Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 156

From Center to Margins

The Importance of Self-Definition in Research

Edited by

Diane S. Pollard and Olga M. Welch

Foreword by Christine E. Sleeter

From Center to Margins

This page intentionally left blank.

From Center to Margins

The Importance of Self-Definition in Research

Edited by
Diane S. Pollard
Olga M. Welch
Foreword by Christine E. Sleeter

State University of New York Press

Published by
State University of New York Press, Albany
2006 State University of New York
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever
without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval
system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic,
electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
For information, address State University of New York Press,
194 Washington Avenue, Suite 305, Albany, NY 12210-2384
Production by Judith Block
Marketing by Michael Campochiaro
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
From center to margins : the importance of self-definition in research /
edited by Diane S. Pollard and Olga M. Welch ; foreword by
Christine E. Sleeter
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0791467716 (hardcover : alk. paper)ISBN 0791467724
(pbk. : alk. paper)
1. African American womenEducation (Higher). 2. African American
college teachersUnited States. 3. Minority womenEducation
(Higher)United States. 4. Discrimination in higher educationUnited
States. 5. Marginality, SocialUnited States. I. Pollard, Diane. II.
Welch, Olga M.
LC2781.F76 2006
ISBN13 9780791467718 (hardcover: alk. paper)
ISBN13 9780791467725 (pbk.: alk. paper)
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1




Introduction. Women Researchers of Color: Have We Come

a Long Way?

1. Women of Color and Research: A Historical and Contemporary


2. Making Intellectual Space: Self-determination and Indigenous



3. Reflections on the Process of Becoming an Academician



4. Language, Literacy, and Culture: Intersections and Implications



5. The Outsider within Multicultural Education: Understanding

the Field from a Marginalized Viewpoint


6. Seeing with the Cultural Eye: Different Perspectives of

African American Teachers and Researchers


7. Response to Papers on From Center to Margin: The

Importance of Self-Definition in Research




8. Making the Familiar Strange: Inclusion, Exclusion, and

Erasure: Summarizing the Philosophies of Women Researchers
of Color







The authors of the essays in this volume were asked to address two
questions in preparation for a panel at the Annual Meeting of the
American Educational Research Association (AERA). Their responses led
to this thought-provoking book: From Center to Margins: The Importance of
Self-Definition in Research. The questions were:
How have you come to know what you know about research?
What are some of the factors, issues, and concerns that have
guided you as a researcher?
The authors responses to these questions consider a multiplicity of issues
concerning power, privilege, knowledge, and identity in academe. The
papers prompted such a rich discussion at AERA that the editors were
encouraged to publish them. I will not recap the main themes of the chapters of this powerful book because they are stated clearly and eloquently in
the chapters themselves.
Instead, I comment on the significance of this book for people like
me: a White scholar who, having taken advantage of privileges accorded by
her race and social class background, finds herself part of the Center of
Educational Research. As one who has supported equity and social justice
issues for decades, admitting to be at the Center is not comfortable. Why
should I read this book? What significance does it have for people like me?
I illustrate its significance with a story. Recently one of my classes
had an opportunity to visit a museum of folk art from around the world
that was designed for use in schools. As the course instructor, using my
power to shape the curriculum, I decided to include this visit in the course
syllabus because the museum appeared to me to be a useful resource for
teachers. During the class session following the visit, we discussed our



experience there. Some of the students comments focused on the usefulness of teachers having access to such a collection, and the value of learning
geography through its continent-by-continent organization. Other students offered more cautious comments, and some were quite critical. An
African American woman class member, for example, expressed deep concern that, through its emphasis on folk art objects grouped by continent,
the collection inadvertently reinforced a stereotypic view of Africa as primitive. Two Arab class members pointed out that, by lacking art from the
Middle East, the museum missed an opportunity to address ignorance that
people in the United States have about Arab peoples.
I and other class members could have chosen to ignore voices of criticism, and emphasize what is useful and good about the art collection.
After all, as instructor, I had chosen to visit the museum because it offers
varied resources for teachers. Or, we could have listened politely but
bracketed the criticisms, for example, to considerations about teaching
African art when African American students are present. In this way, we
could have maintained the usefulness theme, adding some buts as qualifiers. Instead, after listening to the various viewpoints, we decided to collaborate on writing a letter of constructive feedback to the organization
that houses the collection in order to suggest how to make it more inclusive, sensitive, and nuanced. Voices from the margins had thrown the collection into sharp relief and highlighted limitations that were not obvious
when it was viewed from the center. Through dialog, our discussion had
shifted from how to use the collection, to who gets to decide what is presented in schools, in what way, in what instructional context, and how we
might collectively address concerns that initially we did not all see. As
course instructor, I had to decide to listen, allow my own agenda to shift,
and facilitate engagement across perspectives that were not only different,
but initially in conflict.
As a White researcher, I occupy a similar place to the one I hold as
course instructor: I have power and authority to shape which perspectives
count as legitimate, to support some perspectives and ignore or marginalize others, and to position my work in a way that will ensure my continued
power and authority. The authors of this volume ask for something more
inclusive: honest dialog, engagement, willingness to listen, and willingness
to collaborate on interrupting the competition for power that permeates
academic life. For White researchers, who find this request threatening, it
is important to realize that the authors are not asking us to disappear or
stop working. Indeed, when Whites engage in White flight, we end up
recreating the same old patterns of hierarchy, exclusion, and power some-



where else. Instead, the authors of this book are asking us to work with,
rather than on or without, colleagues who bring life experiences that
broaden the range of ideas on the table, ways of investigating and evaluating those ideas, and actions we might take as a result. We resist doing so to
the detriment of all of us.
For example, one cannot talk about schooling today without discussing the achievement gap. Very often, those who are trying to figure
out how to close it are baffled about what to do, and somewhat frantic to
find solutions. I have talked with many educators who persistently seek
solutions from the same sources that created problems of inequity in the
first place. As Noguera and Akom (2000) point out, More often than not,
explanations for the achievement gap focus on deficiencies among parents
and students. Dysfunctional families, lazy and unmotivated students, and
the culture of poverty in inner-city neighborhoods are all frequently cited
as causes of the gap.
There are alternatives which the authors of this book implore us to
consider. Recently I had an opportunity to visit a New Zealand school
reform project, Te Kotahitanga (Bishop, et al, 2004), that is premised on
the idea that the people who know best how to address the achievement
gap are students and families who have been least well-served by schools.
By conducting interviews with Maori students and their parents, the
Maori-led project team constructed an action plan to reform classroom
teaching for everyone, with a primary emphasis on improving Maori student achievement using insights from Maori epistemology. As it turns out,
while Maori students are the primary beneficiaries, all students are benefiting from the better teaching. Further, the answers are not external to the
process of dialog and engagement, but rather this process of engagement is
the answer.
In, From Center to Margins, Pollard, Welch, and the other contributors invite dialog and engagement, particularly around the structures,
processes, and belief systems that maintain unequal power relations in
academe and educational research. Ultimately, answers to pressing problems about how to improve schools and build more equitable and intellectually vigorous educational institutions, reside in dialogue.

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Tiakiwai, S., & Richardson, C. (2004) Te Kotahintanga.
Maori Educational Research Institute (MERI) School of Education,
University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved April 3, 2005 at


Noguera, P. A. & Akom, A. (2000) Disparities demystified, Nation, 270 (22).

California State University Monterey Bay.

Women Researchers of Color:
Have We Come a Long Way?

ne of the most vivid memories of Olga Welchs childhood is

standing in line at the Worlds Fair in Montreal, Canada waiting
to see Michelangelos Pieta. As she and her family proceeded to
the rear of the line, she was overwhelmed with the sheer number of people
awaiting their opportunity to view this masterpiece. The estimated wait
time posted was three hours. Finally, reaching the rear of the line, she
remembered thinking that they would NEVER reach the exhibit. She
expressed this feeling to her father who used the moment to teach her,
what he called the line principle. After waiting approximately 15 minutes, her father asked her to look behind her. Where they had once stood,
there were at least 60 people. Her father turned to her and said, Once you
were there and now you are here. Never measure your progress by how far
you have to go but always by how far you have come.
Although not a new concept, this line principle seemed especially
apropos as we prepared this volume. In a real sense, as women researchers
of color, we have come a long way. And yet, as we reflect on that journey,
we are forced to ask ourselves at what cost have our epistemological stances
evolved? This question represents the central focus of this book. In it,
women researchers of color examine their place in the line of research dialogues in their own disciplines and through the lenses of their particular
epistemological and ontological perspectives. They engage in this activity
from a circumscribed positionthe margins they intentionally represent
as a place of resistance and reclamation.

From Center to Margins

As hooks (1990) states:

I am located in the margin. I make a definite distinction between that
marginality which is imposed by oppressive structures and that marginality one chooses as site or resistanceas location of radical openness and possibility (p. 53).
The radical openness and possibility of which hooks speaks is what
this book exploresnot just for women of color, but also for the White
woman researcher, who uses her position in the center to propose an alternative and inclusive research epistemology that promotes the agency of the
margins for the knowledge construction of women of color.
What makes this discourse so important is its timeliness, as the primary role of research in academe remains uncontested. Indeed, institutions of higher education earn their rankings based on research reputations
that are grounded in the scholarship of their faculty. Given the primacy of
these research endeavors, it is not surprising that tensions have emerged. A
major source of tension comes from the entry into academe of researchers
who bring new and different experiences and worldviews.
Moreover, when the newcomers are those who represent the Other (i.e.
those who are not part of the White male group who have traditionally dominated educational research), another source of tension concerns equity. In
educational research, particularly, issues of equity are not only issues of practical application within institutions of higher education, such as obtaining and
retaining diverse and representative faculty, but also are questions concerning
the nature of research both within and outside of these institutions. The
examination of questions of equity often becomes contested ground as differences emerge among the various stakeholders who are involved
Thus, for many years, the preponderance of research focusing on
people of color has been done by White, middle class investigators, with
the result that much of the research focusing on populations defined as
marginal takes a deficit approach to its subjects: it raises questions that
focus on the pathologies and problems presumed to reside within those
under study. Consigned by these interpretations to the margins, researchers from disenfranchised populations find themselves silenced, or only listened to if they frame their ideas in language that is familiar and
comfortable for those in the center (Turner, 2002; Winkler, 1986).
Research on women by feminist researchers addresses issues of marginality, however, women researchers of color frequently have not been
included in these discussions. Indeed, it has been noted that the emphasis
on interpersonal competition among researchers, along with the racist ori-


entation of the academic environment has meant that some feminist

researchers, in pursuit of their own professional development, have adopted
mainstream approaches that marginalize women of color (Houston, 1991).
Although active, productive researchers, who are members of marginalized groups, exist, they are rarely consulted or their work acknowledged. Moreover, when the work is acknowledged, it is frequently
characterized as worthwhile only to the degree to which the research
moves both the researcher and the population studied from the margins to
the center. Yet, the work of marginalized researchers is unique precisely
because it is embedded with the cultural and social perspectives of those
researchers. These standpoints, often not easily accessible to researchers
from the center, are notable because they provide information about alternative ways to ask questions, define issues, organize research agendas and
interpret research findings (Allen, 1995; Essed, 1996; Ropers-Huilman &
Costner, 1998).
Similarly, women of color who are researchers provide a particular
perspective emanating from the intersections of race or ethnicity and gender that have ramifications for their work. Such viewpoints can be useful to
all researchers seeking to conduct investigations about diverse populations. At a time when multiple lenses and perspectives are needed to
develop more effective policies and practices in educational institutions
that serve diverse populations, it is critical to find common ground
between Center and Margin research discourse.
The purpose of this book is to examine perspectives from a diverse
group of women of color who are educational researchers. We have chosen
to examine these perspectives by centering the discussion within the
Margin rather than from the Center. In other words, we have deliberately
chosen the Margin as the site of discourse in order to provide an opportunity for readers to understand the various perspectives taken by women of
color when they implement their investigations. In addition, we provide an
opportunity for a researcher from the Center to discuss the impact of the
perspectives of women of color who are researchers on her work. We
believe, that by situating the perspective of the book within the margins,
we are providing an alternative to the dominant perspective in educational
research, which uses its power to determine who shall be centered and who
marginalized. We see these margins not as deficient areas from which we
need to escape, but rather as legitimate sites where useful knowledge has
been and will continue to be generated.
In 1999, we organized a symposium for the American Educational
Research Association (AERA) annual meeting entitled, From Center to

