Changing the conversation, challenging the hegemony

A number of scholars are changing the conversation on race and, in so doing, challenging the hegemony.  These scholars are eloquently  pointing out how biases among dominant groups in academia have led to limiting the conversation on race and, consequently, limiting understandings of racial inequality and injustices.  With powerful and thought-provoking rhetoric coupled with well-documented research, these scholars are shaking up the academic enterprise.

In the first chapter of White logic, White methods: Racism and methodology, Tukufu Zuberi and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2008) examine the dangerous effects that bias and misconceptions of race prevalent among white researchers can have on the research questions they ask, the methods they employ, the results they obtain, and even their interpretation of their results.  As Zuberi notes:

Data do not tell us a story.  We use data to craft a story that comports with our understanding of the world.  If we begin with a racially biased view of the world, then we will end with a racially biased view of what the data have to say. (p. 7)

Zuberi also observes that many researchers erroneously attempt to study the “effect of race” (p. 8) as if race was a causal factor for various outcomes; this is erroneous because, as Zuberi explains, race in and of itself does not cause anything.  Rather, the true causes of differential experiences and societal disparities are the various forms of racism and bias.

Critical race theorists also provide compelling arguments against the dangers of only considering society through the lens of hegemonic norms.  Tara J. Yosso (2005) describes how privileging only one dominant (white) form of cultural capital has led to a deficit framing of the experience of non-dominant groups.  Yasso then names six forms of cultural wealth common in communities of color: aspirational capital, familial capital, social capital, navigational capital, resistant capital, and linguistic capital.

As a Latino scholar who is committed to social justice and to utilizing research and education to advance social justice, I am excited about and grateful for the bold work being done to change the conversation and challenge the hegemony.  Too often, students of color and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are viewed as being disadvantaged because they don’t have the forms of cultural capital that those in power deem valuable and necessary.  Rather than view these students as “less than”, we should celebrate, value, and tap into their unique forms of cultural wealth.

I’m particularly encouraged to see scholars such as Yosso, Zuberi, and Bonilla-Silva advocating for dominant-identity researchers to critically reflect on their personal biases and to question how their perspectives influence their research.  Too often, only those with oppressed identities are made to justify their work or explain the impact of their identities on their practice.  As Bonilla-Silva demonstrated, researchers of color are interrogated about the identities of their data coders.  Similarly, female Supreme Court Justices such as Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor had to field questions about how their gender affects their decision-making on the bench; such questions are never posed to males. LGBTQ scholars sometimes need to defend their very existence.  Imagine heterosexual people being expected to complete the Heterosexual Questionnaire on a regular basis.

With the excellent consciousness-raising work being done by scholars such as Yosso, Zuberi, and Bonilla-Silva, I am hopeful that, in time, we will see profound changes in research on and understandings of race and social justice.

Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community and cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 1(8), 69-91.

Zuberi, T. & Bonilla-Silva, E. (2008). White logic, White methods: Racism and methodology. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Many parts, One body

One body, Many parts

The intentional destruction of cultures and annihilation of people through imperialism, colonization, and neglect has been devastating to the world.  When one group sees themselves as greater than others and as a consequence believes they must wipe out or at least subjugate others, that faulty thinking kills spirit and life.  In preparation for liturgy this Sunday I was reading the scriptures that my husband and I were to proclaim to the assembled.  In our church it is the feast of Pentecost, a time when the Holy Spirit is believed to have inSpired followers of Jesus to take his story and message of peace and respect for the marginalized to the world.  The following passage connected with the readings for our Introduction to Doctoral Studies class, TEL 706, for me: “The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12 New American Bible).

That passage is hopeful for me.  Despite the beliefs of some that White is right and that everyone else should try to imitate the majority culture in power and that some people are not worthy of going to college, if we focus on communities’ cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005), we may recognize one community’s parts (or wealth) as different from another’s yet necessary to make the “body” complete.

Uncertainty is necessary for learning (Piaget in Jordan & McDaniel, in press) and managing that uncertainty is necessary in collaborative learning (Jordan & McDaniel, in press).  Research requires collaborative learning.  If researchers are anything like fifth graders working on robot projects, by expressing uncertainty about established research methods or the causality of “racial” problems as Zuberi & Bonilla-Silva (2008) do, the path is open for other researchers to explore the uncertainties as well and create new methods or explanations. Uncertainty allows a step back to “see” with fresh eyes a sharper, more focused image.  It’s like when you lose something and get frantic searching for it – so frantic that you can’t see it’s right in front of you.  Stepping away and then coming back to contentious research questions when you are calmer often brings the “lost” item into focus.

I may be naive, but I would like to believe the “lost” item is the viewpoint of indigenous people throughout the world who, through imperialism, colonization, and neglect, lost their culture and ways of knowing.  It will take more than just stepping away to reclaim culture and ways of knowing, but that’s a start.  Being open to stepping away and seeing research methods or ways of knowing or teaching with new eyes may allow the white folks and the indigenous to see what’s been right in front of them – a narrative, cultural capital, learning by engaging with the earth.  Because ultimately, we are all of the same body – just many parts:  Africans, Maori, Anglos; one an eye, another an ear, another a foot – all parts that are needed to complete one body that functions effectively in the world.

“If the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ would it then no longer belong to the body?  If the body were all eye what would happen to our hearing?  If it were all ear, what would happen to our smelling?” 1 Corinthians 12:16-17



Jordan, M. E., & McDaniel, R.  (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams : The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences, doi: 10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

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

Zuberi, T. & Bonilla-Silva, E. (2008). White Logic , White Methods: Racism and methodology. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

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.