn to the agency of teachers in such change in other ethnographies, “The schools exist as reflections and instruments of reproduction, not as potential players in resistance” (Olsen 1997:18). For this reason, Olsen focuses on the influence of adults in resisting the reproduction of inequality through out her research and looks to issues of language, culture, race and identity, and many of the multifaceted issues that globalization raises for today’s youth. On one hand she attempts to study the “macro-processes of cultural and social reproduction through the micro-level interactions,” and on the other simply shed light on the need for improved teacher preparation and curriculum development in a world where diversity and identity formation is continuously changing (Olsen 1997:22).

Her interviews with teachers at Madison High highlight the lack of training they had to serve their increasing immigrant population. “Most teachers do not believe they need any additional training in order to serve the new diversity at Madison High, and most either bristle at suggestions that changes in what they do as teachers might be necessary, or simply go about their lives as teacher without giving it a thought” (Olsen 1997:178).

A veteran economics teacher shares this perspective:

I believe very strongly in the fact that what happens in the family and what you do with your personal life is the primary determining factor in how successful you’ll be in your life and career. It has nothing to do with your skin color or your language. Particularly for students here in Bayview, the important thing is that they learn essential living skills. It’s not the academics that matter. It’s not your skin color. Whether I teach home economics or an economics class, I teach the same thing… Our kids more and more are coming from dysfunctional families, single parents, broken homes, and it all goes back to the kind of parent they get. I want to help kids break that cycle. And break that cycle of believing that life owes them something... I believe in diversity and I believe that’s the way people need to learn to live… People chose to live in Bayview because it is diverse… There’s new immigrants of course but we’ve always been diverse… I have had the children of parents I had in the past as students… If you can get along here with all our diversity, you can get along anywhere. It’s preparation for the real world… [Olsen 1997:178-179]

Instead of acknowledging the changing demography of the community and the need for a new approach to pedagogy the teacher claims that the society has always been “Diverse.” Olsen notes how Richards use of the word “diversity” echoes other educators ambiguous assertions as well. Another teacher explains the reason her peers share lower expectations for some students compared to others:

You know if you teach in one of the schools in the suburbs, of course your kids do great. When the test scores get published in the paper, and there’s all the hoopla about which schools are good and which districts are good, you got to take it with a grain of salt. Yeah, if you’ve got a certain class for students, you’re going to look good. But this is the real world here. We’ve got kids with lots of problems, kids of all cultures, kids who don’t speak English. We’re not going to look so good in comparison to other schools. [Olsen 1997:181]

On the whole, the teachers do demonstrate their pride in the diversity of their school, but explain that nothing needs to change due to the increasing number of immigrants. Another teacher details why:

…I feel a child needs to know their culture and value it, but they are living here, they have to make it and work and raise the children the way they are raised here… I don’t think there are differences in the basic ways that you raise healthy and strong children to be responsible, productive, and successful. So I don’t want my students to discuss child-rearing practices in Iran, for example. It wouldn’t be helpful. I think it helps our students to determine that people can be different colors they can come from different places, they can speak different languages, but that we all share in common an understanding of how to raise children to succeed in this country. [Olsen 1997:181]

The principal most plainly explained the school’s stance on diversity:

I’m against all that stuff that tells kids that if you’re of one skin color or another you get to have some kind of special privilege or attention. Not at Madison High! We don’t believe in it. We treat all our kids the same. [Olsen 1997:183]

Olsen’s ethnographic research brings to the surface the issues students face in forming a transnational identity and proves that the principal’s claim is far from the reality. The teachers are not able to effectively transmit their curriculum or localize the material to meet the needs their population of students, many who are ESL students speaking “Spanish, Dari, Vietnamese, and Chinese” as a first language (Olsen 1997:164). Instead of raising the pedagogical issues of transnationalism and identity formation for these youth they believe that to effectively teach diverse groups they should stress commonality, which in fact, creates an unequal opportunity for education due to the structural organization of “sheltered classes,” and un-met maturational needs of their students.

