St. Denis & Schick (2003). What makes anti-racist pedagogy in teacher education difficult? Three popular ideological assumptions.

St. Denis, V.  & Schick, C. (2003). What makes anti-racist pedagogy in teacher education difficult? Three popular ideological assumptions. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 49(1), 55–69.

“Most think they are going to learn about _the cultural other_ and be informed of strategies for how they will ‘deal with’ the other in the classroom.” (p 56)

“We are concerned that anti-racist teaching can unintentionally reinforce relations of domination in educational institutions (McCarthy & Crichlow, 1993) if the teaching fails to examine racist ideologies and the politics of racial identifications.” (p 57)

“We emphasize that power/knowledge is productive of social relations (Banks, 1993; Connell, 1993), as illustrated by the fact that school curricula mainly reflects the point of view of powerful people who organize it.” (p 59)

“We offer students a useful, if not simplified, description of power relations as three points joined in what is familiarly referred to in class as the ‘power triangle.’ We use the example of women and the work force. Point one refers to the personal level: a woman receives a low wage in a low-status, female dominated job. Point two refers to systemic relations: women earn roughly 70% of what men earn. Point three refers to the level of ideology: these inequitable employment practices are supported by the ‘commonsense’ notion that women’s work is less valuable than men’s work. A triangle indicates the interconnections and mutually reinforcing nature of these three points that are admittedly described in a simplified version. In our teaching, rather than view mainly the personal and systemic points, we believe it is important to examine the ideological assumptions that enable and support personal and systemic practices of inequality.” (p 59)

“… dominant identities rely on peripheral, marginalized, stigmatized identities for self-definition, for defining who we are because we are not them. This is described as ‘dominance through difference’ (Fellows & Razack, 1998).” (p 59)

“Students are provided with examples of the instability of racialization, including how whiteness is not a fact, but something their ancestors went to considerable effort to achieve. The example of Ukrainian immigration to Canada illustrates the ease and arbitrariness with which ancestors of many of the students were initially racialized, marginalized, and stigmatized (Luhovy, 1994). Students examine the processes and practices by which their ancestors — in adjusting to processes of Anglo colonization—were able to achieve a certain shade of idealized whiteness by Anglicizing their names, religions, and languages.” (p 60)

“… _respectability_ …” (p 60)

[“The Challenge of Three Popular Ideological Assumptions” (p 61) …]

“… others who are engaged in anti-oppressive education have found that their students tend to believe that the system is fair and equitable and that through the efforts of one’s hard work and talent, one is justly rewarded. … Ashton and Webb (1986) found that teachers tended to believe that the ‘social system works well, is essentially fair, and moves slowly but inevitably toward progress’ (p. 30).” (p 61)

[“_Ideology Assumption #1: Race doesn’t matter (culture does)_” (p 61) …]

“This denial of unequal power normalizes and makes invisible both historical and current relations of inequality. Without naming relations of inequality based on _race_, racial inequality is assumed to be an explanation for disadvantage.

“We have noticed how reluctant students are to talk about race and racial identities; they would prefer instead to talk about _cultural difference_.” (p 61)

“By claiming that ‘we’re all part of the same human race’ and that the ‘color of a person’s skin’ is invisible, students whitewash the daily advantage of white privilege (Henriques et al., 1984; Macintosh, 1998; Sleeter, 1993).” (p 63)

[“_Ideology Assumption #2: Meritocracy—Everyone has equal opportunity_” (p 63) …]

“By meritocracy we mean the assumption that everyone has equal opportunity because we are all basically the same; all that is required to get ahead is hard work, talent, and effort. This is a fundamental promise of capitalism, and [page break] students have thoroughly absorbed this commonsense cultural belief. … Although one does need effort and talent to achieve one’s goals, actual outcomes are in fact mediated in many unacknowledged ways by one’s class, gender, race, and other social identifications and positioning.” (p 63-64)

“… challenge the notion of unfettered meritocracy and its ideology of rugged individualism and self-determination.” (p 64)

“‘Individualism … emphasizes personal power to change oneself and one’s circumstances. For this reason, it often ends up disempowering women [and other minorities]. The dictum that all is possible — that every choice is available — is coincident with the view that lack of success is a result of laziness or personal failure. If a woman does not make it, it is because she has not tried hard enough—a thinly disguised version of ‘blaming the victim.’ (Briskin, 1994, p. 447)'” (p 64)

[“_Ideology Assumption #3; Goodness and innocence—by individual acts and good intentions, one can secure innocence as well as superiority_” (p 65) …]

“For those in positions of institutional superiority and advantage, one typically participates by helping others; in turn, helping others is proof of superiority.” (p 65)

“The concepts and ideological assumptions that we describe are embedded in the social fabric of our schools, communities, and the history of our nation; …” (p 67)

Selected References

  • Ashton, P.T., & Webb, R.B. (1986). Making a difference: Teachers’ sense of efficacy and student achievement. New York: Longman.
  • Banks, J.A. (1993). The canon debate, knowledge construction, and multicultural education. Educational Researcher, 22(5), 4-14.
  • Briskin, L. (1994). Feminist pedagogy: Teaching and learning liberation. In L. Erwin & D. MacLennan (Eds.), Sociology of education in Canada: Critical perspectives on theory, research and practice (pp. 443-470. Toronto, ON: Copp Clark Longman
  • Connell, R.W. (1993). Schools and social justice. Toronto, ON: Our Schools Ourselves.
  • Fellows, M.L., & Razack, S. (1998). The race to innocence: Confronting hierarchical relations among women. Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, 1, 335-352.
  • Henriques, J., Holloway, W., Urwin, C , Venn, C , & Walkerdine, V. (1984). Changing the subject: Psychology, social regulation and subjectivity. London: Methuen.
  • Luhovy, Y. (Producer/Director), & Haig, D. (Executive Producer). (1994). Freedom had a price [VHS]. National Film Board of Canada.
  • Macintosh, P. (1998). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In P. Rothenberg (Ed.), Race, class, and gender in the United States: An integrated study (pp. 165-169). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • McCarthy, C , & Crichlow, W. (Eds.). (1993). Race, identity and representation in education. New York: Routledge.
  • Sleeter, C E . (1993). How white teachers construct race. In C. McCarthy & W. Crichlow (Eds.), Race, identity and representation in education (pp. 157-171). New York: Routledge.
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