Beyond Celebrating Diversity: Creating
Equitable Learning Environments w/
Multicultural Education
By Paul C. Gorski
March 2007
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I. Introduction: Who We Are
1.
2.
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Who is in the room?
My background and lenses
I. Introduction: Agenda
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
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Introductory Blabber
Starting Assumptions
Warm-Up Activity
Conceptualizing Multicultural Education
Dimensions of Equity in a Learning
Environment
I. Introduction: Agenda Cont’d
1.
2.
3.
4
Inclusion/Exclusion
Intro. to Multicultural Curriculum
Stages of Multicultural Curriculum
Development
I. Introduction: Primary Arguments
1.
2.
3.
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Multicultural education, at its heart, is about
creating equitable and just learning
environments for all people in a learning
community
It is about curriculum, and it’s about more
than curriculum
Being a multicultural educator involves
shifts of consciousness that inform
comprehensive shifts in practice
I. Introduction: Primary Arguments
4. Much of the work that goes into eliminating
the achievement gap is misguided, and
creates more inequity than equity
5. There is something we can do about it
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I. Introduction: Objectives
1.
2.
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Develop deep understanding of the process
of creating an equitable learning
environment
Connect curriculum development to
pedagogy, classroom climate, and context
for a broad vision of “equitable learning
environment”
I. Introduction: Warning!!!
I do not have any of the following:
 “The” multicultural curriculum formula or
workbook,
 A tidy set of activities for you to implement
in your classroom tomorrow, or
 A single book or poster or video that will
make any classroom “multicultural.”
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I. Introduction: However…
I do have all of the following:
 A framework for thinking complexly and
critically about educational equity,
 Strategies for creating equitable learning
environments based on your curricular and
pedagogical expertise, and
 Some difficult, sometimes even
uncomfortable, questions about what is and
what could be in education.
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I. Introduction: Consciousness of
a Multicultural Educator
You will get the most out of this workshop if:
 You allow yourself to be challenged.
 You react openly to cognitive dissonance.
 You acknowledge your own great expertise.
 You acknowledge your need for even
greater expertise.
 You challenge yourself to think deeply and
critically.
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II. Starting Assumptions
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II. Starting Assumption #1

All students deserve the best possible education we
can provide, regardless of:
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–
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Socioeconomic status or class
Gender
Religion
Citizenship status
(Dis)ability
Race or ethnicity
Sexual Orientation
Etc.
II. Starting Assumption #2

Educational equity is deeper than simple
curricular content
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Pedagogy
Assessment
Classroom/School Climate
Distribution of Power
II. Starting Assumption #3

Education is NOT politically neutral
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We decide which readings and activities to use in
class
We decide how students are to be assessed
We decide engage (or don’t engage) students in
the learning process
And so on...
II. Starting Assumption #4

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The problem of educational inequity is one of
consciousness, not only one of practice
– Impossibility of implementing a multicultural
education if one doesn’t think and see
multiculturally
– Even with a great curriculum, I cannot teach
against racism if I am a racist
– Shaking free from traditional models of teaching
and learning (and asking, “to whose benefit..?”)
II. Starting Assumption #5

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The “achievement gap” is not as much an
“achievement gap” as an “opportunity gap”
II. Starting Assumption #6

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A single teacher cannot undo systemic
inequities in the school system or larger
society.
– But at the very least we can make sure
we’re not replicating those inequities in our
own curricula and pedagogies.
II. Starting Assumption #7

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Gross inequities exist in our public schools
– And these inequities, and the resulting
achievement gap, will not be eliminated by
Taco Night, the International Fair, or other
activities that, however fun, do not address
racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism,
and other oppressions in educational
policy and practice.
II. Starting Assumption #7:
Gross Inequities
Compared with low-poverty U.S. schools, highpoverty U.S. schools have:
 More teachers teaching in areas outside their
certification subjects;
 More serious teacher turnover problems;
 More teacher vacancies;
 Larger numbers of substitute teachers;
 More limited access to computers and the Internet;
 Inadequate facilities (such as science labs);
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II. Starting Assumption #7:
Gross Inequities (cont’d)
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More dirty or inoperative bathrooms;
More evidence of vermin such as cockroaches and
rats;
Insufficient classroom materials
Less rigorous curricula;
Fewer experienced teachers;
Lower teacher salaries;
Larger class sizes; and
Less funding.
II. Starting Assumption #7:
Gross Inequities (references)
Barton, P.E. (2004). Why does the gap persist? Educational
Leadership 62(3), 8-13.
Barton, P.E. (2003). Parsing the achievement gap: Baselines for
tracking progress. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Carey, K. (2005). The funding gap 2004: Many states still shortchange
low-income and minority students. Washington, D.C.: The
Education Trust.
National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (2004). Fifty
years after Brown v. Board of Education: A two-tiered education
system. Washington, D.C.: Author.
Rank, M.R. (2004). One nation, underprivileged: Why American
poverty affects us all. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
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Warm-Up Activity
Morning Calisthenics
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III. Conceptualizing Multicultural
Education
Contextualizing
Multicultural Curriculum
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III. Conceptualizing Multicultural
Education

