Finding new words: how I use critical literacy in my multicultural teacher education classroom

Feb. 15, 2007

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Volume 33, Issue 1 February 2007, pages 115 - 118

For 10 years the author has been researching and teaching in multicultural teacher education classrooms and she has come to the conclusion that educators need to help white students find new words to talk about their whiteness.

In her experience, white students too often sit in multicultural teacher education classrooms feeling as if the whole purpose of the class is to make them feel guilty. To make matters worse, when white students voice these feelings, multicultural teacher educators interpret and respond to their comments as white resistance and then double up in efforts to make them aware of their racial privilege. This creates more of the perception of multicultural teacher education as a guilt trip and around and around they go.

To get off this merry-go-round, the author has begun practicing a new approach to multicultural teacher education. In this article, she illustrates the four steps, or levels of thinking, of her critical literacy approach, namely, description, analysis, vision, and strategy. She uses them to generate reflection in her students that: (1) cycles through the goals of deconstruction and reconstruction; and (2) promotes ongoing critical thinking as the main goal of her multicultural education class. She briefly explains how she uses these four steps to get her students actively to engage with two of multicultural education's key ideas, "race" and "whiteness", and, in this way, destabilize their perception of themselves as "guilty" white people.

Updated: Dec. 18, 2007