chapter  6
14 Pages

After the Content Debate: Multicultural Education, Minority Identities, Textbooks, and the Challenge of Curriculum Reform

Drivenforwardbydemandsfromraciallysubordinatedgroupsfor fundamentalreformsinracerelationsineducationandsociety,andby theeffortsofmainstreameducatorstoprovidepracticalsolutionstothe problemofracialinequalityintheUnitedStates,multiculturaleducationemergedinthelate1960sasapowerfulchallengetotheEurocentricfoundationsoftheAmericanschoolcurriculum(Pinar,Reynolds, Slatterly,andTaubman,1995;McCarthy,1995).Multiculturalismisa productofaparticularhistoricalconjunctureofrelationsamongthe state,contendingracialminority/majoritygroups,educators,andpolicy intellectualsintheUnitedStateswhenthediscourseoverschools becameincreasinglyracialized.Fromthefirst,African-Americansand otherminoritygroupsemphasizedavarietyoftransformativethemes, insistingthatcurriculumandeducationpolicyaddressthevitalquestionsofthedistributionofpowerandrepresentationinschoolsandthe statusofminorityculturalidentitiesincurriculumorganizationand arrangements.(Itshouldbeunderstoodinwhatfollowsthatminority culturalidentitiesarenotfixedormonolithicbutmultivocal,andeven contradictory.Theseidentitiesareindeed"fluid"andaretheorized hereastheeffectsandconsequencesofthehistoricallygroundedexperiencesandpracticesofoppressedminoritygroupsandtheprocessesby whichthesepracticesandexperiencescometoberepresented,reconstructed,andreinventedindailylife,inschool,theworkplace,thesymbolicmedia,andintextbooksandcurriculum.Minorityidentitiesare definedinthecontextofinter-andintra-groupconflictsandinthe contextofencountersandstruggleswithdominantwhitegroups.)

Withinthelasttwodecades,thetransformativethemesofthemulticulturalmovementhavebeensteadily"suckedbackintothesystem" (Swartz,1990).Asdepartmentsofeducation,textbookpublishers,and intellectualentrepreneurspushedmorenormativethemesofcultural understandingandsensitivitytraining,theactualimplementationofan emancipatorymulticulturalismintheschoolcurriculumandinpedagogicalandteachereducationpracticesintheuniversityhasbeeneffectivelydeferred.(Emancipatorymulticulturalismisdefinedhereasthe

critical redefinition of school knowledge from the heterogeneous perspectives and identities of racially disadvantaged groups-a process that goes beyond the language of "inclusivity" and emphasizes relationality and multivocality as the central intellectual forces in the production of knowledge.) Indeed, within the past few years, there has been a virulent reaffirmation ofEurocentrism and Western culture in debates over school curriculum and educational reform (Bloom, 1987; Hirsch, 1987; Ravitch, 1990; Herrnstein and Murray, 1994). The dominant curriculum exists as a powerful symbol of the contemporary American educator's willful retreat from the social and cultural heterogeneous communities surrounding the school in every urban center in this country.