Funds of Knowledge Approach in 4th Grade Science

Upadhyay, B. R. (2006). Using students’ lived experiences in an urban science classroom: An elementary school teacher’s thinking. Science Education, 90(1), 94–110. doi:10.1002/sce.20095


The paper is organized so as to build context on key vocabulary and ideas that are being researched before fully presenting the research idea.  The author first grounds the reader in an introduction to not only her work with the “Linking Food in the Environment” program but also the meaning behind key terms like “funds of knowledge” and “students lived experiences”.  The author then goes on to explain the reason for her research and the research questions that are to be answered which are: What does Jane’s life story tell us about her views on teaching, her experiences, and science teaching that is relevant to students and their lived experiences, what student experiences does Jane identify as important funds of knowledge in teaching the LiFE curriculum, and how does Jane connect student experiences to her own and integrate them into her science teaching?

The author follows this by explaining how she will gather data and analyze it in order to make conclusions.  The author has chosen a case study model and will gather qualitative data and analyze it by findings themes and trends in her observations.  After naming some limitations of the study the author proceeds onto her findings.

The findings section is lengthy and detailed as it illuminates Jane’s own personal history in becoming a teacher as well as the various relationships to curriculum, students, and personal development throughout the study. After the author has communicated all of the findings in the different realms of experience in Jane’s classroom she moves onto discussion and conclusion.

Contributions to Field

The study in question provides welcome insight into the specific decision making and thought process that goes through a teacher’s mind while they try to incorporate the funds of knowledge approach to teaching inn their classrooms.  While the findings here are not necessarily replicable they do illuminate a lot of the process that happens within a teachers mind which will inform future research.

Theoretical Framework/Lens

The research was done through a case study approach.  The author chose this method because it offers unique insight into what is happening within a teachers mind as they navigate their classroom.  The researcher was able to operate as a thought partner and probe the teachers thought process and reflections so as to gain further understanding of how at least one individual approaches using students “funds of knowledge” in the classroom.

Data Collection/Analyses

The author gathers entirely qualitative data for use in the current research.  The data is a mix of interviews, observations, classroom videos, and field notes.  The data is collected from only one teacher who the author developed a cordial and professional relationship with during the study.  The author chose the case study format in order to better understand the specific decisions, events and processes that played out in the teachers day to day decision making.  The interview data was gathered by asking open-ended and probing questions that serve to provide valuable insight into the teaches meta cognitive thought process.

The data is analyzed using grounded theory development which has the researcher create categories and themes based on analyses of transcripts, video tapes, field notes and observations.  The author organized her themes into four “index trees” with the first two being what she has written about in the current article.  The index trees were: Students lived experiences and science teaching, social scaffolding, how high stakes testing influences science instruction and science process skills.  Within each index tree are sub categories of themes in the data that were analyzed for the study.


The researcher organized her findings into a number of different domains which I will try to briefly summarize below.

Jane’s Experience as a Student in Different Cultures

Jane grew up around the world switching schools often and regularly being an outsider in a foreign culture.  Jane has very little recollection of Science in her Elementary Classroom when she went to school.  Also Jane did not take many Science classes while in college and upon receiving her teacher certificate she did not feel prepared to do science instruction within her own classroom.  Knowing where Jane is coming from is an important step in preparing a teacher to make connection between their life, their students lives and the choices they make in the classroom.

Jane’s Growth as a Teacher and Becoming an Inclusive Teacher

Jane began her teaching career as a substitute teacher.  She did this for a number of years before actually serving as a full time teacher.  She saw her own daughter struggle with the science curriculum at her school and it prompted her to wonder why this subject could be so hard.  Upon arriving in her classroom Jane recognized the wealth of cultural background in her students and began to wonder how she could use what her students already knew in order to promote more learning in her classroom.  She is self-learner always seeking new opportunities for development and growth.

Jane’s Experience with the LiFE Curriculum and her Thinking About Connected Science Curriculum

Jane feels invested in the LiFE curriculum much more than the FOSS kits she previously had to use in her class.  With the LiFE curriculum she believes she is able to focus on the larger conceptual understandings of science as opposed to the more basic content.  Jane likes that the LiFE curriculum allows her to introduce new ideas in her science classroom.  In addition students partake in the scientific process and make mistakes along the way which is allowed and even encourage so that they know how to respond to failure.