How do you define multicultural education?
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–

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Twos or threes
Quick report back
Where do you get your perceptions about
what multicultural education is?
III. Conceptualizing Multicultural
Education
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
Multicultural education is a movement and
process for creating an equitable and just
learning environment for all students

Definitions vary, but five key principles are
agreed upon across the literature
III. Conceptualizing Multicultural
Education
Principle #1
Multicultural education is a political
movement that attempts to secure
social justice for individuals and
communities, regardless of race, ethnicity,
gender, home language, sexual orientation,
(dis)ability, religion, socioeconomic status,
or any other individual or group identity.
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III. Conceptualizing Multicultural
Education
Principle #2
Multicultural education recognizes that,
while some individual classroom practices
are consistent with multicultural education
philosophies, social justice is an
institutional matter, and as such, can be
secured only through comprehensive
reform.
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III. Conceptualizing Multicultural
Education
Principle #3
Multicultural education insists that
comprehensive reform can be achieved
only through a critical analysis of
systems of power and privilege.
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III. Conceptualizing Multicultural
Education
Principle #4
The underlying goal of multicultural
education—the purpose of this critical
analysis—is to provide every student with
an opportunity to achieve to her or
his fullest capability.
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III. Conceptualizing Multicultural
Education
Principle #5
Multicultural education is good education
for all students.
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IV. Dimensions of Equitable Education
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IV. Dimensions of Equitable
Education
1. What our students bring to the classroom
2. What we
bring to the
classroom
4. Pedagogy
3. Curriculum content
Adapted from the work of Maurianne Adams and Barbara J. Love (2006).
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IV. Dimensions of Equitable
Education
1. What Students Bring to the Classroom
 Past educational experiences (it’s not always
all about us)
 Complex identities, prejudices, biases
 Expectations about the roles of students and
teachers
 Varying learning styles, intelligences, ways of
illustrating learning
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IV. Dimensions of Equitable
Education
2. What We Bring to the Classroom
 Complex socializations, identities, biases,
and prejudices
 Notions about the purposes of education and
our roles as teachers
 A teaching style, often related to our own
preferred learning styles and how we’ve
been taught
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IV. Dimensions of Equitable
Education
3. Curriculum Content
 Course materials: Who’s represented in readings,
examples, illustrations
 Perspective and worldview: Whose voices are
centered, whose are “other”ed
 Is content, whenever possible, made relevant to the
lives of the students?
 What is the “hidden curriculum”?
 Are multicultural issues addressed explicitly?
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IV. Dimensions of Equitable
Education
4. Pedagogy
 Focus on critical, complex thinking and asking critical
questions
 Paying attention to inequity in classroom processes
 Attending to sociopolitical relationships (power and
privilege) in the classroom
 Acknowledging student knowledge through problemposing, dialogue, and general student-centeredness
 Using authentic assessment techniques
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Seeing the Intersections:
A Narrative Activity
Inclusion and Exclusion
in Our Educations
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V. Student Outcomes & Equitable
Practice
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V. Student Outcomes
Clarifications
1.
We can work toward these outcomes in individual
classes, but usually they’re reachable only through
systemic reform. So the question for all of us is,
How can I within my context contribute to moving
students toward these outcomes?
2.
Because multicultural education is as much about
unlearning as about learning, it’s a process, not an
immediate transformation.
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V. Student Outcomes
Outcome #1
Students will think critically, particularly about
those things they’ve been taught previously
not to think critically about.
Examples: Consumer culture, US foreign
policy, technology as the “great equalizer”
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V. Student Outcomes
Outcome #2
Students will have considered their own biases
and prejudices, worked to understand where
those biases and prejudices come from, and
identified strategies for continued reflective
learning.
Examples: Racism, sexism, US-centrism
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V. Student Outcomes
Outcome #3
Students will understand how every field of
knowledge can be used both to oppress
people and to promote social justice.
Examples: Eugenics v. environmental justice
movement; the Eurocentric literary canon v.
critical studies
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V. Student Outcomes
Outcome #4
Students will understand how to apply skills
and knowledge to real-world problems.
Examples: Applying engineering to urban
planning; applying arts to social activism;
applying computer science to political
organizing
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V. Student Outcomes
