Educated in Whiteness
Good Intentions and Diversity in Schools
Publication Year: 2014
Educators across the nation are engaged in well-meaning efforts to address diversity in schools given the current context of NCLB, Race to the Top, and the associated pressures of standardization and accountability. Through rich ethnographic accounts of teachers in two demographically different secondary schools in the same urban district, Angelina E. Castagno investigates how whiteness operates in ways that thwart (and sometimes co-opt) even the best intentions and common sense—thus resulting in educational policies and practices that reinforce the status quo and protect whiteness rather than working toward greater equity.
Whereas most discussions of the education of diverse students focus on the students and families themselves, Educated in Whiteness highlights the structural and ideological mechanisms of whiteness. In schools, whiteness remains dominant by strengthening and justifying the status quo while simultaneously preserving a veneer of neutrality, equality, and compassion. Framed by critical race theory and whiteness studies, this book employs concepts like interest convergence, a critique of liberalism, and the possessive investment in whiteness to better understand diversity-related educational policy and practice.
Although in theory most diversity-related educational policies and practices are intended to bring about greater equity, too often in practice they actually maintain, legitimate, and so perpetuate whiteness. Castagno not only sheds light on this disconnect between the promises and practices of diversity-related initiatives but also provides insight into why the disconnect persists.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Introduction: Whiteness, Diversity, and Educators’ Good Intentions
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Most educators are nice people with the best of intentions regarding the schooling they provide to students every day. Despite their good intentions and the general niceness among educators, most schools in the United States contribute to inequity every day. How does this happen? And what about the multitude of diversity- related efforts in schools that are supposed...
1 “Equity Has to Be a Priority”: Converging Interests and Displacing Responsibility
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I entered the Zion School District with the intention of studying “multicultural education” on the ground— in schools and among teachers in different school contexts. In 2005, this was the language used in schools and colleges of education to reference work around diversity and sometimes equity. Consistent with this national trend, I knew the Zion School District had a...
2 Engaging Multicultural Education: Safety in Sameness or Drawing Out Difference?
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Over the past forty years, educators have advocated multicultural education as an educational approach with the explicit purpose of improving the school experiences of students, increasing learning and achievement in diverse school contexts, and ultimately bringing about greater equity. Unfortunately, these goals have not been achieved, despite the growing...
3 Practicing Politeness through Meaningful Silences
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This chapter discusses some of the meaningful silences around— and silencing of— diversity in schools. Similar to the ways powerblind and colorblind iterations of multicultural education do the work of whiteness, educators also engage and reinforce whiteness by valuing polite interactions and schooling youth in politeness. To be polite means showing good manners toward others; being courteous, gracious, and poised; and not...
4 “It Isn’t Even Questioned”: Equality as Foundational to Schooling and Whiteness
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As has been alluded to in previous chapters, most teachers, principals, and other educational leaders share a steadfast belief in meritocracy— that is, that the worth and success of an individual is based solely on the merits of his or her work. Meritocracy assumes that a level playing field exists in society and its institutions and that everyone has access to the same opportunities to get ahead in this world. Meritocracy’s foundation is rooted...
5 Obscuring Whiteness with Liberalism: Winners and Losers in Federal School Reform
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Birch Secondary School experienced a number of changes between 2006 and 2010, including the departure of Mr. More, the principal; the completion of a brand- new school building; the arrival and departure of another principal; and the arrival of yet a third principal, who started when Birch was awarded a federally funded School Improvement Grant (SIG) in 2010....
Conclusion: Engagement and Struggle within the “Culture of Nice”
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In writing this book, I set out to answer a number of questions. Primarily, I hoped to examine how schools contribute to inequity given educators’ good intentions. This question includes some others: How are popular educational discourses employed in contradictory ways? How do potentially transformative agendas get taken up in ways that run counter to...
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I am mindful of the many relationships that have made this book possible.
For as much as this has been an independent project, it has also been a
I am indebted, of course, to the people in the Zion School District who allowed me into their classrooms, hallways, offi ces, and daily interactions. I have learned so much from this community, and I hope the time ...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014