Aaliyah Baker and Nina F. Weisling
Review: Cultivating Racial and Linguistic Diversity in Literacy Teacher Education: Teachers Like Me by Marcelle M. Haddix. New York: Routledge, 2016. 138 pp.
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Cultivating Racial and Linguistic Diversity in Literacy Teacher Education: Teachers Like Me was written by Marcelle M. Haddix, a Dean’s Associate Professor and Chair of the Reading and Language Arts Center in the School of Education at Syracuse University in New York. Haddix is an award-winning educator whose research interests focus on the educational experiences of students of color, specifically those pursuing their teaching degree in literacy and/or English. She has a bachelor’s degree in English education from Drake University, a master’s degree in education from Cardinal Stritch University, and a doctorate from Boston College.
This book was selected for review because it centers around the unique experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse teachers, a traditionally underrepresented population that the reviewers, as university faculty, strive to serve more effectively.
One of the many challenges teacher educators (referred to as faculty moving forward) face in the work of preparing teachers is the culturally and linguistically diverse context in which this work takes place, both at the university level and in elementary and secondary schools. More than ever before, teachers are working with students from a wide range of cultural, ethnic, economic, and linguistic backgrounds, yet the teaching force is still predominantly white, middle class, and female. It is not uncommon to hear faculty use terms like “culturally responsive teaching and pedagogy” when preparing these teachers for their future classrooms, the underlying assumptions that teachers will apply these principles and be able to effectively educate students from all backgrounds. However, Cultivating Racial and Linguistic Diversity in Literacy Teacher Education argues that our existing approach to culturally responsive practice is not only insufficient in its current form, but that it misses a layer of complexity entirely: the presence of cultural and linguistic diversity (or lack thereof) in university classrooms.
Two critical arguments make up Haddix’s thesis. First, she argues that faculty must continue to address cultural competence in their primarily white, middle-class, and female teachers so that they can effectively educate all students. However, this approach is inadequate and needs to include both more focus on enactment of those concepts and considerations for the needs, perspectives, and voices of future educators of color. Second, Haddix argues that there is a need to recruit, retain, and ultimately address the unique needs of future teachers of color.
To build these arguments, Haddix bridges accounts of her personal experience with other lived experiences as told through the perspectives of three women educators of color (LaToya, Natasha, and Angela) who embody multiple roles and identities. Their identities shape their realities and thus inform and influence their work as and with students. The book raises critical issues for understanding diversity through examining one’s sociocultural self, the ability to embrace multiple perspectives, and epistemological conceptions of teaching for social justice. The use of authentic African American language adds richness and fidelity to the text and highlights the multifaceted dimensions of narrative research. Haddix’s research is highly suitable for use in preservice teacher education programs as well as among current educators. Through these counterstories and through detailed descriptions of related research, Haddix effectively supports her thesis.
However, despite a strongly supported thesis, we would like to suggest the need to go beyond theory and rationale, toward provision of more specific ideas for teaching pedagogy, supports, and strategies not only based upon the experiences of future and current educators of color, but also geared toward enactment of culturally responsive, social justice-minded education by all future educators. What can schools and faculty do to include and reach all voices? to attract and retain future educators of color?
Additionally, we believe there are other intersecting, socially constructed dimensions of self needing consideration, including religion, class, gender, and ableism. For example, disability is not conceived of independent of other facets of our sociocultural identities, as evidenced by a history of overrepresentation of students of color in subjective categories of disability like Learning Disability and Emotional Behavioral Disorders (Harry, 2006). Thus all educators must be knowledgeable about these central and overlapping tenets. Haddix’s research could further situate a theoretical argument for the inclusion of these dimensions in the discussion of whiteness, race, and social justice education. Our work as former general education and special education teachers calls us to challenge the intersection of all dimensions of self in culturally responsive and social justice education. Special education and general education come together in inclusive settings in which deep understandings and relationships between the two knowledge sets must form.
Since we found the thesis critical to teacher education, we had to negotiate a disheartening reality many faculty and future educators may not share or understand the goals purported in Cultivating Racial and Linguistic Diversity in Literacy Teacher Education. Therefore, we are left with perplexing questions related to our work: If preservice teachers approach social justice education as just “another bullet to add to their resume” (p. 45), then how does one receive and use this book? If teachers employ different ideals about social justice education (the mission, theory, and practice), then what does change actually look like? What are the tools for change? Furthermore, since the goal of this book is to “think critically about how we can more intently listen to the experiences of students of color” (p. xv), if one does approach social justice as a bullet point or checklist, how might one’s lens change? We feel that the purpose of Haddix’s book is successfully achieved as it challenges faculty to think critically about their role of cultivating, interpreting, and examining cultural and linguistic diversity in the mission, theory, and practice of literacy teacher education, but are now left with the gaping and urgent question, how?
Harry, B., & Klingner, J. K. (2006). Why are so many minority students in special education?: Understanding race & disability in schools. New York: Teachers College Press.
Aaliyah Baker is Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Leadership at Cardinal Stritch University; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nina F. Weisling is Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Leadership at Cardinal Stritch University; email email@example.com.
Copyright © 2016 by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English.