From Center to Margins

Margins: The Importance of Self-Definition in Research. The impetus for

this symposium came from conversations between ourselves and other
women of color who are educational researchers in the academy. A consistent theme of these conversations concerns our continuing quest to integrate
our skills as researchers (trained in dominant and mainstream traditions),
with our experiences as women of color in understanding and interpreting
the experiences of those (including ourselves) who are marginalized by these
very traditions. We felt this symposium would contribute to an understanding of the quest of researchers of color for constructed knowledge, one that
moves outside the frames and systems offered in dominant interpretations to
provide and create our own analyses of experiences on the margins.
Furthermore, we argue that knowledge construction such as this can become
a prime location for resisting objectification as the Other even as it becomes
the catalyst for evolving more authentic and inclusive paradigms.
To organize the symposium, we asked three women of color
researchers to provide their own perspectives on their work as researchers
in their respective communities. The researchers include an African
American, a Latina, and a First Nation member. In addition, we asked a
researcher who represents the center to respond.
To frame the symposium, we asked the researchers of color to focus
on the question, How do we come to know what we know about our
research? In responding to this broad question, the researchers told some
of their stories as scholars situated in the margins. From these perspectives,
they described some of the factors, issues, and concerns that guided them
as they moved from the initial steps of framing research questions, through
designing and implementing studies, and to interpreting results and deciding how and where to disseminate results. Following these presentations,
our respondent discusses how she had to move away from the Center to
understand the perspectives of researchers who have been marginalized.
The presentations at this symposium, and the positive and enthusiastic responses from the large and diverse audience, indicate a strong interest
in the perspectives presented, and in particular, the concept of situating
the dialogue in the margins where researchers of color reside. The participants and audience reacted positively to the integration of race, gender,
and, in some instances, class inherent in these presentations. Based on this
experience, we decided to expand the symposium into the present volume.

Overview of the Book

Chapter 1 provides a historical and contemporary context for the
work of women of color educational researchers. Pollard reviews the litera-


ture to reveal the pioneering work of women in these communities whose

research is often ignored or dismissed. In addition, she analyzes the perspectives others have taken on women of color as researchers and the
responses these women have had to these views from the Center. In chapters 2, 3 and 4, Rains, Curry, and Nieto tell their own unique stories of
attempts to conduct their research and how they came to their particular
epistemological stances. In chapters 5 and 6, Pang and Irvine discuss how
they put their own epistemological stances into practice in both their
research and their work with students and teachers. In chapter 7, Maxine
Green, a distinguished White woman researcher, discusses how her own
research perspective has been affected by her attempts to move away from
the Center and understand the perspectives of researchers who have been
marginalized. Finally, in chapter 8, Welch summarizes the perspectives of
the contributors and integrates their perspectives with the historical information provided earlier in the book. She uses this summary to provide an
alternative context for considering the margins of educational research. In
particular, rather than seeing the margins as providing information that can
only be either assimilated to the center or discarded, the margins are seen as
viable epistemological sites that are essential and necessary, not only for the
researchers, but also the communities from which they come. Furthermore,
the margins represent spaces that cannot and should not be appropriated or
contested by the hegemonic center. We end with suggestions for promoting a climate in the general research community that recognizes and appreciates the valuable roles women of color play in informing researchers,
policy makers, and practitioners about supporting equity in education.

Allen, B. J. (1995, November) Twice blessed, doubly oppressed: Women of color
in academe. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Speech
Communication Association, San Antonio, TX.
Essed, Philomena. (1996). Diversity: Gender, color, and culture. Amherst, MA:
University of Massachusetts Press.
hooks, b. (1990). Yearning: Race, gender, and cultural politics. Boston: South End
Houston, M. (1991, April). Follow us into our world: Feminist scholarship on the
communication of women of color. Paper presented at the annual meeting
of the Southern Speech Communication Association. Tampa, FL.
Ropers-Huilman, B., & Costner, S. (1998, April). Participation and progress:
Improving the climate for women of color in college. Paper presented at the

From Center to Margins

annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. San
Diego, CA.

Turner, C. S. V. (2002). Women of color in academe: Living with multiple marginality, Journal of Higher Education, 73, 1, 7493.
Winkler, K. J. (1986). Scholars reproached for ignoring Women of Color in U.S.
History, Chronicle of Higher Education, 32, 67.8.10.

Chapter 1

Women of Color and Research

A Historical and Contemporary Context
. . . I was admitted but not accepted. I had been welcomed into the socalled mainstream even as I was reminded that I was not part of its flow.
My presence was conditioned on my silence. I was present. But I was
without a voice.
Guinier, cited in Dance, 1998, p. 551

lthough Lani Guinier was describing her experience as an African

American woman when she was a student at Yale Law School in
the 1970s, her words still resonate with women researchers of
color in academe some 30 years later. Although these researchers are often
admitted and even welcomed as she was, their unique voices are often
silenced. For women of color who are educational researchers, this situation seems to be, in part, inherent in the discipline.
Educational research on people of color has often taken a problem
focused, noncontextual orientation (Zambrana, 1994). Research on
women, on the other hand has frequently ignored issues of race and ethnicity. When considered as research subjects, women of color are routinely
marginalized when their behavior, attitudes, and emotions are analyzed
solely from the perspectives of White middle class researchers. Many
times this results in interpretations that describe women of color as deviant
or exotic. Such analyses ignore the importance of exploring the connections among race, class and gender oppressions . . . and the creative tension
between the specificity needed to study the working of race, class and gender . . . and generalizations about these systems created in cross-cultural
and trans-historical research (Collins, 1990, p. 224). Such discussions
allow researchers to move beyond monolithic discussions of people of
color to interrogate not only what has already been said about these

From Center to Margins

groups, but the credibility and intentions of those possessing the power to
define them. In addition, the dialogue can be used as a foundation for all
researchers who are seriously attempting to understand cultural diversity
and work for equitable educational structures in a pluralistic society.
In this chapter, I review and assess literature by and on women of
color who are researchers in education and closely related disciplines. This
review includes perspectives on women of color as they regard the center
as well as their views from the margins of academe. Prior to the 1970s,
women of color were hardly recognized as educational researchers. One
reason is that the research of these women was not accessible unless it fit
criteria defined by the Center. In addition, the small numbers of women of
color in academe made it difficult for them to create critical mass.
As a result, the roles and activities of women of color who are educational researchers in academe have often been overlooked. Discussions
about women researchers tend to assume a homogeneity that does not
exist; as a result work about women has generally meant work about and by
White women. Similarly, discussions about minority researchers have
tended to overlook gender (as well as cultural) distinctions within that
group. As a result of these two trends, women of color, as a distinct group
of educational researchers, have often been erased from both formal and
informal discussions. Fortunately, these very women do not often acquiesce quietly to this situation. Women of color continue to conduct and
produce research findings despite attempts by those in the mainstream to
ignore or marginalize them. Researchers such as Faustine Jones-Wilson,
Betty Morrison, Beatrice Medicine, Alice Chiang, Cecelia Burciaga,
Gwendolyn Baker, and many others laid the groundwork that contemporary women of color have been able to build upon as they enter and
progress through academe. As succeeding generations of women of color
became researchers in higher education, several trends began to emerge in
the literature. One trend is the body of research produced by women of
color that reflects centrist thinking. Another trend indicates a body of literature about women of color written, often but not always, by White
women. A considerable amount of this literature describes the plight of
women of color in academe. At other times, this work chastises White
women for their tendency to ignore and marginalize women of color.
Finally, there is a more recent body of literature by women of color that
reflects their own standpoint and critiques the attempts by researchers in
the mainstream to categorize and judge their contributions.
In this chapter, selected literature by and about women of color is
reviewed and critiqued. This review includes articles about women of

Women of Color and Research

color written by them as well as by White authors. I have focused on literature that concerns the role and status of women of color as researchers
rather than on the actual research produced by them. The rationale for this
focus is that the literature on role and status provides a more accurate perspective on the issue of marginalization and the contested debates about
whether women of color need to move toward the dominant center of educational research or take researchers to the margins within which they
exist; thus demonstrating the reality and validity of life in these spaces.
With respect to these debates, I have organized the research and
writing about women of color as educational researchers into four general
themes. Each theme is described and analyzed in terms of its contribution
to the issue of contested spaces in academic research. It should be noted
that these themes are not ordered chronologically. One can find evidence
of all of them interspersed in writings by and about women of color
researchers over the past 30 or so years.

Theme 1. Countering Invisibility

This theme addresses two issues. First, women of color who are educational researchers are frequently erased; in other words, their work is
ignored in the literature. Second, considerable work, often by women of
color, attempts to oppose these efforts to render them invisible.
One of the simplest ways in which women of color are made invisible
is through the use of the categories minorities and women as mutually
exclusive entities. While it could be assumed that women of color might be
subsumed within both of the categories, it is difficult to ascertain if this is
the case. In fact, the failure to name the various groups of women of color
specifically, contributes to their erasure.
A number of writers, usually women of color, have refused to accept
this invisibility in academe. On the contrary they have conducted research
that calls attention to the contributions these groups have made to knowledge in their respective fields. This form of resistance has been evident for
decades. For example, in her unpublished dissertation, Contributions of
Black American Academic Women to American Higher Education, Robinson
(1978) focused on African American women in higher education in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Robinson used autobiographical
material, letters and writings of the nineteenth century women and surveyed a sample of women born in the twentieth century to understand the
contexts within which they worked, the challenges they faced and the
standpoints from which they operated.