“Identity is less challenging when there is continuity among the various social milieus youth encounter--- home, school, neighborhood and country. In the era of globalization, however, social spaces are more discontinuous and fractured than ever before.” (Suarez-Orozco, 2000)

As psychologist Erik Erikson argues, identity formation is the critical maturation task that all children encounter, and they seek to view themselves in the same way that others perceive them. While many psychologists support the common held notion that growing into one’s persona constitutes passing through various stages in adolescence, Suarez-Orozco describes the process as one that is “fluid and contextually driven” (Suarez-Orozco, 2000:323). Whether or not all youth move through similar stages of “racial awareness” or even arrive at a fixed point of “ethnic identity,” what is important for teachers to grasp in order to teach to diverse classes is that “the tension between the dominant culture and the minority newcomers lies at the heart of the ethnic and cultural diversity formation drama of immigrants and their children… youth are challenged to navigate between achieved identities and ascribed or imposed identities” (Suarez-Orozco, 2000:323).

Educators need to be aware that their responsibilities include not only teaching the students the skills needed to dominate the material, but also creating a class culture that has a positive ethos of reception for all diverse backgrounds due to the challenges of identity formation for youth today. “As today’s immigrants are more diverse than ever before in ethnicity, skin color, and religion, they are particularly subject to the pervasive social trauma of prejudice and social exclusion” (Tatum 1997:181).

Laurie Olsen brings attention to these issues in the findings of her ethnography. In chapter three she reflects on the presentations given by students in the ESL IV class at the end of the year, particularly one of a Brazilian girl who was otherwise rather quiet through out the semester. Her presentation is on her homeland, Brazil, about all the memories of its beauty as well as its poverty, about how much she misses her home and how her identity is confused at school. Her fellow American peers think she is “white” until she speaks, and Mexican students think she is “Latina” until they realize she does not know Spanish. Olsen describes the class’s dead silence as the girl begins to cry, attempting to explain her loss of identity. However, at the end of the presentation a Vietnamese girl speaks up and shares her sentiments with the Brazilian student, as she too understands her struggle. “The rest of the class period students speak about their homesickness and the way the smells and colors and breezes and sky are different in America. They do not speak again of the problem of racial or national identities” (Olsen 1997:107).

Olsen reveals the depth of social racialization and how identity formation hinges on finding one’s place with in a group, figuring out what you are “supposed to be.” For the students of Madison High, where you choose to align is no easy task but can be a rather stressful and detrimental one, “Is someone a real Latino or a white-washed Mexican? Is a person a “wannabee” black or a real black? ” (Olsen 1997:109). These are the questions prevalent to adolescent minds as they try to find their footing in school culture, and these are the questions that form the lenses through which they view their social reality and build relationships. Skin color, accents, and clothing are the factors one uses to identify with whom you should identity. Some newcomers according to Olsen try to resist the racialization of America but they end up being assigned a racial group by the other students anyways. The pressure to racialize your self and join a group overrides the price of remaining invisible.

Supposedly working against exclusion are the representatives of the The Raza Club, a school supported group, which speaks out about the desire to be inclusive of all Latino students, those born in the states as well as those from Mexico, those who speak English as well as LEP students. They also held a formal protest to express their concerns about the lack of their own history in curriculum, the lack of bilingual counselors, and the lack of college information that other students’ receive.  However, not all students were excited about the organized protest and skipping school. Olsen describes that the immigrant students felt “more gratitude to the school than do their U.S. born Latino peers.... To join in criticizing the school or critiquing the curriculum for its shortcomings was felt as impolite by some, ungrateful by others” (Olsen 1997:114). For this reason, the Raza Club is composed of American born students of Mexican heritage who are less afraid to have a critical opinion of their school in compared to recently arrived immigrants.