What Student Experiences Does Jane Identify as Important Funds of Knowledge in Teaching the LiFE Curriculum?

Jane that it was most important that her students felt that their questions and ideas were valued in class discussion and would be addressed with fidelity.  When a student would share an experience they had with science in home, Jane would feel free to steer the lesson to a new direction that better aligned with what students had experienced before.  She used the students basic understanding of some terms to demonstrate new concepts.  An example is made of how the students were asking about air and she was able to differentiate between air and oxygen with a candle in a glass jar.  Jane knew that when students offered something to the space she could leverage it to introduce a new idea.

How Does Jane Connect Student Experiences to Her Own and Integrate Them into Her Science Teaching?

New knowledge is best created through the mutual sharing of ideas and experiences.  Jane created a classroom environment that encouraged sharing and discussion between students and teacher.  Jane knew it was important that in order for students to feel it was safe to bring their ideas and perspectives she would have to bring her own.  She would share information about her children or home in order to encourage students to make their own connections with their lives.  She recognized that as part of the culture of the classroom everyone needed to feel that it was safe and encourage to share.


The article does not present and findings that can be implemented or used in a school setting tomorrow, however it does lend more credence to the idea that using students funds of knowledge is an approach and idea that deserves more thought.  Through observations and interviews it is clear that not only were students learning in class but they were enjoying it as well.  The “radical” approach that is funds of knowledge deserves more research and investigation as it seems clear that it sets students up on a better trajectory that is more focused on critical thinking and real world application.  The funds of knowledge approach also serves to meet students at their need so that every child has a chance to learn and engage with content in the classroom.

Examining What is Valued in Traditional Education

Quarterly, E. (2005). Editors ’ Introduction Indigenous Epistemologies and Education — Self-Determination , Anthropology , and Human Rights, 36(1), 1–7.

The reading in question introduces a number of ideas regarding indigenous education in not only our country but across the world.  Most importantly I believe, the editor raises a number of points around the languages that are valued and taught around the world and how this globalized approach is causing marginalized cultures and languages to go extinct.  The most astounding fact is that 6000 of our world’s languages are now only spoken by less than 10& of the total worlds people.  Two things pop out to me in this statistic.  One, there are 6000 languages, wow!!  Two, I am surprised to see that even 10% of the world speaks these languages when I can think of maybe 15 that are spoken in the US in total.  I do however completely agree with the authors point that we need to raise awareness about these disappearing languages and do more to affirm their existence and encourage their proliferation.  It is, of course, good to have a means for people to speak a similar language to communicate but with advances in technology we can more than facilitate communication while still appreciating diverse cultures.  To lose one of those languages is, as the authors say, to lose a part of our history, a piece of culture, and  to neglect part of our collective human experience.

Withstanding my agreement of the authors general purpose, I would have a couple of question regarding indigenous education and culture.  First of all I am not sure that I completely understand or appreciate the definition of indigenous in the first place.  I am wondering if there are places that indigenous people do not currently exist and if there are areas where indigenous people are currently refugees away from their true home.  I also wonder how it is possible to respect all cultures while still carrying on their languages and customs.  I think that to have an outsider come and probe the culture of some indigenous people would be inherently disrespectful.  I think that to truly carry on the knowledge and customs of indigenous cultures they cannot be approached with an industrial mindset of simply preserve and protect but rather cherish and uphold.  How do we change the type of knowledge we value from that which is respected by the majority to that which is cherished by the community.

The reading directly ties to my own thoughts regarding culturally responsive teaching as well as blatant acts of cultural depravity at both my school/district and the state as a whole.  To the second point, our state has a law banning the language that a LARGE number of our students speak as their first language.  The law while written (at least on paper) in somewhat good intent is actually a blatant act of racism and prejudice against students who do not share a similar background of the ruling majority.  I watch in sadness as students lose their home language and pieces of their culture which harms in the present (cannot communicate with their own parents) and likely in the future.  To the first point we see classrooms in schools that are forced by their curriculum to study literature that has nothing to do with the lives of their students.  While students become assimilated into the status quo it becomes harder and harder for them to keep up as they make the choice to lose a part of themselves or be lost within the system.

