James Albert Banks is an educator who has been called the “father of multicultural education,” a discipline that seeks to develop awareness and skills in teachers and students for living in a culturally diverse United States and world. Growing up as an African-American youth in the Arkansas Delta during the Jim Crow years, Banks developed a commitment to social justice. Banks became the first black professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle and is also founding director of UW’s Center for Multicultural Education.James Banks was born on September 24, 1941, near Marianna (Lee County) to Matthew Banks and Lula Holt Banks, both farmers. His formal education began at the McCullough Union School, which he walked five miles to attend. During his second year of schooling, rural schools consolidated, and he was bused to the Newsome Training School in Aubrey (Lee County), where he attended elementary and junior high school between 1948 and 1957. He graduated in 1960 from the Robert Russa Moton High School in Marianna, located about ten miles from his home.Banks obtained his associate’s degree with high scholastic honors from Chicago City Junior College in 1963. The following year, he received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and social science with honors from Chicago Teachers College (now Chicago State University), and between 1966 and 1969, he received his master’s and PhD degrees in these fields from Michigan State University. Banks taught at Forrest Park School in Joliet, Illinois, and at the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago between 1965 and 1966.Banks married Cherry A. McGee on February 15, 1969; she is also a college professor and author. The two have written several books and articles together, and they have two daughters.Banks joined the faculty of the UW College of Education in 1969. He served as assistant professor and associate professor until 1971 and 1973, respectively, becoming a full professor in 1973. In 1992, Banks founded the Center for Multicultural Education at the university and became its director. He continues in this capacity. Banks was named Russell F. Stark University Professor in 2000 and then Kerry and Linda Killinger Professor of Diversity Studies in 2006.During his childhood, Banks felt that the images of happy slaves in his social studies textbooks were a contradiction to the stark reality of racial segregation that he and his community experienced, and he began asking who created the images of happy slaves, and who develops curriculum. These became crucial social justice research questions. In time, they have taken newer forms. Through his teaching, research, and writings, Banks has continually tried to explain issues in black studies, ethnic studies, multiethnic studies, multicultural education, and citizenship education.The demographics of the United States and its schools have been rapidly changing. This being the case, in more than four decades of research, Banks has created a fund of knowledge—dimensions, approaches, paradigms, principles of curriculum, teaching, and assessment—for curriculum developers and educators, all aimed at helping students from diverse ethnic, language, and other cultural groups to develop knowledge, attitudes, and skills to become effective citizens in a multicultural nation and a diverse world. Stated simply, Banks has provided teachers with detailed answers as to what to teach, how to teach, and how to assess students from different ethnic groups such as Native American, African American, European American, Hispanic American, Asian American, and Arab American, and other cultural categories such as gender. Banks has emphasized that textbooks must not merely describe concepts from the perspective of the dominant culture. Rather, they must also include viewpoints of different cultural groups. For example, in explaining westward expansion, it is imperative that textbooks include the perspectives of Native Americans. Teachers have a responsibility to reduce prejudice and empower “all” students with the goal of creating a just society.Banks has authored or edited more than twenty books, as well as over sixty book chapters and written about 100 journal articles. Banks is editor of two landmark publications, Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (1995, second edition 2004) and Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives (2004). He also edits a multicultural education book series published by Teachers College Press at Columbia University.In 1971, Banks was appointed a member of the Task Force to Reevaluate Social Science Textbooks in California. He visited Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, France, and Great Britain to examine multiethnic education during the 1976–77 school year. In 2000, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Education. Banks was president of the National Council for the Social Studies (1982) and the American Educational Research Association (1997–1998). He has received honorary doctorates from six colleges and universities, as well as the UCLA Medal.Banks was the twenty-ninth annual faculty lecturer at the University of Washington in 2004–05, the university’s highest honor for a faculty member. In 2004, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) awarded its first Social Justice in Education Award to Banks for a career of research that advances social justice through education research. In the fall of 2007, he was the Tisch Distinguished Visiting Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York. In January 2019, he retired from the University of Washington.
