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Intensifying Multicultural Education Through Critical Pedagogy, Antiracism, and the Need to Unschool  

John E. Petrovic and April Caddell

Multicultural education was born of racial and ethnic minority groups’ struggles to have their experiences, cultures, and ways of life recognized in dominant institutions. In schools, it means teaching the cultures, histories, values, and perspectives of different cultural groups, especially those of historically marginalized peoples. Since this approach can take perniciously shallow forms, educators have sought to incorporate the ideals of critical pedagogy and antiracism to inform a practice of “critical multicultural education.” Critical pedagogy rejects claims that knowledge is politically neutral and posits education and teaching as political acts. Informed by critical theory, critical pedagogy seeks to awaken students to the social, cultural, political, and economic milieu in which dominant forms of knowledge are constructed and through which power functions. A goal of critical pedagogy is for students to understand the way that injustice manifests and is reproduced and, ideally, to engage in praxis—critical reflection and action—toward societal transformation. Antiracist scholarship has sought to switch discussion of race and racism away from minority groups and, instead, to analyze white racism and whiteness as integral features of dominant institutions. It connects to critical theory in several ways, foremost of which is the position that racism was born of capitalist social relations. Like critical pedagogy, antiracist education seeks to understand, reveal, and counter structural forms of oppression. As such, antiracist education can be more widely presented as anti-Xist education, that is, antisexist, antiableist, antiheterosexist, and so on. In other words, the importance of antiracist education, as informed by critical race theory, lies not only in centering issues of race and racism. Black feminist scholars, for example, also point to the concern of the “intersectionality” of race, class, gender, and other sites of oppression. Lastly, unschooling also links to critical theory to the extent that traditional schooling represents and promotes the opposite of freedom and critical self-reflection. From a Marxian standpoint, unschooling understands the material reality of schools as manipulative, not convivial, and as reproductive of the status quo, not transformational. Compulsory, competitive schooling, according to this view, undermines learning and, instead, focuses on production, consumption, and spectation. Unschooling, instead, puts the power, responsibility, and, importantly, freedom for learning in the hands of the learner. Born of and informed by a number of different social movements (civil rights movements; women’s liberation, gay, and lesbian rights movements; indigenous rights movements; etc.), critical multicultural education, then, stands as multiculturalism plus both collective and individual empowerment for responsible, critical engagement against structural forms of oppression.

Article

Curriculum Studies, Critical Geography, and Critical Spatial Theory  

Robert Helfenbein and Gabriel Huddleston

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, spatial terms have emerged and proliferated in academic circles, finding application in several disciplines extending beyond formal geography. Critical geography, a theoretical addition to the home discipline of geography as opposed to being a new discipline in itself, has seen application in many other disciplines, mostly represented by what is collectively called social theory (i.e., sociology, cultural studies, political science, and literature). The application of critical spatial theory to educational theory in general, and curriculum theorizing in particular, points to new trajectories for both critical geographers and curriculum theorists. The growth of these two formations have coincided with the changes in the curriculum studies field, especially as it relates to the Reconceptualization of that field during the 1970s. In terms of critical spatial theory especially, the exploration of how we conceptualize place and space differently has allowed curriculum studies scholars to think more expansively about education, schools, pedagogy, and curriculum. More specifically, it has allowed a more fluid understanding of how curriculum is formed and shaped over time by framing the spatial as something beyond a “taken-for-granted” fact of our lives. The combination of spatial theory and curriculum studies has produced a myriad of explorations to see how oppression works in everyday spaces. The hope inherent in this work is that if we can understand how space is (re)produced with inherent inequities, we can produce spaces, especially educative ones, that are more just and equitable.

Article

Critical White Studies and Curriculum Theory  

James C. Jupp and Pauli Badenhorst

Critical White studies (CWS) refers to an oppositional and interdisciplinary body of historical, social science, literary, and aesthetic intellectual production that critically examines White people’s individual, collective, social, and historical experiences. CWS reflexively assumes the embeddedness of researcher identities within the research, including the different positionalities of White researchers and researchers of Color within White supremacy writ large as well as whiteness in the social sciences and curriculum theory. As an expression of the historical consciousness shift sparked by anglophone but also francophone African-Atlantic and pan-African intellectuals, CWS emerged within the 20th century’s emancipatory social sciences tied to Global South independence movements and Global North civil rights upheavals. Initiated by cultural studies theorists Stuart Hall and Dick Dyer in the early 80s, CWS has proliferated through two waves. CWS’ first wave (1980–2000) advanced a race-evasive analytical arc with the following ontological and epistemological conceptual-empirical emphases: whiteness as hegemonic normativity, White identity and nation-building, White privilege and property, and White color-blind racism and race evasion. CWS’ second-wave (2000–2020) advanced an anti-essentializing analytical arc with pedagogical conceptual-empirical emphases: White materiality and place, White complexities and relationalities, Whiteness and ethics, and social psychoanalyses in whiteness pedagogies. Always controversial, CWS proliferated as a “hot topic” in social sciences throughout the 90s. Regarding catalytic validity, several CWS concepts entered mass media and popular discussions in 2020 to understand White police violence against Black people—violence of which George Floyd’s murder is emblematic. In curriculum theory, CWS forged two main “in-ways.” In the 1990s, CWS entered the field through Henry Giroux, Joe Kincheloe, Shirley Steinberg, and colleagues who advanced critical whiteness pedagogies. This line of research is differently continued by Tim Lensmire and his colleagues Sam Tanner, Zac Casey, Shannon Macmanimon, Erin Miller, and others. CWS also entered curriculum theory via the field of White teacher identity studies advanced by Sherry Marx and then further synthesized by Jim Jupp, Theodorea Berry, Tim Lensmire, Alisa Leckie, Nolan Cabrera, and Jamie Utt. White teacher identity studies is frequently applied to work on predominantly White teacher education programs. Besides these in-ways, CWS’ conceptual production, especially the notion of “whiteness as hegemonic normativity” or whiteness, disrupted whitened business-as-usual in curriculum theory between 2006 and 2020. Scholars of Color supported by a few White scholars called out curriculum theory’s whiteness and demanded change in a field that centered on race-based epistemologies and indigenous cosmovisions in conferences and journals. CWS might play a role in working through the as-of-yet unresolved conflict over the futurity of curriculum theory as a predominantly White space. A better historicized CWS that takes on questions of coloniality of power, being, and knowledge informed by feminist, decolonial, and psychoanalytic resources provides one possible futurity for CWS in curriculum theory. In this futurity, CWS is relocated as one dimension of a broad array of criticalities within curriculum theory’s critical pedagogies. This relocated CWS might advance psychoanalytically informed whiteness pedagogies that grapple with the overarching question: Can whiteness and White identities be decolonized? This field would include European critical psychoanalytic social sciences along with feminist and decolonial resources to advance a transformative shift in consciousness.