In general, the racial sorting process at Madison High is kept under tabs. The students do not explicitly speak it of during the process, so it is easy for teachers to describe calm inter-group relations and recognize a positive diversity environment in the school. The reality is that once the students are racialized into their groups they hardly interact among one another and there exists tacit social rules in the hallways for passing through another group’s territory.

This culture of social separation is reinforced by academic tracking, which divides students by skin color and native language into normal classes or “sheltered” classes because the majority of veteran teachers refuse to teach newcomers and prefer honors classes dominated by white and Asian students. In other words, the students are slotted “…into their places in a hierarchy in the world” (Olsen 1997:120).

Olsen further explores the nuances of cultural identity formation struggles for Fijan and Afghan women confronted with the materialistic and superficial school culture. In the chapter, Love and Marriage: How Young Immigrant Women Negotiate the Terrain between Two Cultures, Olsen contrasts the reality for young Fijan and Afghan woman and the romantic dating world of Americans. Of Hindu and Muslim religions, these girls contemplate in fear their arranged marriages, the fear of their parents if they were to date, and much more than meets the eye. Conflicts and struggles about coming of age as immigrants, bridging two cultures, goes beyond what the average teacher could conceive of, yet it is exactly this specific cultural competence that teachers must have.

Negotiating the terrain among their cultures is expressed in terms of sexuality, marriage, dating boys, attachment to school, and clothing. Issues of freedom and independence from parents as well as from potential husbands all mix with the lure of culture of romance and the best guesses about whether an ideology centered on mobility and independence through school success can be trusted. [Olsen 1997:123]

Olsen also emphasizes the fact that immigrant high school students, depending on their sex, have varying processes in forming their transnational identities. Men usually lean more on their homeland identity or try to assimilate as much as possible with their selected racial categorization group, while girls have “hyphenated identities, indicating different sense of bridging two cultures,” (Olsen 1997: 123) and are also at much higher risk for depression and low self-esteem.

A significant insight Olsen picks up on, is how lying to one’s parents is used to deal with the split between home culture and life in American school. The girls constantly discuss the morality and necessity of lying in order to bridge the gap, and also the consequences of doing so. When one girl’s parents find out about her American boyfriend, they sent her back “home” to an arranged marriage. While some students view their family as keys to survival in this new environment others view family as constraining their ability to survive. Furthermore, in the majority of immigrant families both parents have to work jobs for long hours meaning that their children have to take on even more responsibilities at home and are often depended on for supporting the family and taking care of siblings.

In this chapter Olsen further demonstrates the need for educators to have characteristics of cultural anthropologists, to be able to immerse themselves in a different culture in order to understand other people’s world-views. She shares how these immigrant girls understand what it means to be American:

From the perspective of many of the immigrant girls at Madison High, American’s do not believe in the importance of family culture or roots. Respect for one’s religion and tradition is replaced by something else, they think. Instead, Americans choose a kind of giving in to pleasure and romance. Immigrants therefore measure their own level of Americanization on a scale with romance at one end and respecting the authority of one’s parents and one’s traditions at the other. [Olsen 1997: 146]

The new themes in the anthropology of globalization, such as transnational identity formation demonstrate how pertinent is the localization and interpretation of curricula for teachers to create successful lessons and integrated learning environment. Integrating students and their families into the receiving society is a new challenge of globalization, one, which the United States has yet to successfully engage. The long-term social implications of failing to meet the needs of newcomers is already evident in Texas in Southern California, where communities remain divided and racism leads to violence in schools. As Suárez-Orozco (2000) notes in (Espenshade and Belanger, 1998). Understanding the needs of youth who face transnational identity formation will be key in creating an integrated school and as well as peaceful community.

Reinventing Approaches to Multiculturalism

Incorporating a socio-anthropological element to teacher training programs and the lesson plans that worked...

