Purpose:?To develop skills in the critical analysis of various media.?You will be able to engage?the content?from varied perspectives which serves to encourage viewing and questio

 Purpose: To develop skills in the critical analysis of various media. You will be able to engage the content from varied perspectives which serves to encourage viewing and questioning through different lenses. This activity will also help you to think critically as you develop and produce your final video project.   

Directions: You will write a scholarly critique of each module’s set of readings. A scholarly critique is not a re-telling or a summary of the plain sense of the text(s). Rather, it is a document which articulates an understanding, an analysis and a capacity to identify intellectual and pragmatic/ pedagogical application(s) of the reading to teaching and learning in urban contexts. You may select a role from the critic list  provided and write from that perspective—for example Feminist, Philosopher King / Queen, etc. Given the density of the course readings, you are not expected to critique every aspect of the text, but rather select one or more big ideas and focus the bulk of your analysis there. You will need to read/watch all materials and will demonstrate your understanding of these texts through additional assignments. You will need to reference at least 3 texts/videos in these critiques. Critiques are to be approximately 2 pages in length, well written, and in full compliance with the rules of an excellent composition. Grades will be based on both content and form. 


  • Everyday Antiracism: Valuing Students’ Home Worlds

 Everyday Antiracism

  • Section C – Read one piece from each part; Part XI, XII, XIII & XIV.
  • Section D – Read one piece from the following parts; Part XV, XVI, XVII 

-see files

• 18 •


Gloria Ladson-Billings

In her groundbreaking book The Dreamkeepers and in numerous scholarly publications, University of Wisconsin professor Gloria Ladson-Billings has por­

trayed and analyzed the practice of successful teachers of African American

students-teachers who embody what Ladson-Billings calls “culturally relevant

teaching.” Her work is used widely in teacher-preparation programs and has in­

fluenced a generation of educators. In the following essay, Ladson-Billings ex­

plains the elements of culturally relevant pedagogy, while arguing that improving the education of poor students of color is as much a matter of how we

think as of “what to do.”

In 1989, when I began documenting the practice of teachers who

achieved success with African American students, I had no idea that it

would create a kind of cottage industry of exemplary teachers. I began the project with the assumption that there were indeed teachers who

could and did teach poor students of color to achieve high levels of ac­

ademic success (Ladson-Billings, 1994). Other scholars (Foster, 1997;

Mathews, 1988) verified this aspect of my work. Unfortunately, much

of the work that addresses successful teaching of poor students of color

is linked to the notion of the teacher as heroic isolate. Thus, stories

such as those of Marva Collins (Collins & Tamarkin, 1990), Jaime Es­ calante (Mathews, 1988), Vivian Paley (2000), and Louanne Johnson

(1992) inadvertently transmit a message of the teacher as savior and

charismatic maverick without exploring the complexities of teaching

and nuanced intellectual work that undergirds pedagogical practices.



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‘j’nt:h.is chapter, I discuss the components of culturally relevant teach­

;’:q,adson-Billings, 1995) and provide practical exaniples of how teach­

_<might implement these components in their classrooms. I choose to

yide practice-based examples to remove some of the mystery and

ology tied to theory that keep teachers from doing the work de­

ed to support high levels of achievement for poor students of color.


ost every teacher-educator devoted to issues of diversity and social

‘stice finds himself or herself confronted by prospective and in-service ;;e~chers who quickly reject teaching for social justice by insisting that

‘.:there are no practical exemplars that make such teaching possible. Ase­

:tr,ester or staff development session typically ends with teachers unsure

);>fwhat they can or should do and eventually defaulting to regular rou­

”tines and practices. Nothing changes in the classroom and poor stu­

,,Aents of color are no closer to experiencing the kind of education to ,, ‘which they are entitled.

I argue that the first problem teachers confront is believing that sues

‘: cessful teaching for poor students of color is primarily about “what to

;;,,do.” Instead, I suggest that the problem is rooted in how we think­

about the social contexts, about the students, about the curriculum, and,

about instruction. Instead of the specific lessons and activities that we

• seJect to fill the day, we must begin to understand the ways our theories , and philosophies are made to manifest in the pedagogical practices and

rationales we exhibit in the classroom. The following sections briefly

describe the salient elements of teacher thinking that contribute to

what I have termed “culturally relevant teaching.”

