Standing Against the Wind: Empowering Minority Voices Through Culturally Enriched Teacher Candidate Training

Standing Against the Wind: Empowering Minority Voices Through Culturally Enriched Teacher Candidate Training

Rebecca J. Blankenship (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7787-4.ch004
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In the wake of an increasingly divisive sociopolitical climate in the United States, there is a sense of immediate urgency among institutions of higher education to speak with a united voice in terms of maintaining the post-civil rights era principles of providing equitable access to educational opportunities for all students. Students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion, or socioeconomic status should be afforded equal access to sound educational opportunities. Thusly, the next generation of teachers must be not only instructionally competent in their grade or subject area but also be capable of adapting that instruction to meet the sociocultural and socioemotional needs of the students they serve. From this charge, a larger conversation emerges calling for a change in the existing narrative related to teaching marginalized populations away from political banter towards the release of silent voices that have the agentic potential to engage as voices of authentic change.
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One of the most effective tools that any government can use in the suppression of its citizenry is the control of access to educational opportunity. There is nothing more threatening to a group in power than an educated populace. There are significant examples that permeate our world history dating as far back as the pharaohs. However, we do not have to travel very far in our own national history to find prime examples of how local and state governments have manipulated our public schools for overt political purposes in a concentrated effort to marginalize a specific population. For the United States, this marginalization is particularly noted in the southern states whose rich and soulful traditions are still clouded by their long time struggles with racial oppression among historically black communities. This is particular evident in the lack of access to equal education, especially noted among our young black student population (Darling-Hammond, 1998).

Today’s 21st century public school classrooms are microcosmic representations of the larger multicultural population that characterizes much of the United States. It is projected that by the year 2045, the population of the United States will be a majority minority (specifically characterized by micro minorities1) as the growth rate among racial minority populations steadily increases (Frey, 2018). Further, it is predicted that by 2025, the majority of students enrolled in K-12 public schools will be predominantly represented by minority populations (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). Accordingly, the modern classroom environment should reflect the multicultural and socioeconomic diversity of today’s society by creating milieus that enable all student members to engage in learning opportunities that are truly reflective of their unique sociocultural experiences while encouraging students to develop an eventual empathetic sense of respect and appreciation for other cultural and economic backgrounds different from their own. The purpose of this heuristic writing is to suggest a reconceptualization of the current model of teacher educator training (specifically the training of Black educators) to reflect better the culturally diverse needs of the 21st classroom using the foundations of critical theory and agentic pedagogic practice.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Brown v. Board of Education: Landmark 1954 decision by the United States Supreme Court declaring the segregation of white and black students in public schools to be unconstitutional.

Race to the Top: A competitive grant offered from 2009-2015 by the United States Department of Education to public school districts as an incentive to improve the quality of teachers and student learning outcomes by awarding funding to districts that could demonstrate marked improvements on standardized test scores.

Micro-Minorities: Defined as a sub-group within a majority-minority identifying with one or more ethnic or racial groups.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Institutions of higher education established prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the specific intention of primarily serving African-American students.

Sociocultural Theory: A psychological theory introduced by Russian psychologist Leve Vygotsky in the mid-1920s suggesting an inseparable link between mind, brain, and culture.

Minority Serving Institution (MSI): An institution of higher education in which the majority of the student body, faculty, and staff are non-white.

Primarily White Institution: An institution of higher education in which the majority of the student body, faculty, and staff are white.

Multicultural Education: A set of educational strategies designed to assist teachers in creating classroom environments and learning opportunities that are responsive to the needs of students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Marginalized Populations: The social exclusion of individuals or people from various rights, opportunities, and resources solely based on their race or ethnicity.

Every Student Succeeds Act: 2015 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 extending the federal government’s expanded role in public education focusing specifically on enhanced accountability among stakeholders.

Five Faces of Oppression: Defined by Iris Marion Young as including violence, exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, and cultural imperialism.

Civil Rights Act of 1964: Enacted in 1964, the tenets of the act specifically prevent discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in addition to preventing unequal voter registration rights and segregation based on race in public schools, accommodations, and employment.

Socioemotional Selectivity Theory: Developed by Stanford psychologist Laura Carstensen, the theory addresses emotional motivation over the course of an individual’s life span.

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