This section first highlights two teacher diversity programs that require pre-service teachers to do work closely related to that of ethnographic investigation in their schools and communities. Secondly, I introduce an entrepreneurial teacher from a third program who uses Banks’ multicultural typology to create hands-on group projects for her pre-service students so that they are able to infuse multicultural awareness in their own subject areas, from science to social studies. And thirdly, I describe the work of two teachers who effectively localize and interpret their curriculum to create successful integrated learning experiences for their students.

University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Alaska Fairbanks

Teachers for Alaska, like the Wisconsin program, has been able to document some success in preparing teachers for culturally diverse settings including changes in student teachers’ abilities to tailor their instruction to their students’ cultural backgrounds. These two programs are among the very few in the US which represent a pluralist approach to preparing teachers for cultural diversity. [Tabachnick, 1993]

Of the two graduating groups from the new program at Wisconsin-Madison “…70% are teaching in schools that serve significant numbers of low income children and children of colour.”  Through-out their training the students are asked to form meanings for multicultural teaching out of their social experiences and observations in schools and their own classrooms (Tabachnick et. al 1993). In three semesters of their four-year undergraduate teacher program, they have a 9-week practicum and a semester-long teaching and observation experience in which they work along side veteran teachers to improve curriculum.  All of their experience is with one school over a year and a half; so they have the opportunity to get know the teachers, administrators, pupils, families and communities more intimately. “They try to discover tacit theories of teaching and of multicultural education in their teachings actions and they try to make these explicit so that the theories/practices can be examined and be affirmed or modified” (Tabachnick, 1993). On top of having the chance to apply pedagogical techniques and participate in school programming, the students’ investment in one institution over an extended period serves so that “the search for multicultural teaching becomes a collective enterprise using ‘teaching stores’ as a vehicle for collaborative construction of meanings” (Tabachnick, 1993). The program does not deem these credits as an “ethnographic research experience,” but the collaborative observation process serves a similar function for the students as if they were a team of anthropologists discovering their own answers about multiculturalism in their particular community.

The Teachers for Alaska Program at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks takes the ethnographic research component for their students to a level even more closely familiar to that of tradition ethnographic research in anthropology.

This 1-year post-bachelors degree program for secondary teachers emphasizes the preparation of teachers for remote Eskimo and Indian villages and urban multicultural schools that include Alaska Native, African-American, and Asian students… this program links the preparation of teachers to the specific contexts in which its students will work. [Tabachnick, 1993]

Before the pre-service teachers begin their own observation-based research, they analyze ethnographic work in their core classes, such as ‘Malaise of the Spirit.’ This research teaches the students how, “Teachers, typically Caucasian outsiders, must decide whether research-based knowledge derived from mainstream situations applies to small cross-cultural classrooms, and must think through issues related to their role and position in a small, culturally different community” (Finley, 1988). The student-teachers not only work side by side the experienced teachers at rural schools in the Alaska Gateway district, but are also required to spend time immersed in the events of the communities and are asked to “think about how they as teachers can build upon cultural resources that their students bring to school” (Tabachnick, 1993). They attend everything from basketball games to beading groups in order to better understand the nuanced diversity of the region “…which is home to 20 or more different Indian groups, and three Eskimo groups with strong language and cultural identification” (McKenna, 1990). In this sense, the requirements of the Alaska Teachers Program incorporate elements of ethnography in order to produce the most prepared teachers possible, who can localize their curriculum and create lesson plans that equally serve all of their diverse students.

Both of the programs in Winsconsin and Alaska have proven extremely successful in creating first year teachers capable of embracing diverse classrooms and fostering positive learning experiences for all of their students. The techniques that differentiate these programs from others are the required extended observation periods in the schools and their communities in order to build “cultural competency,” which reflect the fundamental aspects of socio-anthropological research.

