Multicultural Critical Consciousness: It's the New “Caring”

Multicultural Critical Consciousness: It's the New “Caring”

Maia Niguel Moore, Michele D. Smith
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5748-7.ch003
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Students across America are observing as racial and cultural tensions rise to what some argue are reminiscent of the Jim Crow south. This chapter will explore how caring can be demonstrated to address cultural conflict in the classroom by training multiculturally conscious student affairs staff and educators to teach and model multicultural critical consciousness to their students. Furthermore, the authors will provide practical strategies for educators to use by drawing from and extending upon current culturally responsive pedagogy practiced in PreK-20 education and explore the ways in which multicultural critical consciousness can be used as a tool to promote a recursive process of self-reflection, cultural awareness, advocacy, and learning among students from all grade levels.
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Currently, issues related to cultural conflict have been a source of contentious debate. Students, staff, and faculty within the educational system have not been excluded from participating in or witnessing this on-going controversial, and often ugly, exchanges. In the current socio-political and socio-racial climate, it has become more important than ever to continue on-going efforts to train culturally responsive and multiculturally conscious educators and student affairs professionals (Gardner, 2015; Gay, 2013; Simms, 2012). A recent Center for American Progress report (2014) found that teachers of color make up 18% of public school teachers, while students of color are nearly 50% of the children they educate. Diverse classrooms are something to celebrate; however, cultural differences that accompany diversity have the potential to impact classroom interactions.

Currently, there is a color-blind caring model that many PreK-20 schools have either formally or informally adopted. This approach to education is based on the notion that race does not exist; and therefore, individual’s experiences are universal and not shaped by racial and cultural differences (Wise, 2010). This perspective in the classroom can be detrimental if educators do not consider how the experiences of students of color can be dramatically different from white students (Dixon & Rousseau, 2005). Research indicates that academic performance and achievement can be impacted by various challenges that some students of color experience such as of exposure to racism, discrimination, and microaggressions (Dixon & Rousseau, Gay, 2013; Wise, 2010). Many argue that a color-blind approach to instruction only adds insult to injury and sweeps under the rug, issues related to cultural difference and conflict (Cochran-Smith, 1995; Dixon & Rousseau, 2005; Gay, 2013). Meanwhile, cultural conflict in the classroom is becoming more widespread (Gay, 2010; Dixon & Rousseau, 2005; Gay, 2013; Spradin & Parsons, 2008).

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss an alternate approach and perspective for administrators and educators that conceptualizes caring as it relates to addressing cultural conflict in the classroom. The authors propose that a new model for caring be rooted in training multiculturally conscious and culturally responsive administrators, staff, and educators to teach and model to their students to address cultural conflict in the classroom. The chapter will draw upon the work of Geneva Gray (2010) and extend on the work of Howard-Hamilton, Richardson, and Shuford’s (1998) multicultural competence framework to discuss how administrators and educators can embody, model, and promote multicultural consciousness through knowledge, understanding, cultural appreciation, advocacy, and in facilitating safe yet courageous conversations. This research suggests that racial and cultural differences between teachers and students can have a significant impact on learning. The authors will also share data that describes racial and cultural demographics among students and teachers. The chapter will conclude by providing concrete strategies that educators and administrators can use to address cultural conflict in the classroom that demonstrate caring through multicultural critical consciousness.

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