Outcome #5
Students will feel empowered to continue
seeking knowledge related to course content.
Examples: Taking additional classes in an area
of interest, pursuing their own growth, etc.
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V. Student Outcomes
Outcome #6
Because they have seen themselves and their lives
reflected in coursework, students won’t see their
identities as detrimental to a possible interest in a
particular field.
Examples: Women identifying as future engineers; men
identifying as future teachers; students of color
identifying as future scientists
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V. Student Outcomes
Outcome #7
Students will see their lives and work as
interconnected to the lives of the full diversity
of humanity.
Examples: Wealthy US students recognizing
the connection between their consumption
and poverty in other parts of the world.
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VI. How We Get There: The
Equitable Learning Environment
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
Part 1: What Your Students Bring to
the Classroom
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
1. What Students Bring into the Classroom
A. Find ways to challenge stereotypes (both in
society and your own field)
Example: Albert Einstein as a white, male
scientist who wrote very progressive essays
about racism, imperialism, etc.
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
1. What Students Bring into the Classroom
B. Watch for and challenge student behaviors
and relationships that reflect stereotypical
roles
Example: Men assuming the lead in lab
activities, women being “note-taker” in small
groups
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
1. What Students Bring into the Classroom
C. Be thoughtful about how you create
cooperative teams or small groups
Example: Avoid temptation to “distribute”
people from under-represented groups
(tokenism)
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
1. What Students Bring into the Classroom
D. Understand students’ reactions to you and
your social identities in context
Example: Even if you don’t think much about
your whiteness (for example), it may mean
something significant to students of color
who may only rarely not have white
professors
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
1. What Students Bring into the Classroom
E. Help students un-learn the ways of being
and seeing that lend themselves to
prejudice
Example: Dichotomous thinking, competitive
nature of learning (NOTE: this also means
WE have to un-learn)
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
Part 2: What You Bring to the
Classroom
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
A. Identify and work to eliminate your biases,
prejudices, and assumptions (yes, you do
have them) about various groups of
students
Example: Race/ethnicity, gender, religion,
sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic
status, (dis)ability, first language, etc.
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
B. Identify and work to broaden your teaching
style (which, according to research,
probably suits your learning style)
Note: Research shows that two elements most
effect how somebody teaches: (1) their
preferred learning style, and (2) how they
were taught what they’re teaching
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
C. Identify and work on your “hot buttons”
Question: What are the issues that set you off
to the point that you become an ineffective
educator/facilitator?
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
D. Provide students with periodic opportunities
to share anonymous feedback
Note: Students already feeling disempowered
and disconnected are not likely to approach
you about your teaching or curriculum
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
E. Share examples of when you’ve struggled to
climb out of the box and to see the world
and your field in their full complexity
Note: When we make ourselves vulnerable we
make it easier for students to do the same
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
F. Consider the significance of the professor/student
power relationship and what this means re: student
learning
Question: What might it mean to be a white male
computer science professor teaching a young
African American woman in a field historically
hostile to African American women?
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
G. Identify the gaps in your knowledge about
equity issues and pursue the information to
fill those gaps
Point: I cannot teach anti-classism if I’m
unwilling to deal with my own classism
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
H. Build the skills necessary to intervene
effectively when equity issues arise
Examples: Racist joke or comment, sexual
harassment, men talking over women
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
2. What You Bring into the Classroom
I. Mind your compliments
Point: Research indicates that educators,
regardless of gender, are most likely to
compliment male students on their
intelligence. Female students? On their
appearance.
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
Part 3: Curriculum Content
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
3. Curriculum Content
A. Assign tasks that challenge traditional social
roles
Example: Assign men to be note-takers,
women to be group facilitators
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
3. Curriculum Content
B. Try centering the sources you previously
may have used as supplements
Example: Slave narratives as central history
texts instead of supplements to a more
Eurocentric framing of history
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
3. Curriculum Content
C. Avoid other-ing; weave diverse voices and
sources seamlessly together instead of
having separate sections or units