From Center to Margins

A number of other researchers have produced work aimed at countering the invisibility of African American women in academe. For example, Tobin (1980) surveyed doctoral level African American women who
were employed by historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
in the early 1970s. Tobins work emphasized the career development of
these women and the obstacles they faced in their attempts to meet professional and personal commitments. Taking a slightly different tack, Smith
(1982) wrote specifically about the accomplishments of African American
women in academe. Limiting her sample to those who had been successful, Smith interviewed 12 women who had achieved administrative positions in higher education. Although Smiths focus was on understanding
what steps these women had taken to achieve their goals (to be administrators) the author noted that many of them had been productive researchers
as well.
All three of these writers specifically named African American
women, thus increasing their visibility in higher education. Furthermore,
they were intent on noting that African American women made constructive contributions to their institutions and fields as teachers, administrators, and scholars. However, even in this most basic of endeavors;calling
attention to the existence of this group of womenthe authors also
revealed tensions between center and margins. All of these articles demonstrated that African American women scholars were marginalized, even in
the HBCUs. Questions were implied regarding their value; resources were
not available for teaching and research. Despite their marginalization,
some of these women were categorized as successful. However, success
seemed to be defined in terms of their ability to move toward the center,
not so much as researchers, but as valuable contributors to their institutions in teaching and administration.
This perception of invisibility is not limited to African American
women. It has been experienced by other women of color relatively frequently also (Thomas & Hollenshead, 2002, Turner, 2002).
Even when named, rendering women of color invisible can take several forms in academe. In some cases this can be a fairly passive process in
which their work is made inaccessible. The research of women of color
has, on occasion, been deemed unworthy of publication or presentation in
professional venues controlled by those at the center. Some of these
women counter this by disseminating their work in publications and settings more hospitable to their concerns and interests. However, in some
cases, these venues are devalued and relegated to the margins. Another
process that makes women researchers of color invisible involves disre-

Women of Color and Research


specting them and their work by subtly, or sometimes not so subtly, pressuring them to eschew research on and in their communities in favor of
more mainstream topics (Thomas & Hollenshead, 2002).
There is, however, a more venomous method of making these
women invisible and this involves not recognizing their work while simultaneously appropriating it. In my own experience, formal interviews and
informal conversations with women researchers of color, I have learned of
situations where research ideas that were generated by these women have
been used by men or White women as if they had originated with the latter
groups. In other words, the work of women of color has been cited without
acknowledgement of its sources.
While these efforts are ongoing, there is increasing evidence that
many women of color simply refused to accept invisibility. As the contributors to this volume attest, many women of color bravely proclaim their
visibility and pursue their research, undaunted.

Theme 2. Meeting Challenges and Overcoming Obstacles

Writings related to this theme clearly move beyond calls to recognize that women of color exist in higher education. Here, women are writing about their own experiences and protesting efforts by others to
objectify them. They are scholars, teachers, and administrators and their
numbers have increased. However, they are firmly ensconced on the margins. The writings included in this theme explore the marginalization of
women of color in depth by analyzing the processes that exploit them.
However, some of the writers who explore this theme remind us that many
women of color do not simply sit passively in the margins. Instead they
actively contest attempts by institutions and individuals to denigrate them
and their work.
The literature related to this theme can be categorized into two
areas. The first focuses on the under-representation of women of color in
higher education. The second emphasizes the experiences of these women
in academe.
One issue that women of color contend with in academe is the recurring myth that they are, in fact, a favored or privileged group. This notion has
been perpetuated at various times by White men, White women, and men of
color. Several researchers have tried to thwart this type of thinking. For
example, an article entitled Minority women and higher education
(Association of American Colleges, n.d.) found evidence that women of color
had to cope with both race and sex discrimination. Hayes (1990), surveying


From Center to Margins

the status of women of color in California, argues that even though the
numbers of doctoral level African American and Hispanic women students
have increased, relatively few plan careers in higher education because of
perceived barriers. Similarly Montez (n.d.) notes small numbers of
Asian/Pacific women in educational research. Chu (1980) states that
Asian/Pacific American women also contend with the model minority
myth that assumes Asian American success, especially in higher education.
All of these authors call for greater efforts to recruit and retain women of
color in academe.
Several writings by women of color describe their experiences in
academe, focusing on challenges and obstacles to their progress. All of the
writings cited here concern women of color faculty at predominantly
White colleges and universities. Common threads across these writings
involve contending with the related issues of marginalization and isolation
(Aguirre, 2000; Chu, 1980; Kulis & Miller, 1988; Ortiz, 1983; Williams,
1985). These issues were operationalized in a variety of ways: women of
color were expected to work only with students of color; were excluded
from important committee assignments; were excluded from networks
that might have aided their career advancement; and were denied opportunities to participate in decision making within their academic communities. As Ortiz (1983) describes, women of color are often on the periphery
of their departments, schools, and institutions.
Although these writers describe similar experiences, there are some
variations in their analyses. At the broadest level, these experiences are
seen as the result of double jeopardy, a combination of racism and sexism
(Williams, 1985). Others point to a lack of role models, mentors, and professional contacts (Chu, 1980). Still others argue that institutions of higher
education replicate the patterns of racial/ethnic and sexual inequity of the
larger society, thus supporting processes that work against women
researchers of color. These include devaluing their research (Hayes, 1990);
lack of support when contending with racist students (Vargas, 1999); and
questioning of their academic integrity and merit early in their careers
(Allen, 1996; Heward, 1995).
The literature illustrating this theme suggests a few steps beyond
theme one. Here, women of color are more proactive in defining their status in academe and identifying and analyzing the forces working against
them. However, the recognition and analysis of marginality did not deter
these women from carrying out their research. On the contrary, in addition to investigating, the forces that create and maintain marginalization,
many of these women position their own research perspectives within the

Women of Color and Research


margins rather than from the center. For example, many of these women
focus on issues of concern to their communities. This, in turn, furthered
their marginalization.

Theme 3. Identifying and Providing Support

At the same time some literature by and about women researchers of
color in academe focused on identifying barriers, other writings investigated ways to cope with these challenges. An important process involved
finding support both from the center and in the margins. Some examples
illustrate this theme.
The National Council for Research on Women implemented the
Mainstreaming Minority Womens Study Program in 1988. This program
included thirteen institutions of higher education and one of its goals was
moving the concerns of women of color to the center of curriculum
reform (Mainstreaming Minority Womens Project, p.1) in these institutions. Two additional goals of this program were forcing womens studies
to address existing exclusions and addressing the necessity of bringing
racial ethnic analyses to womens studies and gender analyses to racial-ethnic studies (Mainstreaming Minority Womens Project, p. 1). What is
noteworthy about this program is that, rather than requiring women of
color to eschew their interests, there is a recognition of the inherent value
of their priorities and that these issues may be valuable for both the margins and the center.
An alternative means of finding support is also evident in the literature. This involved identifying support that could be helpful within the
margins. For example, the report, Minority women in research in education: A
report of the Dallas conference on expanding the role of minority women in educational research (Horsford, 1977) emphasizes helping women of color gain
research skills and providing them with technical assistance and mentoring
in conducting research. Similarly, Wilkerson (1983) argues for the importance of women of color to establish networks to support their research
and affect institutional policies.
This literature suggests some interesting shifts in the conversations
by and about women of color in educational research. In addition to
describing barriers and challenges faced as researchers, these writings
describe how these women proactively identify ways to implement their
research while simultaneously maintaining an often tenuous foothold in
academe. To accomplish these tasks, women of color need support that
will help them interact with those at the center without relinquishing the


From Center to Margins

advantages of being situated in the margins where, paradoxically, they have

greater freedom to challenge the status quo.
These examples focus on the need for women of color to identify
supportive persons within academe who help them both cope with barriers
and obstacles and pursue their own research agendas. However, another
important aspect of this theme involves these women as sources of support
for others. Women of color in academe are relied upon to serve as advocates for students of color, communities of color, and their colleagues.
Requests for support may come from students and communities of color.
They may also come from academics in the center, who are unwilling or
unable to provide support to these particular students and communities. In
some cases, women of color are placed in the position of serving as buffers,
ostensibly supporting these particular students and communities, while
also protecting members of the dominant group from having to interact
with anyone in the margins. Traditionally, women of color respond affirmatively to requests for support from their students and communities,
sometimes to the detriment of their own career advancement (Gregory,
2002; Turner, 2002). However, an important aspect of coping involves the
ability to recognize when one is being used to support questionable agendas and resisting this urge.
On the other hand, many women researchers of color provide support to students and communities of color on their own terms rather than
simply to meet institutional demands. This is often done through their
own work, particularly when their research is overtly aimed at benefiting
their communities. Furthermore, these women have often served as models and mentors to students of color and newly minted faculty of color.
These efforts are evident not only in university settings, but also in professional organizations. As mentors, women researchers of color have a
twofold task. First, to help students, colleagues, and communities understand the often arcane structures and processes of academe (i.e., they provide knowledge about the center). Second, to educate marginalized
students, communities, and colleagues about the advantages of speaking
from the margins.

Theme 4. Alternative Perspectives/Redefining

the Margins
Traditionally, the terms center and margins suggest a clear status inequity and assume that the center is to be preferred to the margins.
However, a number of women of color argue this is not inevitably the case.

Women of Color and Research


Instead, these women write that their experiences in the margins are rich,
and provide significant grounding for their roles as researchers.
Furthermore, some of these women argue, those closer to and even in the
center could benefit greatly by opening themselves to the wisdom in the
margins. Hurtado (1996) writes that it is a mistake to assume that women
of color are not active contributors to knowledge because they are often
not found in the dominant literature. She argues that theorizing by feminists of color (p. 37) has always happened in the margins. Furthermore,
such efforts focus not only on the nature of oppression but also on ways to
deconstruct the structures of oppression (p. 38).
Gutierrez & Nagata (1996) provide rich examples of such theorizing
in their research on intraethnic diversity. While research conducted from
the center tends to focus on interethnic differencesmost often with an
orientation that presents whites as superior to most groups of colorthese
researchers alternative perspective studied variations in identity, acculturation and world views within Mexican American and Japanese American
communities, respectively. Immersed in their communities, these
researchers are able to understand the particularistic roles gender played in
each. In their writings, they clearly define themselves as part of their communities rather than detached observers.
The decision to conduct research in our own communities in ways
that deviate from the centers conceptualizations is often met with skepticism. Much of my own work on academic achievement in African
American children focuses on variations within this particular cultural
group (Pollard, 1993, 2002). When presenting this work to audiences
unfamiliar with the margins, I am invariably asked why I have not included
a control (read White) group of children in my studies. In a similar vein,
the coeditor of this volume spent many years investigating the development of a scholar identity (Pollard & Welch, 2003, p. 377) in educationally disadvantaged youth. In carrying out this work, Welch and Hodges
(1997) reconceptualized perspectives on marginalized youth and challenged popular notions about academic disengagement in these students.
Frequently, their efforts were viewed with puzzlement or criticism from
individuals in the center. In resisting these attempts to define our research
in their terms, we have attempted to educate colleagues about the value of
our marginalized perspectives.
Several researchers have adapted Hardings (1991) ideas of feminist
standpoint epistemology as a foundation for supporting their own work as
well as critiquing efforts from the center to define, conduct, analyze, and
control research on communities of color. Valdez (2001) writes that


From Center to Margins

feminist standpoint epistemology works well for women researchers of

color because it accepts and legitimates views that knowledge is socially
situated and is influenced by . . . factors . . . such as [ones] gender, cultural
perspective, and socioeconomic status. (p. 70). According to Valdez, this
perspective recognizes the intersections of the multiple statuses as well as
the multiple forms of oppression women researchers of color face. B. J.
Allen (1995) demonstrates this perspective, writing that feminist standpoint epistemology is a useful tool to analyze her experiences as an
African American women faculty member at a predominantly White
research university.
Valdez (2001) notes that feminist standpoint epistemology can be
used to challenge the centers conceptualizations of knowledge, particularly knowledge about those in the margins. In addition, it can be used to
educate the center about the thoughts and actions of those in the margins.
Houston (1991) echoes this perspective when she challenges White feminist researchers to Follow us into our world. Only by taking this journey,
she argues, will these scholars learn to recognize and ultimately reject ethnocentric and exploitative research conducted on women and communities of color.