The article is nothing else fires me up about the potential of culturally responsive teaching and reflective practices.  I think that as we modify our tools as educators we modify the system that so often assimilates or simply leaves students behind.  As educators we have a higher calling than maybe anyone as we lay the foundation for how future generations think and act which is the true mechanism of societal change.

Effectiveness of CRT in Literacy Instruction – An Example of Bias in Research

Cheesman, E., & De Pry, R. (2010). A Critical review of culturally responsive literacy instruction. Journal of Praxis in Multicultural Education, 5(1). doi:10.9741/2161-2978.1034

Article in Brief

The article in question seeks to determine the effectiveness of the Culturally Responsive Teaching model in literacy instruction.  The authors attempt to do this with a wide ranging literature review while also explaining the recent history of education policy and the more common methods of instruction with literacy.


The begins by articulating the urgency with which we must consider intervention on literacy instruction in our schools.  We are educated on the serious risks associated with low levels of literacy development both on a whole society level but on the individual level as well.  Once the urgency is created in the author for the high need for exemplar literacy instruction we are introduced to the most recent history in regards to education policy.  Titled “School Reform Efforts” we learn about the steps that have been taken and a few of the models adopted to close the “achievement gap”.  Beginning with the hallmark reform effort most often known as “no Child Left Behind” we learn of the “valiant” attempts of the Bush administration to help the cause of minority and low socio-economic status students in schools.  The author then turns to two common models that have been adopted to try and close the gap within schools.  Tiered instruction and Culturally Responsive Teaching.  The two methodologies are explained (CRT in a more lengthy manner) and the author moves on to other challenges in closing the achievement gap.

A number of “Cause of Reading Failure” are named in the following section, from behavioral problems to reading disability, the author makes a real case for the challenges involved in promoting learning in literacy.  Next we are taken through the research backed components of effective reading instruction.  We learn of five “established” research based practices that are known to develop literacy in children.

Finally we are taken to our section on the actual effectiveness of CRT in literacy instruction.  After a few paragraphs the author moves towards the implications for future research and the article ends with a brief conclusion.

Contribution to the Field/Implication for Future Research

The authors results in their study limit this articles ability to contribute to the CRT movement however the article is certainly part of the educational research canon.  Literacy instruction is a hot issue in our country and particularly in Arizona where students are unable to move on to 4th grade if they have not passed a 3rd grade reading test.

The article draws itself in sharp contrast to my current efforts in education however it does elicit some powerful questions about the practicality of CRT as well as the difficulty to operationalize the method.

Theoretical Framework

The article poses itself as a literature review of the effect of Culturally Responsive  Teaching practices on literacy instruction.  The article certainly reviews A LOT of literature however not enough of it seems to pertain to the actual act of Culturally Responsive Teaching.  The actual framework seems to be much more based around a literature review of recent education policy and practices as well as what works in literacy instruction but the review of Culturally Responsive teaching literature is lacking.


Data Collection

The data collection is really just an aggregation of a large number of articles and research findings in education.  The authors have reviewed over fifty articles to establish their research topic and findings in this literature review.


The analyses of the effect of culturally responsive teaching seems to come through the lens of two separate research articles.  While the authors utilize over fifty articles and readings to explain the state of literacy and education as well as define what Culturally Responsive Teaching is, we find they analyze the results of very few articles.  In their analyses they find that while Culturally Responsive Teaching is intuitively appealing it does not seem to actually be so when analyzed with a research based approach.  The author then points to a study that actually hypothesizes that an approach that is not culturally similar will promote interracial awareness.  The authors then go on to attack the credibility of various Culturally Responsive research because of faulty terminology in some articles.  The authors go on to say that recommending these practices without further evidence of effectiveness will serve to undermine the great promise of literacy instruction from scientifically-based reading research.