Example: No units on “women poets” or “Latino
voices,” etc.
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
3. Curriculum Content
D. Discuss ways people in your field have used
(and continue to use) their scholarship and
platforms to advocate for social justice
Examples: Leontyne Price, Howard Zinn,
Stephen J. Gould, Ida B. Wells, Mark Twain
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
3. Curriculum Content
E. Discuss ways people in your field have used
(and continue to use) their scholarship and
platforms to support inequity and injustice
Examples: “Science”: eugenics; “journalists”:
refusal to critique Bush foreign policy during
war-time; etc.
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
3. Curriculum Content
F. Discuss the history of oppression and
exclusion in your field and how this has
affected knowledge bases in your field
Examples: Women and STEM fields (and law,
business, etc.)
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
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3. Curriculum Content
G. Vary your instructional materials as a way to
draw in students with various learning
styles
Suggestion: Consider visual, tactile, aural, and
other dimensions of your instructional
materials
Note: Doesn’t mean every lesson must include
all of these, but that they’re distributed over
the course of the semester
VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
3. Curriculum Content
H. Encourage students to raise critical questions, not
only about the content itself, but about how the
content is presented in educational materials
Example: Use of male anatomy as “standard”;
differentiation between “American literature” and
“African American literature” (and misuse of the
term “American”)
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
Part 4: Pedagogy
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
4. Pedagogy
A. Be very clear about how you expect
students to participate (open discussion,
raised hands, etc.)
Related suggestion: Avoid first-hand-up, firstcalled-on approach
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
4. Pedagogy
B. Never, under any circumstance, invalidate or
allow other students to invalidate concerns
of inequity raised by students from
disenfranchised groups
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
4. Pedagogy
C. Avoid putting students from disenfranchised
groups in positions to have to teach people
from privileged groups about their privilege
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
4. Pedagogy
D. Develop your facilitation skills so that you
can effectively facilitate “difficult dialogues”
about racism, sexism, classism,
heterosexism, etc.
Note: When these dialogues happen, be
comfortable advocating for equity
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
4. Pedagogy
E. Design assignments that encourage
students to apply what they’re learning to a
human rights issue
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
4. Pedagogy
F. Allow students, when possible, to choose
how they will be assessed (as people don’t
demonstrate understanding and application
in the same ways)
Example: Choice between an essay or an
application project
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
4. Pedagogy
G. Invite a colleague to observe your teaching
and provide feedback on a variety of
concerns
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VI. The Equitable Learning
Environment
4. Pedagogy
H. Use peer teaching, peer feedback, and other
peer interactions to provide students an
opportunity to learn content through a
variety of lenses
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VII. Shifts of Consciousness for
Multicultural Educators
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VI. Shifts of Consciousness
Shift #1
I must be willing to think critically about the
things about which I’ve been discouraged
from thinking critically
 Capitalism, Consumer Culture, Globalization
 Two-party political system v. “democracy”
 Etc.
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VI. Shifts of Consciousness
Shift #2
I must acknowledge that multicultural education
is about creating equitable learning
environments for all students, so I must be
against all inequity
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VI. Shifts of Consciousness
Shift #3
I must understand inequities as systemic and
not just individual acts (and what this means
in the context of my classroom)
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VI. Shifts of Consciousness
Shift #4
I must transcend the idea of multicultural
education as “learning about other cultures”
and “celebrating diversity”
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VI. Shifts of Consciousness
Shift #5
I must be willing to discomfort and unsettle
myself and my students

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Institutional likeability
VI. Shifts of Consciousness
Shift #6
I must shift from an equality orientation toward
multiculturalism to an equity orientation
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VI. Shifts of Consciousness
Shift #7
I must move beyond the “objective facilitator”
role and actively advocate for equity and
justice
 Multicultural education is not about validating
all perspectives
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VI. Shifts of Consciousness
Shift #8
I must understand multicultural education as a
comprehensive approach, not additional
activities or slight shifts in an otherwise
monocultural curriculum
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Closing Reflection
Humility is the ability to see.
-Terry Tempest Williams
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Thank you.
Paul C. Gorski
[email protected]
http://www.edchange.org
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Multicultural Education as Equity and Social Justice