Teaching Banks´ Multicultural Typology a the University of Hawaii

Dr. Patricia Espiritu Halagao is an entrepreneurial Professor of Education at the University of Hawaii who also prepares pre-service students to successfully meet the needs of their culturally diverse students. She takes Banks’ (2002) typology on multicultural education to the next level by using learning stations and technology to “teach multicultural curriculum reform in an engaging, culturally relevant inquiry-based, and hands-on manner” because “learning stations is aligned with the pedagogical approaches of multicultural education” (Halago, 2004). Banks is a professor in the Center for Multicultural Education at the college of Education at the University of Washington, Seattle, who lays out four approaches to integrating multicultural content for the classroom in Introduction to Multicultural Education:

1) Contributions 2) Additive 3) Transformation 4) Social Action

The first of these approaches, “Contributions” is the most traditional and simple use of culturally diverse heroes and holidays in the classroom. One learns about different aspects of cultural ethnic groups, but the surface is hardly scratched. The “additive” approach refers to when cultural concepts are affixed to the curriculum, such as a new book by an author who’s ethnicity is not that of the mainstream culture. However, the interpretation and analysis of the new work is still from the mainstream perspective. The third approach, “transformation” goes one step further by reanalyzing and investigating the curriculum so that multicultural concepts are viewed from non-Eurocentric or dominant viewpoints. This means the students will learn that “knowledge” is a constructed concept depending on one’s perspective (Halagao, 2004). The final approach, “social action”, involves students in the atmosphere of their own community. They participate in projects and activities in their school community or larger society by using what they are learning in school in order to make decisions about how to become active citizens (Banks 2002).

Professor Halagao preps her students for class by having them each reflect in a two-page essay about Bank’s four different approaches. After a brief definition of each of them at the beginning of class, she enquires as to students’ opinions of learning stations. After discussing that they are not only “elementary” but rather are superior to simple discussion due to their ability to involve multiple intelligences, she breaks her students into teams and sends them off. Each of the stations has an assortment of materials from the K-12 curriculum that represents one of the five different approaches to multicultural education, and the teams have twenty minutes at each station to decide amongst themselves how to classify the objects. An example of a “contributions” object is a “poster on Asian American History Month.” From the additive approach, “Shoal of Time by Gavin Daws (1968), which begins Hawaiian history with the ‘Western discovery of the islands’” highlights ethnic contact being told from the dominant culture’s perspective. A transformative item includes “Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II by Ronald Takaki (2000).” For the Social Action Approach she includes “Si, se puede!” by Diana Cohn (2000) about a boy who actively supports his mom in the L.A. Janitor Strike in 2000” (Halagao 2004). 

Last but not least at the fifth station Halagao provides an example of how she represents the four approaches of multicultural reform in her own subject area. She asks the students to do the same for their own concentrations, whether it be math, science, social studies, English, etc. How do these four different approaches play out in science, especially what are examples of the social action approach? This final station, “Allows pre-service teachers to view Banks’ typology holistically, rather than as disconnected approaches” (Halagao 2004).

After the groups rotate through the stations they present their findings and debate the categorization of the artifacts. The class concludes with a critical discussion of the various approaches and how to best incorporate them in their unique subject areas.

The feedback from my students on using learning stations to teach Banks’ multicultural typology has been extremely positive… The activity pushed them to apply what they learned from their theoretical reading of Banks approaches to multicultural curriculum reform. They constructed knowledge with the instructor and their peers, which ultimately raised everyone’s level of understanding of these approaches [Halagao 2004]

Halagao uses this activity because it reflects the actual techniques teachers should use in multicultural education to have their students build connections and be critical inquirers. For example, Laurie Olsen partners with a social studies teacher at Madison High to implement a very successful school-mapping project that has students become critical thinkers about the racialization process of their school culture.

At Madison High there are both “sheltered” and “normal” classes, meaning that the students who are limited English proficient (LEP) are separated from those with language fluency. This particular social studies teacher uniquely taught both a LEP and normal class (usually veteran teachers receive the honors students with inexperienced teachers work with students of color) and both classes were given the same assignment: In small groups, to draw a map of the school campus and the students who inhabit it. The first period “sheltered” class came up with a map that was a complete 360 degrees from that of the “Normal English proficient” students.

