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CCVLC Teachers/ Paolo Freire Posters
Digging Deeper: Chapter 3
Politics and Philosophy: The Struggle over the School Curriculum

Further Reading

  • University of Wisconsin professor Michael Apple’s books analyze how politics and ideology pervade curriculum. Of particular interest is Educating the “Right” Way: Markets, Standards, God, and Inequality (New York: Routledge, 2006), which offers a compelling discussion of the current conservative stance toward education.
  • John Dewey’s writings on curriculum provide the foundation for current social constructivist curricula. Especially relevant for this chapter are his 1897 essay, “My Pedagogic Creed,” and his books The Child and the Curriculum and The School and Society (reprinted, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991). Those interested in reading an analysis of Dewey and his influence might try Robert Westbook, John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993).
  • Brazilian adult educator Paulo Freire developed “critical pedagogy,” an approach to informal adult education that has influenced thousands of grassroots organizations, college classrooms, and, most recently, school reform efforts in major urban areas. Freire’s best-known book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 1970), argues that education is a path to permanent liberation; that is, through critical pedagogy, people become aware of their oppression and transform it.
  • Carter G. Woodson’s 1933 classic, The Mis-Education of the Negro (Trenton, NJ: Africa Free Press, 1990) argues that African Americans in U.S. schools experience indoctrination aimed at perpetuating their low-status societal position. Woodson calls for African Americans to excel to their full potential, despite what they are taught. The Euro-centric curriculum Woodson criticizes is still prevalent in schools today.
  • Professor James Banks of the University of Washington was instrumental in developing the idea of a multicultural curriculum. Banks has edited two of the most complete sources on multicultural education history and research: The Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001) and Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (New York: Teachers College Press, 1996). Additionally, Banks is director of the University of Washington’s Center for Multicultural Education, which focuses on research projects and activities designed to improve practice related to equity issues, intergroup relations, and the achievement of all students. The Center’s website at includes information about successful K–12 programs and links to numerous other multicultural education websites.

Organizations that Provide Information about Critical and Multicultural Education

  • The National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME), founded in 1990, brings together educators who have an interest in multicultural education. NAME’s quarterly magazine, Multicultural Perspectives, features sections with promising practices and resources for teachers. The organization’s annual conference provides an opportunity for intensive discussion and learning.
  • The New York Coalition of Radical Educators are one example of a group of teachers who have come together around a shared commitment to teaching for social justice. Members gather for routine dialogue and reflection around pressing issues in education and work in collaboration to create and disseminate anti-racist, social justice curricula, resource guides, and other tools for teaching. Teachers can download many of these materials directly from the NYCORE wesbite.
  • The Freire Project is an online, international community of educators who promote social justice in a variety of cultural contexts. The project's website offers resources related to critical pedagogy, as well as a series of blogs written by educators and researchers who are committed to promoting critical pedagogy and combating the oppression of marginalized and indigenous people the world over.
  • The documentary “Precious Knowledge” (Tuscon: Dos Vato Films, 2012), reports from the frontlines of one of the most contentious public education-related issues in recent memory—namely, the battle over Mexican American studies programs in Arizona public schools. The film interweaves the stories of several students enrolled in the Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School with interviews with teachers, parents, school officials, and the lawmakers who wish to outlaw the classes. The documentary’s website offers information about the issues, the film, and those who participated in making it.

Resources for Teaching

  • The Common Core State Standards Initiative website provides up-to-date information about the development and implementation of common core standards nationwide.
  • The book Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors (New York: Routledge, 2009), co-authored by Maria José Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman, provides educators with a useful resource for critiquing, adapting, and supplementing the literature commonly used in school curricula.
  • Professor Christine Sleeter, Professor Emerita of California State University at Monterey Bay has written numerous books that help teachers develop multicultural curricula. Her books, including Turning on Learning: Five Approaches for Multicultural Teaching Plans for Race, Class, Gender, and Disability (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998) with Professor Carl Grant of the University of Wisconsin, conceptualize—and support teachers to actualize—multicultural teaching. More recently, Sleeter has also published Un-Standardizing Curriculum: Multicultural Teaching in the Standards-Based Classroom (New York: Teachers College Press, 2005), which offers guidance to teachers in implementing academically rigorous multicultural curricula during an era of standardization and high-stakes accountability. 
  • Professor Sonia Nieto is a member of the education faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she studies multicultural and bilingual curriculum issues. Her books Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education (New York: Longman, 2000) provide overviews of theory, research and practice related to multicultural education. The text comes alive with Nieto’s inclusion of case studies of 12 diverse students and how schooling intersects with their lives. Another of her books, The Light in Their Eyes: Creating Multicultural Learning Communities (New York: Teachers College Press, 2000), reviews the research on multiculturalism and offers teachers’ powerful reflections on multicultural teaching.
  • Joan Wink, professor of education at California State University-Stanislaus, wrote Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World (New York: Longman, 2005). The book introduces critical pedagogy—its ideas and theorists—in everyday language, provides examples from Wink’s and her students’ teaching, and offers practical guidelines for creating lessons. Although it is not a substitute for reading Freire, Darder, McLaren, and others, Wink’s book provides a highly accessible overview.
  • Barnard College Professor Lee Ann Bell’s book, Storytelling for Social Justice: Connecting Narrative and the Arts in Antiracist Teaching (New York: Routledge, 2010) explores the stories we tell ourselves and each other about race and racism in our society. The book presents strategies that teachers can use to develop more critical understandings of how racism operates in society. Illustrated with examples drawn from high school classrooms, teacher education programs, and K-12 professional development programs, the book provides tools for examining racism and other issues of social justice.
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