Summary and Conclusion

Women of color occupy unique and sometimes precarious positions
in academe; especially in their roles as educational researchers. From some
perspectives of the center, it is preferred that they are neither seen nor
heard. In order to insure this position is maintained, these women are
ignored and disrespected. Their work, when acknowledged is often devalued or, more insidiously, unethically appropriated. This relegation to the
margins can have deleterious effects on these womens energy and work
(Thomas & Hollenshead, 2002).
Despite the negative effects of being relegated to the margins, however, many women researchers of color have refused to accept this situation. Instead, they actively resist attempts by individuals and institutions at
the center to stifle them and their work. Much of this resistance emanates
from and remains in the margins. Only recently has this perspective been
recognized. All too often it is viewed as an exotic and entertaining fad,
rather than an ongoing intellectual process. The contributors to this volume represent the increasing number of women who clearly demonstrate
that their work in and from the margins provides important knowledge. In
responding to the question, How have you come to know what you know

Women of Color and Research


about research? each tells a unique story. These stories have the power to
enrich both the margins and the center.

Aguirre, A., Jr. et.al (2000). Women and minority faculty in the academic workplace:
Recruitment, retention, and academic culture. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Allen, B. A. (1996). Staying within the academy. In K. F. Wyche & F. J. Crosby
(Eds.), Womens ethnicities: Journeys through psychology (pp. 926). Boulder,
CO: Westview Press.
Allen, B. J. (1995, November). Twice blessed, double oppressed: Women of color
in academe. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Speech
Communication Association, San Antonio, TX.
Association of American Colleges (n.d.) Minority Women and higher education
No. 1 Washington, DC: Project on the Status and Education of Women.
Chu, L. (1980). Asian American women in educational research. Integrated
Education, 18 (56), 5560.
Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness and the politics of
empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman.
Gregory, S. T. (2002). Black faculty women in the academy: History, status, future.
Journal of Negro Education, 70 (3), 124138.
Guinier, L. (1998). Female gentlemen. In D. C. Dance (Ed.), Honey hush: An
anthology of African American womens humor (p. 551). New York: W. W.
Gutierrez, G., & Nagaka, D. K. (1996). Intraethnic and interethnic diversity:
Researching the Japanese American and Mexican American communities. In
K. F. Wyche & F. J. Crosby (Eds.), Womens ethnicities: Journeys through psychology (pp.167181). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Harding, S. (1991). Whose science? Whose knowledge: Thinking from womens lives.
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Hayes, M. E. (1990, March). Minority women in higher education: Status and
challenges. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and
International Education Society, Anaheim, CA.
Heward, C. et al. (1995). What is behind Saturns rings? Methodological problems
in the investigation of gender and race in the academic profession. British
Educational Research Journal 21 (2), 14963.
Horsford, P. L. (Ed.). (1977). Minority women in research in education: A report of the
Dallas conference on expanding the role of minority women in education research.


From Center to Margins

Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University. (ERIC Clearinghouse on
Rural Education and Small Schools, ED148521).

Houston, M. (1991, April). Follow us into our world: Feminist scholarship on the
communication of women of color. Paper presented at the annual meeting
of the Southern Speech Communication Association, Tampa, FL.
Hurtado, A. (1996). The color of privilege: Three blasphemies on race and feminism. Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Kulis, S., & Miller, K. A. (1988). Are minority women sociologists in double jeopardy? American Sociologist, 19 (4), 323339.
Mainstreaming Minority Womens Project (1988). National Council for Research
on Women. New York: Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House. 4749 E.
65th Street, 10021. Minority women and Higher Education. No. 1.
Montez, J. M. (n.d.). Asian/Pacific American women in higher education administration: Doubly bound, doubly scarce. Issues in Policy, No. 9. Pullman, WA:
College of Education, Washington State University. (ED430423).
Ortiz, F. I. (1983, April). Restraining and liberating perceptions regarding minority womens institutional participation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Resarch Association. Montreal, Canada.
Pollard, D. S. (1993). Gender, achievement and African American students perceptions of their school experiences. Educational psychologist, 28 (4), 342356.
Pollard, D. S. (2002). Who will socialize African American students in contemporary public schools? In W. A. Allen, M. B. Spence, & C. OConner (Eds.).
African American education: Race, community, inequality and achievement. A
tribute to Edgar G. Epps (pp. 321). Oxford, England: JAI.
Pollard, D. S., & Welch, O. M. (2003). One size does not fit all. In C. C. Yeakey, &
R. D. Henderson (Eds.). Surmounting all odds: Education, opportunity and society in the new millennium (pp.369388). Greenwich, CT: Information Age
Robinson, O. T. (1978). Contributions of Black American academic women to American
higher education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Wayne State University,
Detroit, MI. University Microfilms International, 1982 Thesis (Ph.D.)
Wayne State University, 1978.
Smith, C. H. (1982) Black female achievers in academe. Journal of Negro Education,
51 (3), 318341.
Thomas, G. D., & Hollenshead, C. (2002). Resisting from the margins: The coping strategies of black women and other women of color faculty members at
a research university. Journal of Negro Education, 70 (3), 166175.

Women of Color and Research


Tobin, M. (1980). The black female Ph.D.: Education and career development.
Washington, DC: University Press of America.
Turner, C. S. V. (2002). Women of color in academe: Living with multiple marginality. Journal of Higher Education, 73 (1), 7493.
Valdez, J. (2001). Standpoint epistemology and women of color. In D. L. Hoeveler
& J. D. Boles, (Eds.). Women of color: Defining the issues, hearing the voices
(pp.6979). Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Vargas, L. (1999). When the other is the teacher. Implications of teacher diversity in higher education. Urban Review, 31 (4), 359383.
Welch, O. M., & Hodges, C. (1997). Standing outside on the inside. Albany: State
University of New York Press.
Wilkerson, M. B. (1983). Lifting as we climb: Networks for minority women. New
Directions for Higher Education, 45 (12), 1, 5966.
Williams, S. S. (1985, April). Surviving double jeopardy in academe: Minority
female administrators at predominantly white universities. Paper presented
at the annual meeting of the Association for Women Deans, Administrators
and Counselors, Milwaukee, WI.
Zambrana, R. E. (1994). Toward understanding the educational trajectory and
socialization of Latina women. In L. Stone, (Ed.). The education feminist
reader (pp.135145). New York: Routledge.

This page intentionally left blank.

Chapter 2

Making Intellectual Space

Self-determination and Indigenous Research
Often what we do not know is not a mere gap in knowledge, the accidental result of an epistemological oversight. Especially in the case of oppression, a lack of knowledge or an unlearning of something previously
known often is actively produced for purposes of domination and
exploitation. Sometimes this takes the form of those in the center refusing to allow the marginalized to know. . . . Other times it can take the
form of the centers own ignorance of injustice, cruelty, and suffering,
such as white peoples obliviousness to racism and white domination.
Sometimes these unknowledges are consciously produced, while other
times they are unconsciously generated and supported.
Rock Ethics Institute, March, 2004

n 1998, when I was invited to be on a panel at the American

Educational Research Association, in Montreal in 1999, the coeditors
asked each panelist to address two questions: How have you come to
know what you know about research? and What are some of the factors,
issues, and concerns that have guided you as a researcher? The intent was
to investigate the importance of self-definition in research.
As a Native1 scholar and researcher, the questions were intriguing.
Five years after that panel presentation, and a few years into the new millennia, my answers have deepened, broadened, and become more urgent.
The opportunity I have had to work more directly with sovereign Native
Nations, by teaching, with Coast Salish college students on their
Homelands, has been a powerful reminder of the ways in which domination and exploitation have worked to perpetuate the unlearning of indigenous knowledge. Often this has been done in the name of educational
mainstreaming, otherwise known as assimilation.
As I reflect on the questions posed in 1998, I am struck by the
Centers maintenance of epistemologies of ignorance (Rock Ethics


From Center to Margins

Institute, 2004). I posit that it is time for the academy to make the intellectual space for Indigenous scholars who, instead of reifying the status quo,
are engaged in decolonizing research for self-determination and Native
sovereignty. Such Native researchers may, as other scholars, utilize their
research to inform not only their scholarship, but their teaching practices
as well. Making intellectual space offers the academy the opportunity to
pull back its heavy curtains on the broader landscape of epistemologies,
adding vibrancy to the intellectual enterprise and the quest for knowledge.
The purpose of this chapter is to respond to the original questions
asked. It is also to offer a different way of understanding research, and its
implications for not only those involved, but for academe as well. It is an
opportunity to glimpse through the obscured windows, onto the epistemological landscape upon which the hallowed ivory tower of academe does
figuratively, and literally sitthe landscape of Indian Country.