Social Contexts

Teaching takes place not only in classrooms. It takes place in schools and communities. It takes place in local, state, national, and global con­

texts that impact students regardless of whether teachers acknowledge

them or not. How teachers think about those contexts creates an envi­

ronment for thinking about teaching. Teachers who believe that society


is fair and just believe that their students are participating on a

playing field and simply have to learn to be better competitors

other students. They also believe in a kind of social Darwinism th supports the survival of the fittest. Teachers with this outlook acc.(

that some students will necessarily fall by the wayside and experien,

academic failure.

Teachers who I term “culturally relevant” assume that an asyrnm,f

rical (even antagonistic) relationship exists between poor students’;;

color and society. Thus, their vision of their work is one of prepag7′

students to combat inequity by being highly competent and criti~ ·

conscious. While the teachers are concerned with the students whii”

in their classrooms each day, they see them in relation to a continu.’·

of struggle-past, present, and future. Thus, the AIDS crisis in bl?,

and brown communities, immigration laws, and affordable health { ·

are not merely “adult” issues, but also are a part of the social conte•’ :

which teachers attempt to do their work. .. ,, .. ,

Being aware of the social context is not an excuse for neglecting1”

classroom tasks associated with helping students to learn literacy,

meracy, scientific, and social skills. Rather, it reminds teachers of ·

larger social purposes of their work.

The Students

Of course, teachers think about their students. But how they thinkal:,’

theirstudents is a central concern of successful teaching. In my wqr

a teacher educator, I regularly see prospective teachers who apprf’

teaching with romantic notions about students. They believe thaf

goodwill and energy they bring to the classroom will be reward<, ~•·.

enthusiastic, appreciative students, who will comply with their req~?s,

and return the love they purport to give their students. Unforturiail;f

real life rarely matches that ideal. Poor students of color, like all ,f dren, live complex lives that challenge teachers’ best intent£~,

Whether teachers think of their students as needy and deficient.or;.

pable and resilient can spell the difference between pedagogy groili):~·

in compensator/perspectives and those grounded in critical andlil:{ ·


‘”YES, BUT HOW DO WE 00 IT?”‘ 165

My best exa~ples of the first perspective come from years of ob­

serving prospective teachers enter classrooms where students fail to comply with their wishes aod directives. Quickly the students are con­

structed as problems-“at risk,” behavior problems, savages-and those

constructions become self-fulfilling prophecies (Rist, 1970). Before

long, the classroom is no longer a place where students are taught and

expected to learn. Rather, it becomes a place where bodies are managed

aod maintaining order becomes the primary task. Unfortunately, many

urban schools reinforce aod reward this type of pedagogical response (Haberman, 1991).

Culturally relevant teachers envision their students as being filled

with po_ssibilities. They imagine that somewhere in the classroom is the

next Nobel laureate (a Toni Morrison), the next neurosurgeon (a Ben­ ,:jamin Carson), or the next pioneer for social justice (a Fannie Lou

Hamer). 1 This perspective moves the teachers from a position of sym­

. <-pathy (“you poor dear”)’ to one of informed empathy. This informed ·:felllpathy requires the teacher to feel with the students rather than feel

‘Jor them. Feeling with the students builds a sense of solidarity berween ‘)he teacher and the students but does not excuse students frolll working

:µard in pursuit of excellence. ·,,;,,.Culturally relevant teachers recognize that their students are “school

endent.”3 I use this term to suggest that some students are success­

‘ in spite of their schooling, as a result of material resources and cul-

: tahcapital. If they have incompetent or uncaring teachers, their

),tents aod families have the resources ro supplement and enhaoce the

· oling experience. However, most poor students of color look to

ools as the vehicle for social advancement and equity. They are to­ . dependent on the school to help them achieve a variety of goals.

, h1 the s.cbool fails to provide for those needs, these students are

,ed out of social aod cultural benefits. For example, a number of

r·students of color find themselves in classrooms with teachers who

,unqualified or underqualified to teach (Ladson-Billings, 2005).

}¢ striking is that some of these children find themselves in class­ ··1)1s where there is no regularly assigned teacher. Instead, the stu­

spend entire school years with a series of substitute teachers who

oresponsibility for supporting their academic success.


