On Monday night I saw Sonia Nieto and Patricia Bode, authors of Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education (which I need to read) speak on campus. (They were actually also on a panel last night that I wanted to go to, but alas, I had far too much work due today.) They outlined a framework for promoting quality education for all students, discussing the sociopolitical issues associated with our schools (how school policies and procedures benefit some students over others), the sociocultural knowledge and understandings (who our students actually are and what experiences they bring to their education), and our personal values and commitments (looking at our own values and biases, and then doing something about it).
I especially liked the point that Nieto and Bode made that education is always political. You look at who dictates the curriculum, the methods, procedures, and so on in public education in the U.S. – um, politicians. Politicians do. (Um, NCLB, anyone?) I also appreciated that they included many differences besides just race and ethnicity in their definition of multiculturalism – such as gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status – because I do think that these groups can be treated as inequitably as other minority groups.
A lot of the things discussed in this presentation really hit on one of the main reasons I want to be a teacher. I look at all of the injustices in our society, and I think about how, as a teacher, I would have an opportunity to help change some of these, even if it’s just by making my students think a little. Granted, being white and middle class, I can’t relate to the experiences that a lot of my students will bring. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to change things.
Monday night was very thought-provoking. It was definitely worth my time.