The newcomer students observed where their peers hung out and presented their findings during class. The divisions for their map included the “Americans” who stayed in the quad and by the administration building, and then divided the hallways by different heritage, gender, and language abilities, such as: “Vietnamese girls in B hall vs. Vietnamese who speak English in A Hall” (Olsen 1997:148). Olsen shares the thoughts of the students as they present their maps to their peers and much of what they had to share jumped out at me. Many tried to articulate, or at least emphasize, their lack of identity, saying they are “not really chinese” and can never be “white” due to language barriers with in their own families and skin barriers with the rest of the world. The students talk about dress, being teased, and not fitting in. One Mexican student wore a beautiful serape to school but “no longer felt beautiful” once she arrived on campus. It is made clear that clothes are an extremely big marker. During the explanation of their map one student claims, “A person is their clothes is America” (Olsen 1997:46).

One student from Brazil remarks that instead of feeling less restricted by American dress standards she feels the opposite, “In Brazil we wore short skirts and we liked to walk with our hips. Here girls dress like boys in long pants and shirts” (Olsen 1997:47). When her mom asks her why she doesn’t dress feminine she complains of being made fun of which means being called names like “slut” and “whore.” Cross-cultural differences instead of becoming open platforms for dialogue simply lead to negative behavior and misconduct in their current atmosphere of the school.

In contrast to the map and feelings presented by the LEP students, the “American” students define their school map by race and class and do not include language. The “white race” was defined into two categories, the white skaters and the smokers. Then Mexicans, black students, Filipinos/mixed Asians, cheerleaders, nerdy kids, Wanna-bees, white-washed, quiet band kids, etc. filled the other parts of the map. The presentations deem what aspects of youth culture are important. Other characteristics also identified include music, friendliness, dress, and opinions of others about how “cool” such a group is, almost all of which have racial labels.

A follow-up reflection further brings to light how the students in the afternoon class felt about the social situation. One-student explains that he had never even thought of himself as “white” until he arrived at Madison. The students also complain about being teased and called names and that the AP class space was being taken over by Chinese students, and that lack of job opportunities post-graduation was due to the increases in immigrant labor. Most importantly, the students’ comments demonstrate the influence that other teachers have and the overall school infrastructure in racializing them, because when they go home their skin color has no extreme meaning. Also, the students express a lot of anger against affirmative action, and for races that get special treatment in general. They are very bitter about stereotypes, “We feel like we are being force to pay for the sins or mistreating that were invoked by whites a great many years ago...” (Olsen 1997:71).

They debate brought to the attention of this class group was whether or not the school is a mixed-race campus composed of different friendship groups or a racialized campus in which groups stay. By the end of the heated discussion they come to terms with and acknowledge how much of their social life is about isolating along the lines of race. The students are pushed to reconsider their take on their school’s diversity when the maps hang side by side on the classroom wall, and learn that “knowledge” is a constructed concept depending on one’s unique perspective (Halagao, 2004). This project is in line with Banks’ transformation approach as well as encompasses the social action approach as the students are challenged to rethink their conceptions of and relationships with their peers in the community. The communicative group interactions from the two classes due to the juxtaposition of the maps are important dialogue for the students to break the ice with their peers, just as Halagao creates a critical dialogue through group work in her class on Banks’ multicultural typology.

Discussing Transnational Identity and Appreciating Multiculturalism

Two more successful teachers include Shigeru Miyagawa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Henry Jenkins of the University of Southern California who both create engaging classes to break down cultural stereotypes for their students.

The Star Festival that Miyagawa constructed for his class enables his students to not only learn about Japanese culture but also to “learn more about themselves and to develop a greater respect for the diversity of cultural identities within the current classroom” (Jenkins, 2004:135) Star Festival is a multimedia project in which his students can enter a virtual environment to explore contemporary Japanese culture. The premise is simple. They have encountered a PDA devise and use the information on it to explore the city and find its owner. In doing so they have tasks where they learn about an Asian culture anything but cut off from the western world. As they progress through different levels of the game they learn “not only about cultural traditions, such as origami or fish printing” but also do activities that “involve exploring students’ own mixed culture and racial identities, such as by constructing family trees and documenting their own families migrations” (Jenkins, 2004:135).