The Curriculum

Typically, teachers are expected to follow a prescribed curriculum that

state and local administrators have approved. In many large school dis­

tricts, that approved curriculum may merely be a textbook. In several

poorly performing districts, that curriculum may be a script that teachers

are required to recite and follow. I argue that teachers engaged in cultur­

ally relevant pedagogy must be able to deconstruct, construct, and recon­ struct (Shujaa, 1994) the curriculum. “Deconstruction” refers to the

ability to take apart the “official knowledge” (Apple, 2000) to expose its wealmesses, myths, distortions, and omissions. “Construction” refers to the ability to build curriculum. Similar to the work that John Dewey

(1997) advocated, construction relies on the experiences and knowledge

that teachers and their students bring to the classroom. “Reconstruction”

requires the work of rebuilding the curriculum that was previously taken

apart and examined. It is never enough to tear down. Teachers must be

prepared to build up and fill in the holes that emerge when students begin

to use critical analysis as they attempt to make sense of the curriculum.

The perspective of culturally relevant teachers is that the curricu­

lum is a cultural artifact and as such is not an ideologically neutral doc­

ument. Whereas the highly ideological nature of the curriculum is evident in high-profile communities where there are fights over evolu­

tion versus creation or sex education curricula that advocate safe sex

versus abstinence, it is more subtle and pernicious in other curriculum

documents. For example, the history curriculum reflects ethnocentric

and sometimes xenophobic attitudes and regularly minimizes the faults of the United States and some European nations. Even an area such as

mathematics is susceptible to ideology that leaves poor children of

color receiving mathematics curricula that focus on rote memorization

and algorithms whereas middle-class students have early access to alge­

braic thinking and more conceptually grounded approaches.


No curriculum can teach itself. It does not matter if teachers have ac­

cess to exceptional curriculum if they do not have the instructional

skills to teach all st:i

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by our schools.


· skills to teach all students. College and university professors have the

means to provide students with intellectually challenging and critical

knowledge, but few professors are able to teach the wide variety of

students who show up in K-12 classrooms. Precollegiate teachers must

have a wide repertoire of teaching strategies and techniques to ensure that all students can access the curriculum. Unlike postsecondary

tea_chers, K-12 teachers teach students who may or may not wish to be

students. That means that their teaching must engage, cajole, convict,

and perhaps even fool students into participation. Culturally relevant teachers understand that some of the pedagogical strategies that make

teaching easier or more convenient for them may be exactly the kind

of instruction they should avoid. For example, placing students in abil­

ity groups or tracks may serve to alienate struggling students further. Lecturing, no matter how efficient, may do nothing more than create

greater gaps between successful students and those who are not. Even

those strategies that progressive educators see as more democratic may

fail to create the equal access teachers desire. In this instance, I refer to

the almost unanimous belief that cooperative learning is a preferred

teaching strategy. Many teacher preparation programs emphasize co­

operative and other group strategies as preferable to more traditional classroom arrangements. However, when poorly managed, coopera­

tive learning creates unequal workloads and instances in which stu­

dents exclude other students from the process. High achievers

sometimes resent being placed with struggling students and struggling

students can be embarrassed by their inability to be full participants in

the group setting. Thus, if teachers must consider the ways that the social contexts of

schooling impact their work md that their context may not be support­

ive, what, if anything, can they do? I argue that teachers must engage in a culturally relevant pedagogy that is designed to attend to the context

while simultmeously prepa_ring students for the traditional societal de­

mmds (i.e., high school completion, postsecondary education, work­

place requirements, active md participatory citizenship). I next address

the elements of culturally relevant pedagogy that teachers must attend

to in order to achieve success with students who have been underserved

by our schools.



When I wrote the words “academic achievement” almost ten years ago,

I never dreamed that I would regret using this term. What I had in

mind has nothing to do with the oppressive atmosphere of standard­

ized tests; the wholesale retention of groups of students; scripted cur­

ricula; and the intimidation of students, teachers, and parents. Rather,

what I envisioned is more accurately described as “student learning”­

what it is that students actually know and are able to do as a result of

pedagogical interactions with skilled teachers. However, because I started with the term “academic achievement,” I will stay with it for

consistency’s sake.

The teachers who focus on academic achievement (i.e., student

learning) understand that this is their primary function. They are not

attempting to get students to “feel good about themselves” or learn how

to exercise self-control. Rather, they are most interested in the cultiva­

tion of students’ minds and supporting their intellectual lives. They un­

derstand that through engaged learning students will develop

self-esteem and self-control. They recognize that the outbursts and off-task behaviors are symptoms, not causes, and as teachers the one

thing they have at their disposal are pedagogical tools to draw students

into the learning in meaningful ways. Culturally relevant teachers think deeply about what they teach and

ask themselves why students should learn particular aspects of the cur­

riculum. In these classrooms, teachers are vetting everything in the cur­ riculum and often supplement the curriculum. For example, in a

culturally relevant high school English class the teacher may under­

stand that he or she has to teach Romeo and Juliet but would couch that

book in the context of students’ own struggles with parents over dating. There may even be a detailed discussion of suicide and the level of des­

peration that adolescents may experience when they cannot communi- .

cate with adults. Finally, the teacher may include some films, popular

music, or other stories that take up the theme of young, forbidden love.