For additional information:
Banks, James A. Race, Culture, and Education: The Selected Works of James A. Banks. New York: Routledge, 2006.Brown, Quinn Russell. “Thanks, Professor Banks: ‘The Father of Multicultural Education’ Is Retiring after 50 Years at UW.” Columns: The University of Washington Alumni Magazine.
Online at https://magazine.washington.edu/feature/james-banks-uw-retires-multicultural-education/ (accessed February 4, 2019.“Professor James A. Banks.” University of Washington, Seattle. http://faculty.washington.edu/jbanks/ (accessed February 4, 2018).
Anita Rao Mysore
University of Arkansas Libraries
Classrooms in many parts of the world are increasingly diverse. International migration patterns have significantly changed the cultural make-up of many industrialized societies and, by extension, their school-aged populations.
Such changes are particularly seen in traditional destination countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In this increasingly globalized landscape, schools face significant challenges. Researchers have documented lower educational outcomes such as student achievement and graduation rates for immigrant students in the majority of countries around the world.
In response to these outcomes, more research is being devoted to understanding and supporting conditions for equitable learning. Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is one idea to support these conditions. CRT is concerned with teaching methods and practices that recognize the importance of including students’ cultural backgrounds in all aspects of learning.
To date, much focus in the field of CRT draws attention to the need for a greater diversity of role models and learning experiences in the classroom, and an expansion of teachers’ capacities to truly support and affirm diverse students.
As education researchers who have worked with teachers in training, and teachers in K-12 schools as well as teacher educators in Australasia, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, U.K. and the U.S., we argue that more attention needs to be paid to an overlooked aspect of CRT: both education systems and individual teachers must develop culturally responsive assessment and evaluation practices to boost student success.
How to recruit and prepare teachers?
CRT is sometimes also called culturally relevant teaching. This mode of teaching aims to be aware of how culture, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, language, gender identity and religious background may impact students’ learning experiences.
In many school contexts, student diversity far exceeds the diversity of teachers. Such an imbalance means students do not always encounter educator role models who reflect diverse cultural backgrounds throughout their schooling.
Thus, one aspect of promoting CRT is increasing efforts to attract a more representative demographic of teachers.
Recent analysis from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests that in most OECD countries the typical person who expects a career in teaching at age 15 is a female with no immigrant background.
The findings are based on a question to 15-year-olds on 2006 and 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment surveys: “What kind of job do you expect to have when you are about 30 years old?” (4.5 per cent of non-immigrant respondents said teaching; only 3.1 per cent of immigrant respondents said teaching).
The OECD survey did not capture racialized identity. But more fine-grain analyses within the traditional Western destination countries suggest racialized people and Indigenous groups are particularly underrepresented among teachers.
For example, Canada’s largest and most diverse province (Ontario) has a significant teacher diversity gap as evidenced by fairly recent demographic data.
Racialized people represent 26 per cent of the provincial population, yet comprise only nine per cent of the 117,905 elementary school and kindergarten teachers and 10 per cent of 70,520 secondary school teachers.
Specialized programs for Indigenous peoples such as the teacher program focused on Aboriginal Education at Brock University or Maori Medium Teacher Education in New Zealand demonstrate efforts to grow the number of Indigenous peoples in teaching.
But strategies such as as diversified recruiting, quotas or specialized programs would take time and will likely struggle to keep up with changing student demographics.
Hence, providing relevant cultural training and professional development for aspiring and experienced teachers becomes even more important.
Such training needs to extend beyond traditional multicultural education approaches, or what has been called a “tourist” curriculum characterized by occasional or “highlight” additions.
Instead, training for teachers must model a multi-dimensional approach that includes integrating content from diverse cultures and experiences, and critically examining how cultural identity impacts learning.
Our experiences with teachers and teacher education programs globally reaffirm research findings about recognized practices in teacher education that impact student success.
For example, teachers programs should help teacher candidates critically consider their own identities in relationship to societal inequities and prejudice; optimally, with growth and maturity, they learn how to model deep inclusion.
Assessment literacy: The missing link
We also want to draw attention to an area that has been neglected in broader discussions of CRT – namely, assessment and evaluation strategies.
Most educators now accept that student assessment is the beginning point for instruction, not simply the end. That means assessment can be a powerful support when used throughout learning stages to provide meaningful feedback to students. Teachers need to carefully consider assessment and evaluation before they begin a lesson or unit of study and to use assessment to monitor students’ learning.