How Have You Come to Know What You Know About Research?
The invasion of North America by European peoples has been portrayed in history and literature as a benign movement directed by
God, a movement of moral courage and physical endurance, a victory for all humanity. As the face of Europe (as well as Asia and
Africa) changes at the close of the twentieth century, this portrayal of
colonialism and its impact on the unfortunate Indians who possessed
the continent for thousands of years before the birth of America,
seems to go unchallenged either in politics or letters by most mainstream thinkers. It arrives in academia unscathed, to be spoonfed to
future generations.
Cook-Lynn, 1996, p. 29

Research is not a new concept to the over 550 Sovereign Native

Nations of this land, who have had up to 512 years of experience with the
epistemologies, paradigms, methodologies, and units of analysis that constitute Western2 concepts of research. Long before formal research was
conducted by the never-ending army of anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, engineers, historians, religious scholars, and educational
researchers, Native peoples were held under the microscope of White
curiosity, scrutiny, definition, analysis, and judgementfrom Columbus
to expeditions like that of Lewis and Clark.
Most Native Nations have been intimately aware of research and its
impact on our children, our adults, our languages, our cultures, our ethnic
identities, our spiritual practices, our life ways, our lands, our natural

Making Intellectual Space


resources, and our health. Western research has filtered into every aspect
of our personal lives as Native peoples. No element of our lives [or deaths]
goes untouched, whether its about our right to claim our dead from museums, to how we may educate our children.
Informal and, later, formal research has drawn upon Western colonizing epistemologies. Historically, these forms of research have bolstered
or enhanced theories of perceived superiority over Indigenous Peoples.
Such research has influenced the policies that legalize land thefts, perpetuate the rape of our natural resources, and successfully manage to recast history, wherein Native peoples have simply been the speed bumps on the
road to progress (e.g., Churchill, 1999; Cook-Lynn, 2001; Deloria, 1998;
Deloria & Wildcat, 2001; Fixico, 1998; Gedicks, 1993; LaDuke, 1999;
Macedo & Bartolome, 1999; Mihesua, 1998a; Rains, 2003).
My first personal awareness of the power of Western colonial
research occurred in third grade, when, grounded in long discussions with
my Choctaw/Cherokee father about the history of our Native Nations in
the Southeast and Oklahoma, I lost my first argument of protest with my
teacher, Mrs. Hortense Hawkins. She insisted that research indicated that
all Indians were really from Asia. As evidence, she kept citing the Bering
Strait theory as fact. Meanwhile, at home, my father discussed the improbabilities of the Bering Strait theory3 (See Deloria, 1997, chapter 4 for further explanation on this theory).
In public school, my exposure to Native people as the object of
White research continued. What I learned then, but hadnt the language
to express, was how research was and is often used. I received clear messages about this; it cut across my body; slashed my identity, worked to
destroy in subtle ways, the power of Indigenous knowledge and my sense
of self. I witnessed how research and theories were used to erase, marginalize, objectify, and ignore Native Peoples and our histories and relationships with the lands. I felt the power of the Western colonizing knowledge
production enterprise, as I was the only one, the only American Indian in
most of the schools I attended. Surrounded by non-Indians, who often felt
glorified, while I felt vilified, made me keenly aware of its force. Given the
messages, I felt a sense of betrayal by the educational process my parents
put so much hopes in, for the betterment of my future.
It wasnt until graduate school and beyond, that I acquired the language and confidence to articulate how the system of narrowly constructed
Western knowledge production, grounded in domination and subordination, became institutionalized in the matter of a few hundred years. As
Little Bear (2000) notes (regarding the power of colonialism), . . . it tries


From Center to Margins

to maintain a singular social order . . . suppressing the diversity of human

worldviews (p. 77). Institutionalization worked to advantage Western
epistemology and knowledge while dis-advantaging Indigenous knowledges 4 and epistemologies developed over ten thousand plus years of relationships with the land, and its natural resources, indigenous species of
plants and animals, and metaphysical and natural forces (e.g., Battiste &
Youngblood Henderson, 2000; Cajete, 2000; Deloria & Wildcat, 2001;
Little Bear, 2000). Research has played an instrumental role in devaluing
Indigenous knowledge in this privileging process. An irony, to be sure,
given that research is the pursuit of knowledge.
Nevertheless, graduate school afforded me the opportunity to
learn how research is designed and constructed. It was in graduate
school that I learned what doing research means, and how there
needs to be a close fit between the design of the research endeavor and
its relationship to the nature of the problem being investigated. It is
where I learned about the need to use tools and methods that fit the
nature of the design. It is also where I became aware of how data is collected and analyzed and what that means from an institutional
Western perspective.
At the same time, graduate school opened the door to the mostly
Western world of theories. In most of my graduate classes, the theories
and research reflected Western epistemologies of assumed superiority
over the subaltern. I learned, too, ways to talk about what I felt: Other.
Such a simple word, but it explained so much. I recognized myself, as well
as where Indigenous knowledges and epistemologies had been placed. We
had been Other-ed.
As if through a back door, though, I found Others who wrote theories, conducted research, and wrote papers. These theorists, mostly White
feminists and theorists of color, engendered a more articulate and critical
perspective. They offered language and theories generated from the inside
out; from inside the Center but outside the narrow, Western construction
of knowledge. Their research and scholarship offered tools with which to
analyze and rethink the Centers privileging of Western knowledge and
research as dominant.
During this time, I was also exposed to researchers of color; in particular, Indigenous researchers, whose work reflected a decolonizing lens
and the means of rethinking the purposes, values, and possibilities of
research. This was research that not only asked different questions, but
asked questions differently. As Hurtado (1996) states, it taps sources of

Making Intellectual Space


knowledge not used by scholars steeped in mainstream positivist ideology (p. ix).

What Are Some of the Factors, Issues, and Concerns

That Have Guided You as a Researcher?
Since the 1990s, senior Native scholars have been calling for junior
Native scholars to carry the mantle of Indigenous research and scholarship
(e.g., Cook-Lynn, 2001; Deloria, 1997; Parker, 2003; Swisher, 1998). This
is no small responsibility. Besides the incredible body of academic work
these respected elders have already produced, they forge paths where there
were none. They expect us to walk the path they created, and they rightly
expect us to break new ground, to further the path for the next generation
of scholars.
For me, as a Choctaw, Cherokee, and Japanese researcher, this raises
guiding questions for the Academy regarding intellectual space. Also, in
light of Indigenous academic publications during this decade (e.g.,
Battiste, 2000; Battiste & Youngblood Henderson, 2000; Benham & Stein,
2003; Cajete, 2000; Cook-Lynn, 2001; Deloria, 1997; Deloria & Wildcat,
2001; Mihesuah, 1998a; L. Smith, 1999), several important factors and
issues are raised for researchers like myself that deserve consideration.


[E]ven if the ideological fog has not been deliberately constructed
and programmed by the dominant class, its power to obfuscate reality undeniably serves the interests of the dominant class. The dominant ideology veils reality; it makes us myopic and prevents us from
seeing reality clearly. The power of the dominant ideology is always
Freire, 1998, p. 6
In most colleges and universities, an assimilationist model is at work.
It is subtle, and perhaps by some standards, even benign (Rains, 1998b).
Assimilation however, is not without baggage. As a biracial American
Indian woman, I bring a different worldview, a different lens, and a different set of experiences to what assimilation represents and means.
The assimilationist nature of current practices in academe for
untenured faculty limits new knowledge production in favor of conformity,


From Center to Margins

expediency, and in some cases, redundancy. It permits a narrow, closely

monitored construction of knowledge that works to maintain the status
quo of the dominant paradigms.
On the surface, this is about a collegial fit, and there is no question
that on some level it is all about that. However, I posit that what is really at
stake is ones political and epistemological fit. Academic freedom, a hallmark of the academy, vanishes in the process of the pretenure fit.
In this assimilation process, there are typically three expectations
that must be met successfully for consideration into the tenured club.
They are:
Conformity to dominant, Western paradigms and epistemology;
A narrowly focused research agenda, preferably in an already validated area of research;
Publications in the premiere journals of the field.
The underlying assumption is that the responses to these expectations
determines whether an untenured faculty member will measure up or not,
in the name of a good fit. But isnt the purpose of the good fit, in some way,
more about whether the untenured faculty will be obedient? Is this really
the mission of research institutions, in particular, and of teaching institutions, in general?



For many, conformity to the dominant paradigms may not even

seem like an expectation. Many untenured researchers and scholars may
already be in sync with Western ways of knowing. Many may not even
see: the paradigms as representing a particular worldview at all. The
centricity of western dominating paradigms is that it hides [Whites] in
the light of reflexive exposure . . . while obscuring their own structural
locations, ethical responsibilities and epistemic standpoints (Roman,
1993, p.75).
As bastions of western elitism, research institutions form the proverbial Center. Those researchers in sync with the Western worldview, are
located at this Center. From this epistemic standpoint, privilege and power
avert awareness away from how knowledge, research, questions, and even
the nature of inquiry are socially constructed. As a Native researcher, coming from the Margins I bring a different way of thinking about knowledge,

Making Intellectual Space


about questions, about research, and the nature of inquiry. To assimilate

these differences is antithetical to the potential they raise, which is to
inform and contribute to how we all understand the world.
As well, the concept of assimilation, especially in relation to educational institutions, evokes painful intergenerational memories of the cost
to sovereign Native Nations. Colonizing models of boarding schools were
used to subordinate Indians through educational subjugation, thereby
tearing at the fabric of Native cultural integrity, and disrupting the future.
That is, by taking the children away. Conveniently cast as benign efforts
to civilize the savages, it obscured from public view the broader system
of which this was merely a part. The colonizers insatiable desire for more
lands, for transcontinental travel, and for the natural resources that had
been sustained by Native Nations for thousands of years was really at stake.
Assimilation was a useful mechanism; a device, if you will, in conjunction
with U.S. military attacks and massacres (e.g., Conestoga, Gnadenhutten,
Muskingum River, Sappa Creek, Sand Creek, and Wounded Knee Creek),
to dispossess Native Americans of what was rightfully theirs (e.g.,
Churchill, 1997; Cocker, 1998; Hunt Jackson, 1880/1993; Stannard,
1992). The cemeteries of these boarding schools are filled with Native
children who paid the ultimate price for assimilation.
So, while many may find the expectation of conformity to the dominant paradigms a smooth and easy fit, where does that leave a researcher
(like myself), from the proverbial margins? I have to ask: at what price
assimilation? Since other epistemologies frame my thinking about
research, must I forfeit them in the name of assimilation?
Granted my biracial identity, coupled with my gender, fulfills a target of opportunity or affirmative action hire. And in such a scenario, my
physical presence may lend support to the notion of a diversified workforce.
But my skin-deep colorizing contribution feels more like the before
and after photographs that Colonel Pratt used in the 1880s to promote
the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. In a sense, the
images of these children were used and prostituted to demonstrate the
successful power of assimilation. So, are the unique cultural differences I
bring tolerated only for the skin-deep value of diversification? Like the
before image of an old Carlisle photograph, are my research interests still
expected to fall in line with dominant ideologies and paradigms like the
after image of a photograph?
On occasion, White senior faculty have taken me aside and encouraged me to rethink my research interests. Couldnt I switch my research to
something more in line with contemporary [Western] trends in educational


From Center to Margins

research? Indians are such a small population, there wont be much

interest [for journal publications]; the sample size would be too small,
and so on. Yet, in 1994, Malin raised a critical question regarding
Aboriginal teachers hired in Australia. He asked, If as a society [we] only
accept those ethnic minority teachers who fit our culturally specific model of
what is considered a good teacher, arent we defeating the purpose in having Aboriginal teachers in the first place? (Italics added, p. 113).
Substitute researcher for teacher and a similar question might be put
to the academy. What responsibility does the institution have to respect
and value, in tenurable ways, different sorts of research a person, such as
myself, may bring to the academy?
Interestingly, my different appearance (e.g., accessories, long hair),
while carrying currency in terms of diversification can also be perceived as
a [daily] act of nonconformity. For example, long after an interview for a
position had occurred, it was leaked to me that the all White faculty at my
interview had thought I was too Indian for them. (I had worn a matching
skirt and suit jacket from J.C. Penneys to the interviewhardly traditional Native regalia.) In trying to understand what that meant, I pursued
the line of reasoning a bit farther. I was told that, apparently, the faculty
werent expecting me to look so Indian. It would seem that, on occasion,
those at the Center, find my Indian-ness too challenging to the status quo.
In such a case, the assimilationist model is strong, and the myopia so blinding, that I would have to change my identity to even have access [via job
interviews] to the academy.
While only an example, this speaks to the intensity of conformity at
the Center. I ask: why? Is my racial identity that threatening? Or could it
be that my identity is a reminder of the . . . dark episodes of the destruction of Indians and their cultures . . . (Fixico, 1998, p. 86) that is less deniable if I am present? How does such a possibility affect the Centers ability
to value my research, when something as benign as my physical presence is
deemed problematic?
I am reminded of what Tatanka Yotanka [Chief Sitting Bull], the
Hunkpapa Lakota leader, no stranger to clashes of worldviews, said:
If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man, he would have
made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and
plans; in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is
good in the sight of the Great Spirit. It is not necessary for eagles to
be crows. (Nerburn & Mengelkoch, 1991, p. 85)

Making Intellectual Space


His point, which is still valid today, holds that even in nature, not everything is the same. Thinking in terms of researchers, and pretenure fit, is it
necessary for eagles to be crows? The assimilationist practices to secure
adherence to the Western paradigms and epistemology, may determine an
untenured scholar fit, but in the process may restrict the opportunity to
expand what constitutes knowledge and research.