Not only is Miyagawa’s pedagogical approach an appropriate medium of communication for his students (interactive computer game), but he is able to foster a cultural dialogue between his students, bring awareness to their own unique histories and diversities, as well as “displace orientalist stereotypes” by taking them on a journey that shows them the nuanced reality of diversity in a globalized world. “Miyagawa said that Star Festival helped him to resolve this contradiction in his own thinking and has moved him to try to help his students better grasp their own mixed cultural identities” (Jenkins, 2004:136).

Not all teachers have the technological savvy to pull-off Miyagawa’s masterpiece project. Educator and sociologist Henry Jenkins employed the knowledge of his students to discuss transnational identity through a different approach. He used the pop musician Sheila Chandra and her album Weaving My Ancestor’s Voices to spark conversation in his college seminar. “Chandra, whose mother was Indian and father Irish, has produced a new kind of pop music based on the fusion of elements draw from Classical Indian and Celtic musical traditions” (Suarez-Orozco, 2004:137). The artist explains how the music helps her understand express feelings about her mixed heritage. The dialogue that ensued in the classroom, which was composed of first and second-generation Indian and Chinese students, Irish, Jewish, and other American students, was a surprise for Jenkins. The conversation discussed how “hybrid forms of music express the conflicts and contradictions of inhabiting a diasporic culture” (Suarez-Orozco, 2004:137).

These university professors are only two examples of many successful educators who are able to connect meaningfully to their students and raise awareness for the complexities of transnational identity as well as appreciation of multiculturalism

Conclusion: Embracing Diversity

As you lean against the edge of your desk forty pairs of eyes bore into you. Six different languages are being mumbled around the room and a myriad of cultures are clearly represented. The students sitting in the front row of the degraded squeaky desks have pencils poised ready to do whatever it takes, others text furiously from under their desks where they don’t even care if you can see, and two seconds after the bell rings the kids in the back row literally begin a fist fight, yelling, swearing, and throwing things at each other… and you thought you were about to introduce yourself. You write your name on the board. First mistake.

  1. What are your expectations of your students and of yourself?
  2. Do you know what your students expect of themselves and of you?
  3. What do your professional peers expect of you?

Are you planning on following the sheltered curriculum assigned for you to deliver in this classroom or do you have creative juices and knowledgeable techniques up your sleeves for delivering a class culture your students aren’t expecting?

Do you know how to make the classroom activities accessible to students who are non-native speakers and give them the confidence and skills to participate?

Is there a better or less-informed decision you could make for the very first action you take in this class? How do you set the tone?

Are you resentful for not being assigned the all white honors class and how your peers will judge you, or is the first thing you ask of your students to stand up and stand by the photograph on one of the four walls that is most appealing to them (one of the California beach, the Swiss Alps, Mexico City, and the Sonora Desert) because you know that you have the most powerful group of students to work with in the whole school, and that you have the confidence to deliver an equal and fulfilling learning experience for each and every one of them not despite of but rather because of their diversity?

In order to meet the exceptional needs in the mainstream classroom, educators in the United States need to be not only masters of their discipline and classical pedagogy, but also must understand both the local role of their school in the community as well as the new themes present in the anthropology of globalization literature. First year teachers who demonstrate “cultural competency” by effectively implementing lesson plans that provide an equal education for all of their students have benefited from training programs that incorporated elements similar to ethnographic research of educational anthropologists. A deeper understanding of transnationalism and identity formation in youth can be taken into consideration in order to produce an ethos of reception for all students, which is what it will if UNESCO is to realize it’s objectives of an “Education for All.”


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