The author concludes by pointing to Dr. Walter J Turnbull, a changemaker in education in Harlem, New York, as an outstanding example of a culturally responsive approach to education.  While lauding Dr. Turnbull on his success the authors question the ability of the approach to be replicated and repeated across different contexts.  In the implications for future research the authors articulate a number of questions about the viability of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the need for more evidence of effectiveness.  These questions include isolating factors within the Culturally Responsive approach, questioning what mindsets are required and pondering how to best analyze the true effects in order to answer research questions.

In short the authors prescribe a heavy dose of future research with strong operationalization and systemization of Culturally Responsive practices so as to catalogue and organize them according to effectiveness and their ability to replicated.

Readers thoughts

I wanted to make some quick comments about the article as it provided strong evidence for comment in relation to the course themes of impact, access and excellence.  From the beginning it seems clear that the authors are not interested in actually discussing the effects and possible benefits of the Culturally Responsive model.  In fact the authors state the correct model about four pages in without ever mentioning the potential of CRT.

I make this note because this article speaks about how structures of power and influence can actually misrepresent theories that empower those that are marginalized.  The authors cite very few articles in relation to CRT and ask for it to be systemized which it is exactly the point of CRT to NOT be systemized.  The CRT method is about reflection, adaptation and evolution not systems and operations that are replicated across communities.  I think that the authors suffer from some sort of industrial complex that does not allow for a dynamic method like CRT to enter the mainstream.  I think it is important to note that an article like this can sway the minds of a good many people because it academically published, however it suffers from some real biases in it’s analyses and presentation!

Redefining Where Cultural Capital Lies: Affirming Students in the Classroom

Yosso *, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

The article proposes a framework, justification and argument for a need for critical race theory in education.  I could not agree with the article more but the article also did good work in defining traits and aspects of marginalized people that can be leveraged in the classroom.  The article goes to great lengths to explain and articulate ways in which the dominant system is oppressive and then list traits that students of color bring to the classroom that can be leveraged for greater success.  The main critique is simple in that the system is built for the dominant culture which then causes it to devalue, bias and even criticize marginalized cultures.  The individuals who identify with these cultures then are forced to give parts of themselves, their past or their history in order to succeed in the dominant system.  The antithesis would be what the article presents which is to value the perspectives of students of color and all of the strengths and assets that they bring into the classroom.  If these traits can be leveraged then they can catalyze great successes in the classroom while keeping the identity and culture of students intact.

The article does a great job of justifying and then identifying the purpose of critical race theory in education but I wonder how the authors could have further elaborated what they expect of teachers in the classroom. I agree in full with everything that the article articulates but I question it in practice.  I do not question that it will work, rather I question what it looks like.  I have been on a personal journey for over two years to build my culturally responsive teaching toolbox and skillsets and still feel like I am lacking in major ways.  I think that we have identified mindsets and  justifications for culturally responsive teaching but not all of the methods that are needed.   I would ask the authors to next begin to identify key things that one would observe a teacher doing in a classroom to be deemed “culturally responsive”.

The lack of culturally responsive techniques and practices actually leads me to my, not critique, but hurdle I see in implementing CRT in classrooms across the nation.  Our country still suffers from an industrialized view of education.  From teacher preparation to student learning we see the whole process as an assembly line that we send individuals through, hoping that they fit the mold to head out of the other end successful and “intelligent”.  In order to stymie the current cultural deprivation theory that runs rampant throughout schools and the districts that support them, we must change the way we prepare our teachers and leaders in education.  The current preparation method looks to have teachers streamline their activities, grading and assessment while focusing little on the population they will teach.  I wonder what it will take to reform the “teaching teachers” process so that we have candidates that enter the classroom seeking to understand their own biases and operating systems while connecting and affirming their students.  To implement CRT in education we must start at the source which is the teacher preparation colleges.

This brings me to my topic for possible research.  I have long thought that if teachers were immersed in their communities and fully understand both the local and larger socio-political context of where they teach they would be better educators. This article seem to lend support and urgency to this belief and my instinct to explore it in my own context.  I personally know that the most effective teachers that I have seen know their kids extremely well and take intentional steps to steep themselves in the student experience.  I believe one of my avenues for research may certainly pertain to discovering the value of building context both around the community and of the experience of the student.