The point here is that a culturally relevant teacher does not take the

book as a given. Rather, the teacher asks himself or herself specific

questions about what reading this book is supposed to accomplish. This






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same teacher might be quite explicit about the place of the text in the

literary canon and the cachet and clout students acquire when they can

speak intelligently about such texts. One of the major academic activi­

ties in the classroom of culturally relevant teachers is engaging in cri­ tique of texts and activities. Over and over students ask and are asked,

. “Why are we doing this?” “Why is this important?” and “How does this

enrich my life and/or the life of others?”

For tasks that seem mundane, teacliers may use a very pragmatic

skill (e.g., changing a tire) to help students understand how simple com­ ponent parts of a task (e.g., blocking and braking the car), are necessary

prerequisites to the larger task. The chemistry teacher may spend time

helping students learn the precise way to light and use a Bunsen burner, not because lighting a Bunsen burner is a marketable skill, but because

having a lit Bunsen burner will be important for many of the subse­

quent labs.

Repeatedly, culturally relevant teachers speak in terms of long-term

academic goals for students. They rarely focus on “What should I do on

Monday?” and spend a considerable amount of their planning trying to

figure out what the semester or yearlong goals are. They share those goals with students and provide them with insights into their teaching

so that students know why they are doing what they are doing. These

teachers use many real-life and familiar examples that help the class­

room come alive. They may use metaphors to paint word pictures. One

teacher refers to the classroom experience as a trip and uses many travel

metaphors. “We’re still in San J?se and you know we’ve got to get to

L.A.” is what she might say when the class is falling behind where she

thinks it should be. Or, she can be heard to say, “Hey, Lamar, why are

you in Petaluma?” when referring to a student who is off task and doing

the exact opposite of what she wishes to accomplish.

Interestingly, Foster (1989) describes a community college teaclier

who strnctured her classroom as an economy. Even with adult learners,

this teaclier understood that the metaphorical language helped her stu­

dents visualize their objectives. The students who were “on welfare”

wanted to get jobs in “the bank.” The symbolism and iniagery res­

onated with the students and the teacher used it as a way to get the very

best out of her students.



Of the three terms (“academic achievement,” “cultural competence,”

“sociopolitical consciousness”) that I use to describe the components of

culturally relevant pedagogy, I find the notion of cultural competence the

most difficult to convey to teachers who wish to develop their own prac­

tice in this way. One of the problems is that like academic achievement,

the term “cultural competence” has another set of meanings. Currently,

many of the helping professions—–.such as medicine, nursing, counseling,

social work-refer to something called “cultural competence.” However,

in these professions the notion of cultural competence refers to helping

dominant group members become 1;1ore skillful in reading the cultural

messages of their clients. As a consequence, novice practitioners in these

fields practice aspects of their work in ways that represent culturally sen­

sitive behaviors-not pointing; speaking in direct, declarative sentences;

directing questions and statements to an elder. Unfortunately, these prac­

tices reflect a static and essentialized view of culture and tend to reinforce

stereotypes, rather than dispel them.

My sense of cultural competence refers to helping students to rec­

ognize and honor their own cultural beliefs and practices while acquir­

ing access to the wider culture, where they are likely to have a chance of

improving their socioeconomic status and making informed decisions

about the lives they wish to lead. The point of my work is to maintain

teachers’ focus on what improves the lives of the students, families, and

communities they serve-not to make teachers feel better about them­

selves. I presume that teachers who do learn more about their students’

backgrounds, cultures, and experiences feel more capable and effica­

cious in their work as teachers, but the teachers are not my primary ob­

jective. In the most instrumental way, I think of the teachers as a vehicle

for improving students’ lives.

Teachers who foster cultural competence understand that they must

work back and forth between the lives of their students and the life of

school. Teachers have an obligation to expose their students to the very

culture that oppresses them. That may seem paradoxical, but without

the skills and knowledge of the dominant culture, students are unlikely

to be able to engage that culture to effect meaningful change.

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