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.

Access, Equity, and Community Colleges


Gilbert, C., & Heller, D. E. (2013). Access, Equity, and Community Colleges: The Truman Commission and Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011. Journal Of Higher Education, 84(3), 417-443.


The role of the community college has recently been brought to the forefront of higher education by current President Barack Obama as the United States strives to be a global leader with educational attainment. However, it was the Truman Commission that first brought concerns to Capitol Hill in 1947 with the concern of access and equity in higher education in the United States. In Access, Equity, and Community College: The Truman Commission and the Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011, Claire K. Gilbert and Donald E. Heller offer a lens through which we can view and understand the trajectory of U.S. thinking about higher education policy from the end of World War II to the present day (Gilbert & Heller, 2013).

I personally connected to this piece because I have made my career in the community college sector for the last six years. I found some direct correlation to the articles general material and findings, based on recent experience at a professional conference for higher education, in which one of the presenters focused on similar material as the discussion focused access to higher education, and the role the community will play. Many of the topics I read through this article were familiar because of active research and development in my professional role. However, some of the historical information and findings from the authors were new to me, so I found that very appealing. The article did make a new idea for me in regards to research. The way these authors were able to springboard directly off of prior research to focus on what is happening today seemed simple yet essential to their piece. As I evaluate my own potential research methods, this article will be a valuable tool on how to use others research materials to bring credibility to my own. Another thing that grabbed my attention is how forward thinking and innovative ideas can pave the way for impact and change. The ripple effect of the Truman Commission is still being felt today. This article will influence me to strive for change with my own action research project to support access and equity in higher education.


Gilbert and Heller’s research was well developed and organized in its presentation to readers. The article did a great job of first introducing their audience to what they hoped to accomplish with their research. Next the article provided a solid background of the basis for their research, in this case The Truman Commission of 1947. The researchers laid out the initial intentions of the President’s Commission on Higher Education and their intent to review the progress that has taken place in the United States since the recommendations of the committee were presented. The report then concluded with findings that compared the commission’s recommendations against what has been accomplished to date. The article ready very clear and concise while presenting reliable information to engage readers.

Contribution to the Field

This article is important to my existing role as a leader working in an institution of higher education, and it is entirely appropriate to my current area of inquiry as an academic researcher. It contributes to the field of study because of the data and empirical evidence it provides. The author’s findings present detail on a monumental topic in higher education and how this movement affected access and equity in higher education. I also acknowledged strength in the author’s outcomes when they did not hesitate to recognize the shortcomings that still plague the education system in the United States beyond the Truman Commission findings. I found this article extremely valuable to me because it highlights the integration of the community college system and its purpose to help with access to education, which I hope to investigate more.

Literature Review

There were many points of this article that stood out to me. However, the key pieces of information that were most powerful to me is to see how progressive the idea of this commission was for the U.S. in the 1940’s. And also the material presented that shows how far we still have to go with improving access and equity in higher education system in 2014. Before this article I had some understanding of the Truman Commission, but not to the extent I do now. The article did an excellent job of educating me as a reader on the enormous impact this commission had on education policy and the development of the community college system while also guiding me to see the inadequacies of governmental processes in terms of education policy today. The author’s modelled the idea that although the commission paved the way for great change, several years later our country still faces challenges with many of the topics presented in this study.

Theoretical Framework

In reflecting on this article, I feel the author’s presented the reasoning behind their research and report. The article provided useful insight that help frame Gilbert and Heller’s intention to look at what has come about in a way of results in the U.S. since 1947 when the President’s Commission on Higher Education was introduced. The framework carried through the text appropriately presented analysis that supported the authors message that regardless of whether the report has been explicitly adopted into legislation and policy, its ideals and many of its specific recommendations have been incorporated over time (Gilbert & Heller, 2013).

Data Collection & Analysis

The data collection for this article was very clear. Gilbert and Heller used the 1947 President’s Commission on Higher Education report, as the basis to their research. They discuss the original report in great length to help layout the point of their research. They also use a variety of scholarly research findings, state and national statistics on higher education to help support their findings. The author’s presentation of statistics and data to support their findings were essential to me as a reader understanding the progression of the research results. Without some of the metrics being given in the writing, I would have found it hard to see the results in some of the findings being presented. The methods of data collection and presentation of the material seemed very traditional and easy for the reader like myself to follow and potentially replicate in the future.

Findings, Discussion, and Conclusion

The article Access, Equity, and Community Colleges: The Truman Commission and Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011 brought some very significant findings to light. Gilbert and Heller were able to make logical connections to legislative and general changes in higher education since 1947. Their research document presented appropriate findings that helped me see some of the progress that has been made in higher education since the Truman Commission. I was convinced as a reader that there were sufficient evidence and findings presented for me to find this reading valuable and important in my research arena. The material presented made good connections to relevant material supported by qualitative and quantitative supporting evidence in supporting their research of change in access and equity with community colleges in the U.S. post 1947.

Equally Inclusive to All – Connie Hahne

The newspaper heading every week for the last 20 years could have read as follows, “Education leaders looking for a fix to student underachievement!” Placement of the blame would most likely change weekly.  Ideas for educational reform include more funding, better teachers, smaller class sizes, Common Core Standards and more rigorous assessments. Does a fix really exist within the walls of the school building? How inclusive of all students are the present educational reforms?