Developing Teachers within their Context

Matsko, K. K., & Hammerness, K. (2013). Unpacking the “Urban” in Urban Teacher Education: Making a Case for Context-Specific Preparation. Journal of Teacher Education, 65(2), 128–144. doi:10.1177/0022487113511645



The article questions the status quo of teacher preparation colleges across the country.  In most cases teacher colleges prepare teachers in a very standard way across the country.  The coursework focuses on pedagogical practices, content knowledge and special education instruction.  The article in question focuses on the need for context specific teacher preparation as opposed to a standardized curriculum across the country.   The authors cite numerous studies that examine how the teaching environment can affect classroom culture and outcomes and the authors attempt to study the various context specific teacher colleges around the country.


The authors study Uchicago UTEP’s teacher preparation program and the steps they take to prepare teachers in a context specific way that supports them to enter the classroom in the communities close to the school.  Of note about the UTEP curriculum are a couple of things.  Graduates are educated about theories around “funds of knowledge” and the unique perspectives that students bring to the classroom.  Teachers are also required to spend clinical hours in a local charter school to ground themselves firmly in a local classroom experience.   They also focus on two major projects which are the “school study”, a project where students engage deeply in a study of the community and an “interactive read aloud” which gives teachers perspective on the classroom experience.


The authors conclude that this context specific design  for a more nuanced teacher preparation program is very valuable for new teachers.  The context based education helps to unpack the “urban” in urban education and dispel some of the biases that new teachers may have upon entering the classroom.  The authors develop a framework that can be used for context base teacher preparation in an urban setting.


Review Comments


The author organizes the article by first giving purpose to their cause of study.  The need for  specialized education for urban education seems obvious as the urban setting requires teachers to be able to adapt their classroom to the students that enter and allow flexibility throughout a school year.  The authors then go on to describe the various context specific teacher programs that exist across the country.  The authors analyze and draw comparisons between these programs to develop a context specific framework.  The authors close the study by establishing their framework and again arguing for the need for context specific teacher preparation programs in an urban setting.


Contribution to Field

The article serves to further claims regarding the unique type of teacher skills that are required in an urban setting.  The “urban” teacher needs to be hyper reflective and willing to adapt and learn from the “funds of knowledge” that students bring to the classroom.  The authors contribute to this sect of educational research by building a framework for context specific teacher preparation.  The specific framework serves to inform teacher preparation programs across the country on how they can prepare urban teachers.


Theoretical Framework

The framework of this study is actually a case study of various teacher preparation programs across the country.  The authors seek to compare and contrast teacher preparation programs and their varying philosophy to find a framework for future context specific teacher preparation programs.  By doing a case study of the Chicago UTEP campus the authors are able to identify key levers in creating a context specific teacher preparation program.


Data Collection

Data is collected through qualitative observations and interviews of and with the candidates at the teacher preparation college.  The authors did an in-depth qualitative analyses of the methods utilized in the UTEP program.  The authors synthesized this data to create a framework for future programs.



The authors found that there were key factors that differentiated the UTEP program from traditional teacher preparation programs across the country.  The authors offer a framework that grounds teacher preparation in multicultural education in an emphasis on social justice and equity.  The framework takes important steps to develop teachers in a way that gives them insight into their teaching context from socio-political norms to local community practices.  This is important because it will prevent teachers from making broad and unreal generalizations about their students and their community.  In multicultural education a context specific education is essential to help prepare teachers to appreciate the funds of knowledge that their students bring to the classroom.  The framework that is developed can be used for teacher preparation programs across the country that seek to read teachers for urban communities.

“The people whom the problem most affects need to be the one’s leading the movement to change it”

These words were told to me by a former High School student in Colorado last year.  The student along with a number of friends and fellow students had fought, through the use of student organizing, to stop the “zero tolerance” policy at their school.  In Colorado a school to prison pipeline had developed in High School and it was affecting students of color at a drastically larger rate than their white counterparts.  This man who was talking to me last year had been a pivotal piece of the student-led movement to enact some change.