The narrowly focused research agenda, preferable in an already
validated area of research is supposed to be a helpful expectation along
the tenure and promotion lines. Focus, focus, focus is the mantra. The
purpose here is to demonstrate that a researcher can concentrate ones
efforts and, therefore, demonstrate a track record in a very narrowly prescribed area.
I appreciate the value that focus offers; yet, epistemologically, I question its institutionalization. For example, how is the concept of narrowing ones research at the pretenure level more reflective of the Newtonian
rationality that is embedded in Western notions of science? What constitutes research? As Notah Verney (2004), articulates:
[I]n the USA, where traditional academic philosophy generally
means Euro-American (or Greek) philosophy, the tendency toward
method has been to analyze by taking apart what is to distinguish
what is from what is not. Using this method . . . ideas when severed,
tend to lose meaning by losing relation with all surrounding things.
In contrast, we Dine (People) philosophize by making connections
among all things, thus giving all things meaning in relation, and
approach our world in a wholistic manner. (p. 135.)
What Notah Verney raises as problematic is a difference in worldview of
how research and knowledge is constructed and understood. In Western
paradigms, knowledge is compartmentalized and dissected into smaller
and smaller units. Therefore, the Western paradigms that demand a narrowing of ones research is actually grounded in a Western approach to
understanding how to go about knowing what we know. Focus is seen as
a Western research strategy (to take the proverbial magnifying class), and
in this way, most closely examine the smallest unit of analysis to know.


From Center to Margins

From the margins, however, I see the possibility of having more than
one research interest. For example, because of experiences with prejudice,
racism, and the power of White privilege throughout my lifetime, these
issues are an important research focus for me. In addition, my early, unsuccessful arguments of protest regarding accurate Indian history and Indian
[mis]representations, have forged a lifelong passion of researching these
topics. Grounded in my location as Other, combined with my Indigenous
epistemological framework, I do not see these distinct research interests as
incompatible or problematic. Still, I have been strongly encouraged to
pick one and focus more narrowly if you want to get tenure and, what
is often unspoken but inferred: preferably, not on the former of the two
research interests.
The expectation of narrowing ones research has been compounded
by pressure to focus my research preferably in an already validated area.
For example, I have been asked with some frequency: Cant you just do a
comparison of some sort between White students and Indian students?
Setting aside, momentarily, the privileging of Whiteness in such a case,
being asked to do comparative research would completely alter my
research agenda and the nature of my inquiries. This expected change
would recast my research designs, the methods I would need to implement, and the nature of the questions that my research might answer. It
would mean that in order to maintain the fit, I would need to do research
(in this case, comparative research) that would reinforce the dominance of
Western epistemologies, while demonstrating that I had sufficiently
acquiesced to the assimilationist model. In turn, this would demonstrate
that I had obediently followed the Western construction of what constitutes an appropriate research topic.
Besides the apparent need to completely change my research interests
and foci, such blind obedience leaves intact the privileging of Whiteness as
a standard of measure this type of comparative research embodies. It leaves
unexamined the ways in which White/Indian comparison, by its very
nature, embodies the dominant/subordinate paradigm. The implication is
that a research study designed to inquire about some aspect of Indian student life, for example, would not be as valid, or as reliable a study, as that of
a comparative design. This implication is not one that a White researcher
would have to consider in designing a study on some aspect of White student life. That researcher would not be pressured to do a comparison with a
non-White group, in order to validate their research.
Too, there is another issue this narrowly validated research expectation raises. I am a Native American focused on Native American

Making Intellectual Space


research. In sharing my research agenda with more senior White faculty, I

have been told that I should steer clear of conducting Native American
research. When I have asked why, I have been told that my research would
be seen as lacking objectivity and, therefore, validity.
Objectivity, then, becomes an issue, as Western epistemology prides
itself on this concept as a means of legitimizing outsider research as carrying more validity. Ironically, White researchers have been conducting
White-focused research for over one hundred years without any question
of their insider status in such research. Rarely is the lack of outsider
research on White subjects considered essential or necessary in the
Centers effort to maintain epistemological dominance. Instead, White
researchers status and positionality or privilege at the Center, apparently
vaccinates such insider research against any claims of subjectivity.
Yet, Native scholars and Native communities question the validity
and objectivity of research conducted by outsiders, who often misunderstand, misinterpret, and misrepresent the phenomena they investigate
(Battiste & Youngblood Henderson, 2000; Mihesua, 1998a; L. Smith,
1999). Senior Native scholars, such as Vine Deloria, Jr., point out, [f]or
most of the five centuries, whites have had unrestricted power to describe
Indians in any way they chose (1996, p. 66). In American history, for
example, Fixico (1998) states:
Whether racially prejudiced or guilt-ridden, patronizing, paternalistic, or romantic, Indian history mainly has been perceived from a
white perspective, based on the idea that the conquerors write the
history. More than 30,000 manuscripts have been published about
American Indians, and more than 90 percent of that literature has
been written by non-Indians . . . The point here is that non-Indian
scholars have sought to define the perameters [sic] of the field
American Indian scholars have sought to define the perameters [sic]
of the field American Indian history. They have attempted to determine its forms of evidence only as written accounts, professed limited theories, and devised methodologies from a non-Indian
tradition. (p. 88)
The case is similar in Indian education. Swisher (1998), cites as an
example, that three White scholars, alone, have published over thirty articles and books on Indian education in the last fifteen years. Their authority is cited more often than the experts from whom their experience and
information was gathered, and they [the White scholars] have become the
experts in Indian education recognized by their mainstream peers (italics


From Center to Margins

added, p. 193). In this way, then, the issue of objectivity in research

becomes a thinly veiled code for the purposes of self-preservation, to
protect the Centers control of knowledge construction and epistemological imperialism.
This leads to the issue of voice in research. For example, Harrison
(1993), discussed the matter of polyvocal ventriloquism among some
researchers at the Center. Referring, in this case, to anthropologists, who
share some similar research strategies and paradigms with many educational researchers, she stated:
. . . the sophisticated textual strategies and rhetorical devices in which
it [anthropology] invests so much faith perhaps unwittingly encode
the appropriation of subaltern voicesthe voices of the oppressed
and amount to a version of polyvocal ventriloquism. The anthropologist as skillful ventriloquist only revocalizes colonial dominance
while magically projecting the illusion of dispersed power and
authority. (p. 401)
The issue, then, of voice, of who gets to speak for whom, of what
happens to authenticity, and how it is used, becomes central not only to my
own research considerations, but also in terms of understanding how the
Center protects its centricity by legitimizing who gets to conduct research
with whom.
The Center may deem outsider research as neutral and, therefore, fittingly objective and acceptable. However, the questions Mohanty raised in
1991, still resonate today. She queried, [w]ho produces knowledge about
colonized peoples and from what space/location? What are the politics of
the production of this particular knowledge? (1991, p. 3). As an American
Indian researcher focused on Native research topics, Mohantys questions
about objectivity raise for me the question of knowledge to serve what purpose? The nature of my inquiry and scholarship have been discouraged,
deemed suspect of bias due to my insider cultural identity, and seen by the
Center as lacking objectivity. Ironically, the Centers vested interest in
maintaining epistemological supremacy, obscures from positional scrutiny,
the outside researchers culturally biased location at the Center.
Many non-Indians have made lucrative, and lifelong careers
researching Indians as objects. Do the human beings who are objectified
for such career long research agendas truly benefit from such research, or
are they simply commodities to be traded for the outsider as expert book
deals, keynote addresses, consults, and the often well-paid speaking

Making Intellectual Space


engagements? I ask these questions because in many Native Nations and

communities, research has become a very ugly word (e.g., Cajete, 2000;
Cook-Lynn, 2001; Deloria & Wildcat, 2001; Mihesua, 1998a; Parker,
2003; L. Smith, 1999). As Mihesua (1998b) points out:
[t]he subjects of research usually receive few, if any, benefits from the
lucrative research grants awarded to scholars each year. Ironically,
some of these scholars bask in the glow of scholarly notoriety while
the tribes they write about dismiss these same works as fiction. (p. 8)
The issue of who benefits from such research has become so pervasive that
some Native Nations are exercising their sovereignty by developing protection mechanisms to limit non-Indian researchers from exploiting
Native people as objects, and the traditional Indigenous knowledges they
possess as commodities (Lomawaima, 2000).
Given the negative history of exploitive research in Native communities around the world; given the bitter taste it left for objectified peoples;
and given the lack of visible benefits from much of this research, the issue
of objectivity takes on new meaning, for both the researcher and the
researched. The Center, with its Western colonizing epistemologies and
paradigms, persists in the sense of entitlement that comes from questioning the status quo, and maintains a blind spot when objectivity is at stake.
As a Native researcher, the consequences then, may be vastly different
than my White pretenure colleagues conducting white research, where
their insider status in their research is ignored, and therefore, does not
carry the same weight in their bid for tenure.