Article

Sensuous Curriculum  

Walter S. Gershon

Education is a sensory experience. This is the case regardless how a sensorium is constructed. A sensorium is how a group defines, categorizes, and conceptualizes the senses, a Western five-senses model for example. Regardless of the sociocultural norms and values a sensorium engenders, animals, human and nonhuman alike, experience their lives through the senses. From this perspective, anything that might be considered educational, regardless of context and irrespective of questions of what might “count” as schooling, is a sensory experience. Sensuous curriculum sits at the intersection of two transdisciplinary fields, curriculum and sensory studies. As its name suggests, sensuous curriculum is an expression of ongoing critical educational studies of, with, and through the senses. In so doing, sensuous curriculum brings to the fore the extraordinary nature of everyday experiences in educational ecologies, from entangled sociocultural norms and values to the ways that sensory input and interpretation inform every aspect of educational ways of being, knowing, and doing. Sensoria have always been tools for understandings, particularly for continually marginalized groups whose claims are often dismissed through Western, Eurocentric framings. For the notion and instantiation of framings require both a set of universally understood constructs and their applications as well as the necessity of the act: when framing, someone or something is always framed. Providing critical tools for the interruption of such constructs and their use, sensuous curriculum is a rich site of study in ways that are theoretically and materially significant, while offering often underutilized trajectories for the exploration of educational understandings.

Article

Critical Perspectives on Curriculum and Pedagogy  

Ganiva Reyes, Racheal Banda, and Brian D. Schultz

Throughout the history of the United States there has been a long trajectory of dialogue within the field of education around curriculum and pedagogy. Scholars have centered questions such as: What is curriculum? What knowledge should count as curriculum? Who gets to decide? Who does not? And, in turn, what is the pedagogical process of organizing knowledge, subject matter, and skills into curriculum? While many scholars have worked on various approaches to curriculum, the work of Black intellectual scholar Anna Julia Cooper serves as an important point of departure that highlights how curriculum and pedagogy have long been immersed in broader sociopolitical issues such as citizenship, democracy, culture, race, and gender. Starting from the late 19th century, Cooper took up curricular and pedagogical questions such as: What is the purpose of education? What is the role of the educator? And what is the purpose of being student-centered? These are important questions that pull together various traditions and fields of work in education that offer different approaches to curriculum. For instance, the question of whether it’s best to center classical subjects versus striving for efficiency in the development of curriculum has been a debated issue. Across such historical debates, the work of mainstream education scholars such as John Dewey, Ralph Tyler, and Hilda Taba have long been recognized; however, voices from scholars of color, such as Cooper, have been left out or overlooked. Thus, the contributions of Black intellectual scholars such as Cooper, Carter G. Woodson, and other critical scholars of color are brought to the forefront to provide deeper knowledge about the development of curriculum and pedagogy. The work of marginalized scholars is also connected with reconceptualist efforts in curriculum studies to consider current conceptual framings of schooling, curriculum, and pedagogy. Finally, critical theories of curriculum and pedagogy are further unpacked through research conducted with and alongside communities of color. This scholarship includes culturally responsive pedagogy, funds of knowledge, hip-hop pedagogy, reality pedagogy, critically compassionate intellectualism, barrio pedagogy, youth participatory action research (YPAR), and feminist of color pedagogies.

Article

Critical Race Parenting in Education  

Cheryl E. Matias and Shoshanna Bitz

Conceptualized as early as 2006 via ideas of the motherscholar, the concept of Critical Race Parenting (otherwise ParentCrit) was first identified in 2016 in an open access online journal to discuss pedagogical ways parents and children can coconstruct understanding about race, racism, whiteness, and white supremacy. Since then Critical Race Parenting/ParentCrit has become more popularized in academic circles, from peer-reviewed conference presentations to special issues by journals. The rationale behind ParentCrit definitions, theoretical roots, parallels to education, implications to education, scholarship and literature, and controversies are explicated to describe what ParentCrit is and where it came from. To effectively articulate its epistemological roots in the idea of the motherscholar to its relation to Critical Race Theory, one must delve into the purposes, evolution, and implications of ParentCrit in education.