Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Culturally-Responsive Curriculum

The course is one of the school district's efforts to improve culturally responsive education. The term means making curriculum and instruction more diverse, so minority students can better understand their academic heritage, feel comfortable in the classroom and be motivated to learn.

District officials and policy advocates said culturally responsive education is a break with European-centered education and an incorporation of the various racial, ethnic and social perspectives that shape a discipline.


Pardon the pun, but color me unimpressed.

Another upcoming initiative, funded by The Heinz Endowments, will involve the use of African art to teach such subjects as math and social studies. The pilot project will begin at selected schools next fall.


Not to be flippant here, but has any achievement in mathematics ever come about via the use of African art?

At best the above is feel-good pablum, and that's at best. It's far more likely to be the soft bigotry of low expectations, among other forms of bigotry. It's been said on this blog more than once: students need to achieve and be proud of their own achievements, not take pseudo-pride in the achievements of others who share their skin color. And let's not forget this gem:

But isn't this a twist on the pseudo-science of old, which claimed that efforts to educate blacks would be fruitless because their capacity to learn was different from that of whites? Why is this argument acceptable today simply because it is being advanced by minority "multiculturalists"? The view that blacks and whites somehow interpret learning differently is -- in part -- a holdover from the silly debates surrounding "ebonics" that raged throughout the 1990s and that continue to handicap discussions of urban education to this very day.


And in a post on so-called ethnomathematics I quoted:

Young people need to be shown that they need to accomplish something in their own lives and be proud of that, not to be proud by dubious association with a group hundreds of years and thousands of miles removed from them.
The purveyors of victimology (oh, the white man isn't culturally responsive to the needs of anyone who isn't a white man) just keep on trying, don't they?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

As for the teaching ebonics piece, I think Dr. Lemoine says it best (From PBS documentary):

NOMA LEMOINE:

I think perhaps the biggest misunderstanding is the idea that we are somehow teaching African American language --- teaching Ebonics if you will --- We don't need to teach African American language

ROBERT:

They don't need to teach it cause they come speaking

NOMA LEMOINE:

They already know it.


NOMA LEMOINE:

Because when you begin to devalue youngsters, and make them feel that who they are doesn't count, then we've turned them off from education.


Clearly, culturally responsive education is appropriate for the Social Sciences. The proof comes from its use in the classroom. I'll let you know if my African-American students scored higher this year because I included African-Americans whenever I could in my World History curriculum (which is a Eurocentric class).

Now, as for teaching Economics or Mathematics I don't see how making it more African-American centric is going to help; the quadratic equation is the quadratic equation is the quadratic equation. Mathematics is its own language.

George

allen (in Michigan) said...

Because when you begin to devalue youngsters, and make them feel that who they are doesn't count, then we've turned them off from education.

I wonder how the good doctor feels mandatory attendance makes "youngsters" feel? In general arm-twisting isn't what's done to display the esteem in which the twistee is held. Well, I suppose if you're making a comfortable living purveying edu-crap then whose the smart one? On the evidence, not me.

bondc said...

"better understand their academic heritage"

WTF is that supposed to mean?

Ellen K said...

So is it their academic heritage or the lack of valuing their ethnocentric behavior that causes African American boys to fall into some of the lowest testing demographics?

Anonymous said...

Ellen,

Yes. That is part of it. The other parts are factors that are out of the locus of control of a classroom teacher.

Dr. Lemoine has argued that African-American speech patterns amount to a dialect of english. The goal of educators is to teach academic english, while respecting African-American english as a distinct form of english.

Allen - without evidence you can't put the good doctor inline with those who force kids to come to school. She made not mention of that in her presentation.

George

Ellen K said...

I would argue that the same lack of adequate English comprehension and speech that holds back ESL and ELL students holds back African American students who are more intent in sounding like their favorite rapper than in producing a coherent sentence. Who will hire a sales clerk, assistant or associate who cannot carry on a civil, informative and producting conversation with potential clients? So people can have their elite ethnic standards all they want, it still won't get their kids a job when he or she is out of school.

allen (in Michigan) said...

George wrote:

Allen - without evidence you can't put the good doctor inline with those who force kids to come to school. She made not mention of that in her presentation.

She doesn't have to mention it. Ignoring the fact of mandatory attendance undercuts any ideas about student engagement since the very first decision - whether it's worth going to school or not - has been taken out of the kids' hands.

That's probably not much of a problem with really young kids but once they start getting a little older and aware of themselves and the world the message embedded within the concept of mandatory attendance is unmistakable - we don't care what you want, you'll do as you're told. Care to guess how that's likely to make those kids feel?

I think, to paraphrase the good doctor that mandatory attendance devalues youngsters makes them feel that who they are doesn't count and then turns them off from education.

You're not going to off-set the harsh effects of what amounts to physical coercion with nonsense like Ebonics even if you tart it up by calling it culturally responsive education.