This brings me to the article that most resonated with me over the weekend and then through the week as I begin to train new teachers to prepare them for taking a classroom in the fall.  The article begins with the purpose, stating that to truly understand the problem of educational inequity we need to get the student perspective driven by the student, and by this I mean the student must be doing the research!  The abstract ends in the conclusion, which really sums up all I need to hear, “Until we make the power of research accessible to young people and other marginalized communities, educational research will be limited in it’s scope and impact.”

The other quote rings in my head again “The people whom the problem most affects need to be the one’s leading the movement to change it”.

The study posits, in rather plain terms, that it is absolutely essential for students of color to gain a critical consciousness to understand their own identity in an oppressive system.  The researchers also go on to claim that the methods used by the Council’s in Los Angeles were highly effective in developing a critical consciousness in the youth that the Council’s served.

While I agree with all of the claims and the importance o putting the students at the front of the fight for educational equity, I do wonder how the researchers have chosen to operationally define “critical consciousness”.  This type of research is so interesting because it is so qualitative and by the natural meaning of the vocabulary the researchers use their idea of a “critical consciousness” could be in itself fairly objective.  While I would agree that their evidence demonstrates a critical consciousness in students I believe others could question the conclusion.

The researchers also spent a large amount of time speaking about how the students engaged in various forms of digital media to communicate their learning.  the researchers seem to believe at times that it is the “media” that is helping get students to these places of critical reflection and expression.  However I would argue that students are set up to do what they have done because of the mindsights of those leading the Council’s.

The researchers say it in passing but I believe that real power behind this study comes from one act, “Positioning Youth as Experts of Research and their Experiences”.

When we orient students as experts with already lived experience as opposed to novices who need to be “filled with knowledge”, we set ourselves up for much more powerful experiences and outcomes.  Our students come to the school with real experiences and they honestly are experts of their surroundings.  We need to leverage this experience to be effective, we need to leverage this experience to make a difference.

Leveraging the Student Experience to Promote Success in Schools

Duncan-Andrade, Jeffrey M R; “Urban Youth and the Counter-Narration of Inequality”. Transforming Anthropology, 15:1 (April 2007), p.26-37



The researcher, Jeffrey Duncan Andrade, examined research that showed that urban youth of color spend up to 6 and one half hours per day engaged with electronic media.  This investment in electronic media by urban youth has led a number of organizations to issue statements urging schools and communities to create a critical media literacy curriculum.  The need for this curriculum is espoused because of the often negative depictions of urban youth and their communities in popular media.  The researcher decided to do something about this problem and partake in and advise a 6 week seminar for urban 11th grade students regarding social issues and the media’s depiction of them.  The researcher engaged the participants in intensive 6 day sessions and readings and discussions regarding race and socio-economic status in popular media and the political systems that surround them.  The participants in the seminar were all 11th grade students in Title 1 school with a grade point average between 1.5 and 3.8.  This range of grade point averages was important because  the researcher wanted to demonstrate that any student no matter their academic standing could participate in such seminars and discussions and be motivated to produce academic projects by the end of the research.


Throughout the course the students in the seminar were encouraged and asked to provide responses to the injustices they studied and saw through forms of media.  Students cumulative project would be a number of essays and media projects which they would present at the end of the seminar.  The researcher found strong qualitative evidence that any student, no matter grade point average, was able to be no only engaged in but successful in producing academic material when the topic related so close to their lived experiences.  The researcher believes that to effectively teach literacy to urban youth we must expose them to topics and activities that relate to their current reality and leverages their real and lived experiences.


Review Comments


The author organizes the article by first explaining the historical context behind his work before jumping into what has happened.  After explaining the historical context of his interests the author proceeds to give more understanding of the community and context in which he will be conducting his action research.  The author explains the histories of his community as well as of the students who live within it.  After this he goes on to explain the research project and what he will be having students do. Finally we are narrrated through the research process for the students and how it has affected them and their interests in education.  Finally the author finishes with some closing thoughts and implications of his study.

Contribution to Field

The author differentiates his research in this area by differentiating his work from “scholarly” articles and explains that it will be action research that is relevant to the here and now and the communities in which he works.  The contribution is significant even though there is no hard quantitative data to go with his study.  He is able to present evidence of increased student achievement and engagement through the culturally responsive practices that he preaches.


