Christine Sleeter addresses problems in ethnic studies curriculum

Source: https://collegian.com/2017/09/christine-sleeter-addresses-problems-in-ethnic-studies-curriculum/

Christine Sleeter addresses problems in ethnic studies curriculum

Dr. Christine Sleeter speaks at the Diversity Symposium
Author, teacher and activist Dr. Christine Sleeter speaks about multicultural awareness in education at the 17th Annual Diversity Symposium in the LSC. The speech featured the changing analytics among ethnicities in the classroom and stressed engaging in multicultural historical viewpoints. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

Activist Christine Sleeter is white, from a community with very little diversity, and admitted she knew almost nothing about her student’s background when she began teaching in Seattle.

Sleeter, an author and a teacher in addition to activist, spoke about how the teaching of ethnic studies, or the lack thereof, can be improved. Sleeter spoke in the Lory Student Center Thursday night as part of Colorado State University’s week-long Diversity Symposium.

Sleeter emphasized the importance of having multicultural education and an ability to think critically about what other groups have to go through. She said in doing so, people will start to become agents of social change.

“I mean, we have a president who can’t even figure out how to get resources to Puerto Rico,” Sleeter said.

Sleeter said changes in teaching styles and curriculum can be an effective way to get students to think more critically about their culture and the cultures of others.

School textbooks that are heavily focused on white perspectives are just one problem, according to Sleeter. Of those who teach K-12, 84 percent are white, Sleeter said; the combination can lead to classes that leave out important topics regarding multiple ethnic groups.

“The fragmented inclusion of people of color in the dominant curriculum leaves students of color feeling like, as Caroline Turner put it, guests in someone else’s house,” Sleeter said.

She said ethnic studies can give people the ability to address social problems. Sleeter said she wants to implement several strategies to create positive change in classrooms. Teachers need to treat students as intellectuals and develop strong relationships with them, according to Sleeter.

“Teaching involves collaboration with students, co-construction with students,” Sleeter said. “It isn’t just sage on the stage giving knowledge to students.”

Sleeter said classroom curriculum should focus on examining real social problems in student communities. Students should examine the roots of these problems, collect data and ultimately propose solutions to offer to their community.

Freshman biochemistry student Matthew Funk said he could relate to a lot about what Sleeter talked about, as he went to an elementary school where the majority of students were Latino. He said these topics should be articulated more at CSU where the demographic is dominantly white.

“These are issues that are important to understand and to be able to talk to each other about,” Funk said.

Funk said he agreed with a lot of the strategies Sleeter suggested regarding curriculum changes in K-12 schools, but thinks the logistics of implementing these changes could prove challenging.

Sleeter ended the evening with the idea that ethnic studies is not limited to one subject within a curriculum. She told a story of a former colleague, who wanted to infuse ethnic studies with his biology course. Her colleague wanted to examine how different world views influenced health and an understanding of science.

“It takes somebody looking at their discipline through an ethnic studies lens,” Sleeter said. “If you can make biology and ethnic studies go together, you can make everything go together.”

Collegian reporter Ty Betts can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @TyBetts9

White Bread – a new book by Christine Sleeter

White Bread

Order Online at Amazon.

In White Bread, readers accompany Jessica on a journey into her family’s past, into herself, and into the bicultural community she teaches but does not understand. Jessica, a fictional White fifth-grade teacher, is prompted to explore her family history by the unexpected discovery of a hundred-year-old letter. Simultaneously, she begins to grapple with culture and racism, principally through discussions with a Mexican American teacher. White Bread pulls readers into a tumultuous six months of Jessica’s life as she confronts many issues that turn out to be interrelated, such as why she knows so little about her family’s past, why she craves community as she feels increasingly isolated, why the Latino teachers want the curriculum to be more Latino, and whether she can become the kind of teacher who sparks student learning. The storyline alternates between past and present, acquainting readers with German American communities in the Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s, portraits based on detailed historic excavation. What happened to these communities gives Jessica the key to unlock answers to questions that plague her. White Bread can be read simply for pleasure. It can also be used in teacher education, ethnic studies, and sociology courses. Beginning teachers may see their own struggles reflected in Jessica’s classroom. People of European descent might see themselves within, rather than outside, multicultural studies. White Bread can also be used in conjunction with family history research.

 

Sleeter

Biography

Christine E. Sleeter is a researcher, teacher, and writer who is best known for her work in critical multicultural education, and her insights into white people grappling with race. She holds the title of Professor Emerita in the College of Professional Studies at California State University Monterey Bay, where she was a founding faculty member. Previously she taught at Ripon College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She is currently involved in work supporting ethnic studies and multicultural education in schools. She is a sought-after speaker both in the U.S. and internationally. She has been honored with awards that include the American Educational Research Association Social Justice in Education Award, the Chapman University Paulo Freire Education Project Social Justice Award, and the National Association for Multicultural Education Research Award. A prolific academic writer with nineteen books and over 100 articles to her credit, she is also a fiction writer. Her debut novel is entitled White Bread.

 

 

The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies A Research Review

The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies
A Research Review
Christine E. Sleeter (2011, NEA)

National Education Association
Research Department
Ronald D. Henderson, Director

 

What is the value of ethnic studies in schools and universities? Supporters say ethnic
studies promotes respect and understanding among races, supports student success, and
teaches critical thinking skills. Critics, however, increasingly question the relevance of
ethnic studies education programs in the post-integration era.

As issues involving ethnic studies take center stage in education policy and practice, the
National Education Association believes any discussion of the role of ethnic studies in
education and in student achievement rightfully begins by asking:

• What do we know from prior research and practice about ethnic studies,
especially as they relate to student achievement and narrowing achievement gaps?

• Are there ways to examine and talk about what we have learned that will enable
us to apply those lessons to creating and establishing ethnic studies programs that
support student and teacher learning?

The evolution of ethnic studies has sparked its share of controversy. NEA commissioned
a review of the research on ethnic studies programs and curricula—specifically the ways
in which such programs and curricula serve to improve student achievement and narrow
achievement gaps—to inform the discourse on this issue. This paper provides a research
base for discussing best practices for designing and implementing ethnic studies programs
and curricula that meet those targets.

We hope this review is useful for revisiting ideas and generating new thoughts about
the relationship between ethnic studies and student achievement. And we hope that our
efforts in this regard will help ensure a great public school for every student.

Dennis Van Roekel
President
National Education Association

read the article at http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/NBI-2010-3-value-of-ethnic-studies.pdf