Zeus Leonardo is an Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Studies in Education at University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Leonardo’s work is guided by an attempt to capture “the real experiences of race, both by whites and people of color.” He argues that whiteness has not been historically marked by a certain sense of rigidity, but instead, has the ability to flex, change, and morph in order to ensure its survival. Moreover, Dr. Leonardo argues, the construct of whiteness continues to shape global cultural identities even as it fragments our total understanding of race. By embracing a new, if not uncomfortable understanding of race and race relations, Dr. Leonardo believes that a more genuine sense of multiculturalism can be fostered.
Since the late 1980s, education has witnessed the creation of a new subfield of study called “Whiteness Studies.” Since the arrival of Peggy McIntosh’s (1989) essay on white privilege, David Roediger’s (1991) documentation of the history of the white working class in the U.S., and Ruth Frankenberg’s (1993) interviews showcasing white women’s vacillation between evading and recognizing race, a veritable explosion of writings centering whiteness gives educators a new arsenal for analyzing schooling. Overall, the innovation of Whiteness Studies has helped educators focus on the contours of racial privilege, or the other side of the race question that has long been neglected. Rather than the usual, “What does it mean to be a person of color?” it asks, “What does it mean to be White in U.S. society?” Traditionally, race analysis focused on the experiences and developments of communities of color, their struggles with racism, and hopes of one day ending it. In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois (1904/1989) posed the question to African Americans: “How does it feel to be a problem?” Partly ironic in the sense that African Americans were on the receiving end of racism, the question was nonetheless profound in extrapolating what life is like when you are perceived to be a problem within the audacious assumptions of American democracy. The turn to whiteness, which is now in full swing only two decades after the initial works, perhaps asks Whites the same question without the implicit irony: “How does it feel to be the problem?” This time and coming mainly from White scholars writing about whiteness, the tone is more literal, even accusatory. How do we scaffold educational leaders to adopt the study of whiteness in a critical way?
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Dr. Cobb is the Administrative Coordinator for Los Angeles Unified School District’s Office of Academic English Mastery/Standard English Learner Programs. Its mission is two-fold: to eliminate educational disparities for African American, Mexican American, Native American, and Hawaiian American students; and to train teachers, administrators, and support staff in cultural responsiveness to ensure equitable access to quality education for historically under-served students. For twenty years Dr. Cobb has been an independent training consultant, providing training in culturally relevant and responsive education; change management; leadership development; strategic planning; and coalition building.
Who are Standard English Language Learners?
Standard English Learners (SELs) are students for whom Standard English is not native, whose home languages differ in structure and form from the language of school [i.e. standard American or academic English]. These students are generally classified as “English Only” African American, Hawaiian American, Mexican American, and Native American because their home language incorporates English vocabulary while embodying phonology, grammar, and sentence structure rules transitioned from indigenous/native languages other than English including African languages, Native American languages, Hawaiian languages and Latin American Spanish.
David Gibson is creator of simSchool (http://www.simschool.org), a classroom flight simulator for training teachers, currently funded by the US Department of Education FIPSE program and eFolio, an online performance assessment system. His research and publications include work on complex systems analysis and modeling of education, Web applications and the future of learning, the use of technology to personalize education, and the potential for games and simulation-based learning. He founded The Global Challenge Award, a team and project-based learning and scholarship program for high school students that engages small teams in studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics in order to solve global problems.
“What is going on with Cathy and Javier today? I thought they would LIKE working together.” “Bill’s head has been down for most of the second half of the class, but I know he loves this class.”
Good teachers constantly negotiate a balance between the tools at their disposal, their pedagogy, and their knowledge of content in ever-changing contexts – the intersecting systems of their classrooms, their school, and the family and community lives of their increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse students.