Theoretical Framework

The author is trying to demonstrate that for urban youth to be successful we must leverage their experiences with our content.  He believes that when we have students engaging in things that matter to them right then we will find real results.  Also the author is showing that students can be at the forefront of fighting for equality because they share a perspective that adults do not.

Data Collection

The main data collection in this article is qualitative.  The author points to the success of all of the students from those with a 1.8 G.P.A. to those with a 3.8 G.P.A.  He points to the use of the student work in national workshops and conferences to the reality which is that the students were successful when content mattered to them.


The findings point to the fact that content matters to our students.  Quite simply put, when the content of a class relates to the lived experiences of students, students are more engaged and successful.  We find that the current content of classrooms is embedded with themes of institutional racism that do not leverage the experiences and wisdom of urban youth of color.  The researcher points to the success of the students attending the summer as evidence that all students can be successful if we are willing to evolve our instruction and our classrooms to their needs.


The author also makes a poignant point about the possibility for our students to be architects of fighting for equality because the problem affects them most directly.   Students must face the inequality in schools and instruction everyday and if we empower them to do something about it, they will.

Working to Surface the Influence of Race in the Classroom

Race and Culture in the Classroom

The articles referenced in this weeks readings bring us through a small piece of history of race in America and then sheds light on some of the affects that it has, both seen and unseen, in our practices as teachers and as entire school systems.

In one of the articles, The Mismeasure of Man (Gould 1981), we use the overt and oppressive ways American society viewed people of non-white races during previous times in our history.  What is most interesting in this article is that scientists, some of whom were the most profound in the world, made empirical arguments stating that biological persons whom were non-white were inferior to the white race.  The arguments, based in polygenism, simply stated that people of color were naturally inferior because they were descendants of a different ancestor than their white neighbors.  This, of course, in the light of present day science is absurd and laughable however in the world of the 1860’s this was a serious argument and point of contention.  In the present day we would point to this type of science and call it absurd, racist and without merit however socially and politcally, things were not so clear back in the day.

The type of overt racism that is seen in the science from the 1860’s sits in stark contrast to the topic of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection (Howard, 2001).  In the article the art of reflection and culturally responsive pedagogy is espoused and encouraged for all teachers.  I have seen all sorts of educators and “allies” including myself act in ways that actually serve further institutional oppression with nothing but the best of intentions in my heart.  As I started my first year I had my students silently enter and exit class, they would painstakingly take note after note and study and practice relentless lest they suffer the consequences of Mr. Arndt’s classroom.   Little did I know how I was participating in and extending a system of socialization and assimilation that was encouraging my unique, creative and unendingly powerful students to socialize themselves to the dominant cultures norms.  I perceived myself (in the beginning) as savior and hero for my school community while in reality I was operating in a fog and in many ways furthering the systems that had  put my students and families in the position in the first place.

In today’s world we operate with biases and prejudices that are hidden under much deeper layers of consciousness and that are much harder to identify, reflect upon, and change.  As I approach my work this summer and possible my research topic I am thinking about teacher mindsets in relation to cultural deprivation theory as opposed to cultural difference theory.  Far to often we see administrators and teachers set up procedures in the school and classroom that try and make student learning into an assembly line.  The dominant theory is often .”We just need to get them to follow the rules, be quiet, take notes, finish their homework and pass onto the next grade” and then pass them down the factory line again in the next grade.  We see evidence of educators treating our students as empty containers that need to be filled instead of valuable humans with real and lived experiences and knowledge that they bring to the classroom everyday.  Instead of throwing the culture and background out we need to leverage what they enter the classroom with in order to partner with them to reach their goals.  We have seen what happens when we try and change student culture to fit into classroom culture, it does not work and it is oppressive.  We need to focus our efforts in the realm of cultural difference theory and create classrooms that mold and evolve to fit students culture, which in turn will set students up with the skills and mindsets to not only be successful but to begin to tear down the institutions of oppression that existed for them and those that have come before them.

Howard, C. (2011). Culturally Relevant for Critical Teacher Pedagogy : Ingredients Reflection, 42(3), 195–202.York, N. E. W. (n.d.). W . w . norton & company . new york’ london.