I believe most educators and administrators are unaware of or understand how racism affects students’ ability to receive an equal and fair education in today’s schools.  Racism in not an issue of the past, nor was it a passing problem resolved during the Civil Rights Movement.  According to scientist and paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, “Racial prejudges may be as old as recorded human history.”(p.32)  “All American culture heroes embraced racial attitudes that would embarrass public-school myth makers.” In his book, The Mismeasure of Man. Gould identifies Thomas Jefferson, Plato, and Benjamin Franklin as scholars that published articles about the inferiority of people labeled in present times as minorities.  American school age children learn about these men as the country’s founding fathers, greatest inventors, and philosophers that shaped ways of thinking and living today.  Many contemporaries may state that their racial views hold no detriment on modern society. On the contrary, looking at the current state of our school systems and the struggling students which have been identified as low-income, minority, at risk, and English language learners; it is evident that past racial beliefs from these American cultural heroes has seeped down into school practices, teaching methodologies, and mainstream beliefs about student achievement and behavior.

In his article, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection, Professor Tyrone C. Howard refers to DuBois'(1903) prediction that racial issues would plague the 20th century is even more unsurpassable in the 21st century. All data on student achievement or lack thereof, directly segregates levels of academic success between racial groups.  The dominate culture scoring the highest and the minority groups still struggling and filling up the seats in the alternative placement and special education classrooms.  “Between 1990 and 2012, the educational attainment rate of 25- to 29-year-olds who received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for Whites (from 90 to 95 percent), Blacks (from 82 to 89 percent), Hispanics (from 58 to 75 percent), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (from 92 to 96 percent). The percentage of Whites who received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent remained higher than that of Blacks and Hispanics.” (NCES 2013).

To increase the quality of education for non-dominate culture and non-mainstream students, schools and classrooms need to embrace alternative pedagogy that is inclusive of all students with assessments that are nonbiased to any specific group of students. (Garcia and Ortiz, 2008) Educational reform includes teaching both experienced and new teachers how to best work with diverse populations of students. “Teachers critically analyze important issues such as race, ethnicity, and culture, and recognize how these important concepts shape the learning experience for many students. More specifically, teachers must be able to construct pedagogical practices that have relevance and meaning to students’ social and cultural realities.”(Howard 2011). Students are viewed as valued contributors in the classroom.  The role of learner and teacher bounces back and forth between students and teacher.

True mindfulness, acceptance of a problem, extensive education, and retraining of educators and policy makers are possibly the only ways to break the cycle of centuries long racism.  Martin Luther King believed that all people are ultimately connected. He said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”We are intimately connected.  We cannot continue to ignore a segment of the population and hope the problem will disappear.  Eventually, racism and inequality in education will be detrimental to all.


Garcia, S.B. & Ortiz, A.A. (2013). Intersectionality as a framework for transformative

research in special education. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2) 32­47.

Fast Facts. (n.d.). Fast Facts. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=27

Gould, S. J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: Norton.

Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients For Critical Teacher Reflection. Theory Into Practice, 42(3), 195-202.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013–037),

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Self Reflection

According to Tyrone Howard (2003), “the formation of a culturally relevant teaching paradigm becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, without critical reflection. The nature of critical reflection can be an arduous task because it forces the individual to ask challenging questions that pertain to one’s construction of individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds” (p. 198). As an academic advisor, I am often the very first person a new student meets upon being accepted to the university. Therefore, I am constantly mindful of how my past experiences, expectations, and biases can be passed on to my students which can result in a positive or negative first impression of the university on the part of my students.

This article was particularly poignant in that it identified a problem of practice and posed a relevant solution that can implemented in a variety of educational settings. The issue is that teacher-educators lack self-reflection in determining how their biases affect their pedagogy. The article posed the question, “what does race have to do with teaching?” Teachers generally build curriculum based on theory and desired learning objectives rarely considering the cultural and ethnic background of their students. While viewing students as learners, regardless of their cultural experience, is one way of leveling the playing field between students, it omits the tendency of students to relate principles to their own experiences. To remedy this problem of practice, Howard (2003) presents the notion of cultural reflection in which teacher-educators become culturally relevant by reflecting on their own experiences and biases in order to see how their position in the learning process affects the student in a positive or negative way.

Howard (2003) proposes a solution to the question at hand by suggesting that teacher-educators engage in a self-reflective process to examine their own biases and how their pedagogy and classroom environment are impacted by those biases. I agree with Howard’s point that the process of cultural reflection poses a challenge for teacher-educators because it forces them to question their own construction and ideas of students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Facing the arduous and possibly painful process of reflection in which the educator must identify the complexities of teaching students who are from backgrounds different from their own. Howard (2003) suggests the process is often painful because it forces the educator to recognize their views on cultural differences were instilled by family members who may have impressed their prejudiced views on the educator, which innately impacts the learning process in the classroom, especially for ethnic minorities.

Cultural reflection also requires that teacher-educators take personal accountancy for their own pedagogy and teaching methods (Ladson-Billings, 1995). While the district or university may mandate certain curricula and learning objectives in the classroom, educators must take personal action to ensure the academic and social competence of their students remains intact. This notion can prove to be challenging as it calls educators to find a balance between the student’s home life and school environment, however, doing so will produce students who are successful academically, are culturally competent, and socially equitable (Ladson-Billings, 1995).

As an African American, I greatly understand the importance of culturally relevant pedagogy in the learning environment. When I was in first grade my teacher sent me home with a homework assignment. The following week we would be studying the 1950’s in class. The teacher asked us and our parents to conduct some research about the decade, and come dressed in the fashion of the day to share with our classmates. The purpose of the exercise was for us to reflect on the “good times” of the decade and pay homage to the happenings of the era. Needless to say, my mother, who was a child during the ‘50s was extremely angry with this assignment, for the era was anything but “good times” for people of color. Sadly, the assignment objectives were completely lost on me as the cultural difference between my teacher and myself (family) were at odds. While the intent was not necessarily one of malice, the learning objectives were not socially, nor culturally relevant to me. Howard’s notion of cultural reflection could have been applied to this example resulting in greater impact for the classroom environment.


Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally relevant pedagody: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory into Practice, 42(3), 195-202.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465-491.