However, assessment continues to operate in more traditional ways: it continues to be used primarily as a measure of students’ final learning in courses through tests and exams or through large-scale provincial, state or national testing programs.
Teachers’ competency in using assessment to support student learning and to accurately report on it is called “assessment literacy” — so named for the ability to “read” a class to develop fair, relevant and supportive assessment.
Teachers must learn culturally responsive frameworks to develop fair practices for obtaining accurate information about students’ learning. Our research suggests competency in developing assessment can be enhanced through effective professional development.
The issue of fair assessment also raises questions about system-wide standardized testing, often used for accountability purposes. Standardized testing can be biased, for example reflecting foremost the experiences of white middle-class students.
Thus we acknowledge the need to combine the dual movements of CRT as focused in teacher recruiting and training with greater attention to responsive assessment.
Unless that happens, CRT will only find limited success in creating classrooms that ensure learning and achievement is attainable for all.
Multicultural education expert joins ASU’s ‘Inside the Academy’
Recognized globally as the “father of multicultural education,” James A. Banks is the latest esteemed scholar to be interviewed for Arizona State University’s “Inside the Academy.”
The free, open-source online archive of conversations with America’s “best of the best” education luminaries was created by Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, associate professor in ASU’sMary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The Banks video interview delves deep into the influential educator’s career-long quest for social justice in K-12 classrooms, first in the U.S. and now worldwide.
Growing up in segregated rural Arkansas, Banks explained that he comes from “a long pedigree of farmers and Southerners” and even worked picking cotton as a child. One of his most poignant memories was as a first grader walking five miles to school, with other African-American schoolmates joining him along the way.
“I remember that the white kids would pass us riding in school buses that splattered mud on us,” Banks recalled.
Later on in high school, Banks said he started seeing fellow students who were “as bright as I (was) or brighter” falling by the wayside. It triggered a recurring dream for him, in which he created a school in the South where African-American students could thrive.
“I developed a real strong commitment to make it possible for kids who were black and poor to be successful,” he said.
Today, Banks serves as the Kerry and Linda Killinger Professor of Diversity Studies and director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington in Seattle. A past president of the American Educational Research Association, Banks is perhaps best known for co-editing the groundbreaking, “Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education,” with his wife and colleague, Cherry A. McGee Banks. This seminal work is one of a total of 100 journal articles, 60 book chapters and 20 books he has authored or co-edited.
It was Banks’ doctoral dissertation – an extensive content analysis of how African-Americans were portrayed in the nation’s K-12 textbooks – that launched his scholarly quest to study multicultural issues. He said his thesis found the textbooks generally restricted mention of African-Americans to slavery, depicting all slaves as “happy,” and three famous figures – Booker T. Washington, educator; George Washington Carver, scientist; and Marian Anderson, contralto singer.
Being at the forefront of multicultural research, Banks set a career trajectory that opened space for a new generation of scholars. It also led him to develop the widely recognized five dimensions of multicultural education, including content integration, knowledge construction, equity pedagogy, prejudice reduction and empowering school culture. This conceptual framework is intended to help teachers of all disciplines understand that “multicultural” needs to span all aspects of K-12 education, not simply content.
Banks said his determination to work for social justice in education has been a powerful motivator for him personally and professionally. He added that his efforts also continue to expand to encompass additional minority and ethnic groups in the United States and around the world.
“I always tell my graduate students to study something they have a passion about,” he said. “That is what keeps you going.”
Written by Judy Crawford
Published on Apr 15, 2014
This Excerpt from 1992 episode with teacher Jane Elliott’s showed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” at its best. The Iowa schoolteacher speaks after applied her famous blue-eyes-vs.-brown-eyes experiment to the show’s studio audience, separating the people on the basis of eye pigment and giving one group preferential treatment over the other; by the time the show started, the resentment fostered by this brief period of inequality spilled over into visible, simmering hostility. As a statement about the roots of racism, Elliott’s exercise was powerful stuff — the fact that it was initially designed to impart the lesson for grade-school children didn’t dim its impact on the show’s adult viewers.