The third expectation regarding pretenure fit is the need to publish
in premiere journals of the respective field. This is meant to demonstrate
to the Center that the pretenure facultys research is sound in design and
methodology, and that their scholarship meets acceptance in a blind
review from experts in the field. Two major questions come into focus
related to this expectation and matters of research.
First, there is the issue of the premiere, or elitist journals. Because of
the prestige and weight given to publishing in premiere journals at tenure
and promotion time, getting scholarly work into such journals has (to some
extent), come to represent the quality of the researcher and the legitimacy
of their research. Conversely, not getting published in these journals,


From Center to Margins

often leave pretenured faculty in a second class position. Therefore, there

is enormous pressure to publish in such journals. Yet, scholars of color, in
general, are less likely to have their work published in premiere journals
than their White counterparts.
While there is often sympathetic rhetoric and lip service given by the
Center, in support of the contributions of scholars of color with respect to
their research and scholarship, the number of articles accepted in such elite
journals by researchers of color is demoralizingly low (Frierson, 1990;
Padilla, 1994; Reyes & Halcon, 1991). For example, Aguirre (1995) submitted an article, based on his research with Chicanos, to a premiere journal in his field. The turnaround was faster than he expected. He explains:
In three sentences the journals editor said that he was using his
authority as editor not to send out the paper for external review.
According to the editor, the paper was of limited interest to the
members. . . . Interestingly, an article dealing with Chicanos was published in the next quarterly issue of the journal. The . . . authors were
white academics. (p. 2223)
Elite journals often publish a token amount of scholarship by
scholars of colorenough to ward off direct claims of overt racism, but
few enough to raise suspicion. Often, such journals uses veiled language
to imply that the quality of scholarship and research generated by scholars of color is not as qualified as that of White scholars. Phrases such as
limited interest to the members, or too political are some that have
been used to deny scholars of color access to such journals (e.g., CookLynn, 2001; Deloria, 1997; Mihesua, 1998b; Rains, 1995; Reyes &
Halcon, 1991). What is interesting about such rejection statements is
that they do not refer to some design flaw, or methodological incompatibility, but rather emphasize the lack of fit between the research topic and
the journal.
So, the first question related to this expectation of pretenure fit is
this: Are such stated reasons reflective of the quality of the scholarship, and
the quality of the research design and method, or is this really a situation of
potentially mis-matched epistemologies between the editorial board and
the scholar? Boyer (1990), for example, argues that, [w]hile we speak with
pride about the great diversity of American higher education, the reality is
that on many campuses priorities frequently are more imitative than distinctive (p. 2). Compounding this is the symbiotic relationship between
premiere journals and the Center.

Making Intellectual Space


The Center needs the premiere journals to help maintain credibility

and supremacy, and the premiere journals need the Center to maintain
their respective members and readership. Given the Western colonizing
paradigms and epistemology of the Center, any scholarship or research
that does not uphold these traditions is more at risk of being labeled substandard. Because the research of many scholars of color falls outside the
purview of Western epistemological dominance, their work is more vulnerable to second class status. This subordinated status may be repeated
when these scholars submit their work to the very journals that uphold the
Centers dominance.
In this way, the scholar of color, who goes up for tenure and promotion without prerequisite publications in premiere journals, may experience a blame-the-victim response. The researcher of color may have
conducted insider research, framed with a non-Western epistemic paradigm. This researcher, then, may be denied tenure because the publication
trail did not include esteemed, elite journals. It might be assumed that this
researcher doesnt measure up to the Centers expectations. However, it
could also be that the method of measure (the quantity of publications in
elite journals), is not an accurate indication of the quality of the inside
researchers work. For example, what would have happened if the inside
researchers work had been accepted in journals that consistently blind
review such work? What if the researchers work had, under the process of
blind review, resulted in several publications in such journals. Would that
then, be an indication that the researchers work was really second class, or
merely different from the Western tradition.
This leads to the second question related to the expectation of pretenure fit: What really constitutes elite? Using the analogy of fruit, the
highest quality orange will never measure up to the criteria of what constitutes a superb apple. Does that mean that the orange is inferior, or merely
different? I argue that the time has come to abolish the separate but equal
status of journals that publish non-Western research and scholarship
framed in Indigenous and Other epistemologies.
Often such journals, for example the Journal of American Indian
Education; the Journal of Negro Education; and the Journal of Latinos and
Education, have some of the most respected and revered scholars of color in
the field, who blind review work that is submitted. The process of such
journals is not different from elite journals; blind review is used in both.
These scholars as reviewers, are eminently qualified to blind review new
work in the field. They are familiar with the research literature, designs
and methodologies and are positioned to determine what constitutes


From Center to Margins

strong versus weak scholarship. They are often in a better position to

determine whether such scholarship is really too political or of limited
interest than the reviewers of elite journals who are less versed in different,
epistemic frameworks of research.

Self-determination in Research
Indigenous communities have struggled since colonization to exercise what is viewed as a fundamental right: to represent ourselves.
Indigenous peoples have been, in many ways, oppressed by theory
[and research]. Any consideration of the ways our origins have been
examined, our histories recounted, our arts analyzed, our cultures
dissected, measured, torn apart and distorted back to us will suggest
that theories have not looked ethically at us. (L. Smith, 1999, p. 38)
For me, this discussion raises the issue of self-determination in
research. The call for self-determination is prominent in both Native
intellectual, and grassroots, circles (e.g., Battiste & Youngblood Henderson, 2000; Cook-Lynn, 2001; Deloria & Wildcat, 2001; Lomawaima,
2000; Mihesua, 1998a; Parker, 2003; Swisher, 1998; Swisher & Tippeconnic, III, 1999a; Waters, 2004). The clash of worldviews and paradigms
permeate every element of contact between the Colonizers and the
Indigenous Peoples on this continent. In order for the balance of power to
be complete, however, it was also necessary for the Colonizers to delegitimize knowledge, Native science, and the metaphysics and epistemologies5
that frame them (e.g., Battiste, 2000; Battiste & Youngblood Henderson,
2000; Blaut, 1993; Cajete, 2000; Cook-Lynn, 2001; Deloria & Wildcat,
2001). As Deloria (1997) explains:
Any group that wishes to be regarded as the authority in a human
society must not simply banish or discredit the view of their rivals,
they must become the sole source of truth for that society and defend
their status and power to interpret against all comers . . . it is even
permissible to tell lies in order to maintain status, since the most fatal
counterattack against entrenched authority will not be directed
against their facts but against their status (p. 26).
In this way, the Colonizers were able to maintain a stranglehold on
what constituted knowledge and legitimate worldviews.
Self-determination is the struggle to reclaim the balance of power
that has been eroded over the last 500 years between Native Peoples and

Making Intellectual Space


these same Colonizers. More and more, Native Nations are exercising
their right to self-determination in the area of research, despite Western
colonization. This self-determination includes resistance to Colonizer
theories of research and scholarship that, in combination, work to erase
indigenous voice, accuracy, and agency. This erasure continues to be a
necessary part of preserving dominancecognitively, politically, and culturally. It leaves unquestioned the constructed nature of the research and
the political and cultural positionality of the researcher. Yet, research is
not neutral. Senior Native scholars like Deloria (1997), Swisher (1998),
and Parker (2003) have questioned whether outsiders, who may have limited exposure to the Native communities they research, can really understand the cultures, languages, economics, and positionality of Other. In
this light, self-determination takes on a different significance. At the
research level, self-determination is not simply about empowering
Indigenous scholars with choices of research foci, rather, self-determination in this context brings a different way of thinking about research practices and the epistemology that frames them. It means the:
. . . authority to ask new and different questions based on histories
and experiences as indigenous people. It is more than different ways
of knowing; it is knowing that what we think is grounded in principles of sovereignty and self-determination, and that it has credibility . . . it takes American Indians and Alaska Natives to understand the
depth of meaning incorporated in Indian education to ask appropriate questions and find appropriate answers (Swisher, 1998, pp.
In short, self-determination in research demands a rethinking of the
nature of research and the role of the researcher, with implications for

Self-determination in research brings with it a different conceptualization of the purpose of research. Certainly, the views from within (e.g.,
Rains, 1995;1998a; Swisher, 1998) are different from the outside looking
in, and thereby affect the nature of research on a general level. But beyond
the shift in viewpoint, self-determination in the context of inquiry, offers
the opportunity to . . . develop theoretical understandings and practices
that arise out of our own Indigenous knowledge. . . . Theory will enable us


From Center to Margins

to move forward in the work that we are doing in our communities, in

developing sound critiques and effective interventions (G. Smith, 2000,
p. 214).
Self-determination in research also requires a recognition of the sovereignty of Native Nations. This is important because the power differentials between academic researchers and the communities in which they
work have rarely been balanced (Lomawaima, 2000). The positional differences between the Colonizer and the Colonized are mirrored in how
Native sovereignty is often subordinated to the political whims of the
greater society. This imbalance often affects the nature of the research as
well as its outcomes and consequences.
Western paradigms drive much of the research conducted among
Native Peoples. This often self-serving nature of research, driven by the
need to bolster careers through publications, leads to research practices
that often exploit Native People and their cultural knowledge, languages,
and spiritual practices. Ironically, the publications generated from such
research are rarely accessible or useful to the people who made the
research possible. Worse, such scholarship is sometimes used to shape federal policies and practices without the authentic voices of those who are
most directly affected (e.g., Battiste, 2000; Deloria, 1998; Lomawaima,
2000; Swisher, 1998).
In a survey conducted with over 50 Native Nations, 4 major issues
regarding previous research with these Nations were revealed as problematic:
1. Inappropriate use of culturally sensitive information, especially
spiritual information.
2. Commercial or other exploitive [sic] use of information.
3. Unauthorized infringement of individual, family, or group ownership rights for songs, stories, or other information.
4. Potential conflicts or harm resulting from the research, including
what comes from the inappropriate interpretation of data, inappropriate intrusions into community life, and breaches of confidentiality and friendship (Nason, 1996, p. 19).
Such issues have increased skepticism of the nature of research from the
standpoint of many tribes. While some have research protocols in place
(Lomawaima, 2000) to protect their people, cultures, languages, stories,
prayers, spiritual practices, and songs, these issues speak to the way that
self-determination in research may differ from past research.
Self determination in research requires a respect for the sovereignty
of the tribe(s). As Indigenous scholars (e.g., Battiste & Youngblood;

Making Intellectual Space


Henderson, 2000; Lomawaima, 2000; L. Smith, 1999; Swisher, 1998;

Swisher & Tippeconnic III, 1999b) indicate, there is a need to be more
than simply mindful with regard to the Native Nations. In this sort of
research, the balance of power shifts to honor the self-determination of the
tribe. It requires an earnest recognition of the legitimacy of Indigenous
knowledge, epistemic standpoints, and traditions. Trust may take time to
establish. Preconceived research foci and designs may be of little value to
the respective tribe, who instead may request research in a different, but
more essential area. Valuable concerns emanating from the tribe may generate more useful questions in the research focus area. The tribe may also
have ideas about dissemination of findings or about ownership of the data.
The balance of power is level, with respect and negotiation at the forefront. Self-determination in research means that research is not about taking in an individualistic, career-driven way. Instead, it is about respectful
reciprocity that honors the commitment and needs of tribe or community,
while framing the research in ways that honors Indigenous epistemologies,
metaphysics, and knowledge.

Self-determination in research requires a different kind of role for
the researcher. To gain entry into a tribe, a prospective researcher
. . . must first ask [permission from the tribe], and then listen. . . . If the
researcher does more talking than listening in the ensuing dialog, something is wrong (Lomawaima, 2000, p.15). It is, however, erroneous to
assume that simply listening will earn automatic access to a community.
Brayboy (2000) attests to the tensions and challenges of positionality when
an Indigenous researcher (often with a Western, colonial education),
enters a Native community to conduct research.
The academic demands of a quick turnaround with results coupled
with the numbers of researchers some Native communities have encountered, left many Native People with the view that research, with a capital
R, is a revolving door. In such Native communities, researchers of one
kind or another have come and gone in rapid fire succession. Some Native
communities have been inundated with quick turn around researchers for
one hundred years or more, with little or no benefit, and having been
exploited. Native researchers may encounter this perspective.
The Native researcher may be skeptically viewed as an ivory tower
intellectual, disconnected from Indigenous communities and concerns, a
mere functionary for the colonization of our peoples (G. Smith, 2000, p.


From Center to Margins

213). Therefore, indigenous researchers need to positively, and yet

humbly work to earn and build trust. Recognition and respect of Elders,
and Keepers of Traditions and Languages, are essential. The researcher
working with, rather than on, Native tribes and communities has an opportunity to build relationships. Research, viewed from the standpoint of
these potential relationships, can be a form of agency, wherein the
researchers and the Native communities work together to strengthen
Native education, and Native sovereignty, and generate grounded theory
using Indigenous knowledge and epistemic frameworks.

Conclusion: Making the Intellectual Space

Research is a distinguishing characteristic of universities.
Universities are committed to the creation of knowledge through
research, reflection, scholarship and academic freedom. . . . For
indigenous peoples, universities are regarded as rather elite institutions which reproduce themselves through various systems of privilege . . . bastions of Western elitism. It is not surprising then, that
many Indigenous students find little space for indigenous perspectives in most academic disciplines and most research approaches (L.
Smith, 1999, p.129).
Making intellectual space in the academy is not an easy task. Yet, it is
necessary. The pride that many institutions retain regarding the enterprise
of expanding understanding, while standing on the foundational capstone
of academic freedom needs to be honored, no less for Indigenous scholars
than for White scholars. To do less would be hypocritical, at best and
racist, at worst.
Indigenous scholars, like myself, have a responsibility to ensure the
intellectual space is made to carry out our research and scholarship. We
stand on the shoulders of other Native scholars who have made the
pipeline big enough for us to squeeze through. We must ensure that those
who follow in our footsteps have the intellectual space in which to work.
Academic freedom, and the mission to pursue and broaden our understanding of knowledge demand it. Freire might have argued that as Native
scholars, we must empower ourselves. I believe this is important. The time
has come for research institutions to live up to their mission statements.
It is time for academic institutions to decolonize tenure practices
that privilege Western knowledge. Supremacy is a dangerous thing, as the
history of this country demonstrates over, and over again. The narrow

Making Intellectual Space


construction of the tenure system dismisses anyone who does not assimilate into the dogmatic publish or perish paradigm. As a result, to obtain
tenure Indigenous scholars, who bring a different epistemic standpoint, a
self-determination research focus, and a commitment to Indigenous
knowledge, have to become White and forego the research and scholarship that brought them to the research institution in the first place. As
Blaut (1993) reminds us:
Because of its power to reward, punish, and control, this [process]
succeeds in convincing most scholars that its interests are the interests of everyone. These interests are social, economic, and political
agendas, and it is a simple transformation to insert the word ought
and turn them into values. Viewed statically, these interests are
always clear, and the values derived from them cohere into the dominant value system that more or less mirrors these interests. Hence,
we have at all times a kind of environment of values, surrounding and
influencing the ongoing validation process in scholarship (p. 39).
In rigidly holding fast to this particular worldview, academe has invalidated scholarship and research that does not uphold this limited construction of what counts as legitimate. The academic rewards system advocates
speed, repetition, elite journals, and fast turnarounds, but at what cost? Is
faster research and rapid turnaround scholarship to publication necessarily
the intent of the mission statements? Is this the system that produces
expanding knowledge and understanding? Or is this the system that perpetuates the status quo?
At the very least, the system is due for a tune-up (e.g., Boyer, 1990;
Caplan, 1994; Ford-Slack, Rains, Dunlap, & Collay, 1994). We stand on
the cusp of a new millennium, and tuning up the rewards system at the
beginning of a new millenium might set a positive foundation for the
future. As Boyer (1990) stated:
It is this issuewhat it means to be a scholar-that is the central
theme. . . . The time has come, we believe, to step back and reflect on
the variety of functions academics are expected to perform. Its time
to ask how priorities of the professoriate relate to the faculty reward
system, as well as to the missions of Americas higher learning institutions. Such an inquiry into the work of faculty is essential if students are to be well served, [and] if the creativity of all faculty is to be
fully tapped. (emphasis original; p. 2)


From Center to Margins

One of the strong distinctions between Indigenous epistemologies

and the Western colonizing epistemic standpoint (that continues to guard
the Ivory Tower), is the value in and responsibility toward community. For
example, service is often viewed with enormous disdain as the ugly
stepchild of the reward system. Yet, perceived in a more dynamic way, it
could offer new intellectual understandings out of the process of applying theory and practice vitally interact, and one renews the other (Boyer,
1990. p. 23). So, for example, Indigenous researchers whose work brings a
focus on Indian self-determination could conduct research and also contribute to the generation of theory.
Native scholars who enter into relationships with Native communities could offer a win-win situation to the academy. Outreach services to
Native communities, could help restore balance and good will regarding
future research endeavors that honor Native sovereignty. Such service
could inspire a new generation of Native youth to consider the academic
institution that supports such research and scholarship. Such Native scholars could bring their learning directly to students in their college classrooms through the courses they design. And, the time invested in the
community could generate new scholarship in publications that blind
reviews such work with knowledgeable scholars well-versed in the
methodologies and epistemic frameworks that guide their research. In
addition the institutional commitment to diversity could move beyond lip
service to an earnest advancement in racial understanding.
It would mean opening up an institutional system that has become
very tightly bound. It would mean rethinking the positive potential and
value of service. It would mean rethinking the frantic speed and kill or be
killed attitude regarding the race for elite journal publications that maintain the current research house that Jack built. It would mean holding up a
mirror to Western colonizing epistemologies as a means of opening up the
institutions to different epistemologies. It would mean revisiting the mission statements of institutions to have the reward system more in sync with
the mission statement.
It would mean some rethinking indeed. But rethinking can easily be
assigned to a committee or a commission, until it fades from view. More is
needed. Action is needed.
Earnest institutional change is necessary. Unless that White, male,
doctoral student, who was in the field of higher education that produces
the deans, chancellors and presidents of colleges and universities, was right
about American Indians not belonging in higher education. Unless academe is really only for those scholars who embrace Western colonizing

Making Intellectual Space


epistemologies. For despite claims to the contrary, the current reward system is subjective. So, it would seem paradoxical to claim that academe cannot change because to do so would mean it would have to relinquish
equality. Fifty years after the Brown case, faculty of color in academe, in
general, are still at the back of the Ivory Towers school bus.
Changing the tenure process, and faculty reward system, would
make intellectual space possible for Native scholars such as myself.
Standing on the margins of Center, such an enterprise could make the circly bigger and more authentically inclusive. It could breathe new life into
the leaning ivory tower (Padilla & Chavez Chavez, 1995).

1. For better or worse, given Columbuss navigational error, treaties
between the European governmental bodies and later, the United States, and
respective independent, sovereign Native Nations were written using Indians
and American Indians. Therefore, there is validity in using the terms Indian
and American Indian despite political correctness arguments to the contrary.
However, by using American Indian alone, it excludes Alaska Natives or First
Nations of Canada and other indigenous peoples. Therefore, for this chapter I will
use primarily Native, Native Peoples, Native Nations and Indigenous to reflect the
original inhabitants of the lands. While less comfortable with the term, Western
(see endnote), I will use this term and non-Indian, and occasionally, white to refer
to people of European immigrant descent. It is important to note that I only represent myself in these views.
2. The use of this term Western has been appropriated by European/White Americans to represent their paradigms, behaviors and ways of life. A
more accurate description might be Newtonian rationality. Western leaves the
Native Nations, who have occupied this land mass west of Britain for over 10,000
years, little choice but to consider our paradigms, behaviors and ways of life as
non-Western, all the while sharing the same land mass as those who claim to be
western. This is an irony, given that standing on these shores, Europe is east of
here and Asia is west. So, from a Non-western (read Indigenous) point of view,
European/White American ways of knowing are actually eastern since the intellectual traditions are derived from Europe, not here.
3. Despite the fact that my father never had the luxury of going beyond the
eighth grade, he was an intelligent man, who used his intellect and common sense,
coupled with his tribal history as springboards to reading and learning more his
entire life. However, he lost his mother when he was 5, and his father when he was
14. Times were hard in Oklahoma in the 1930s for many Indians. So, from 1932 to
1942, he lived with various elders and family members who shared various aspects
of our history to him over the years he was growing up. Television, videos and dvds
were a long way off into the future at that point, and so the telling of this history


From Center to Margins

along with memories and stoires, occupied some of the evening hours. The Bering
Straits theory played no role in this history.
4. While entire books have been written on the subject of Indigenous
Knowledge and Indigenous Epistemology (see for example, Battiste &
Youngblood Henderson, 2000; Cajete, 200; Deloria, 1997; Waters, 2004) briefly
put, Western epistemology is about abstraction, whereas, Indigenous epistemology does not divorce human beings from the equation of understanding. Waters
(2004), in discussing the work of Burkhart, states that what distinguishes Indian
knowing from Western knowing is the difference between the Western belief that
philosophy holds knowledge, and the belief that literature and religion hold human
expression. Indian philosophy fuses science and knowing with literature and religion. . . . [Western epistemology says] I think therefore I am [whereas Native epistemology says] We are therefore I am. An understanding of all that I and others
see and experience is accounted for and passed down through generations in the art
of story and ceremony: (p. xviii). Burkhart (2004) draws upon the metaphor of a
song, explaining that a person can learn a song without learning the musical notation. A Western world view would perceive that learning the notes (abstraction)
would be akin to knowing the song. An Indigenous worldview would perceive
that the song could be learned without ever seeing/reading a note. In one
case[Western] one understands the notes, in the other case, one understands the
song. Not better, not worse, but different ways of coming to understanding.
Land, and our relationship to it, and all that it entails, along with the metaphysics
and elements of nature, all are pieces of an Indigenous epistemology. While I am
oversimplifying here, I do so, more to give a sense of the difference, rather than to
offer a detailed explanation, which others have done more articulately and with
more detail.
5. Each Native Nation has its own epistemology and metaphysics, yet there
are some common threads that may be helpful to the non-Indian as a means of
being able to distinguish the differences between Western and American Indian
worldviews. The purpose here is not to debate or elaborate on the plurality of
Native worldviews.

Aguirre, A., Jr. (1995). A Chicano farmworker in academe. In R. V. Padilla & R.
Chavez Chavez (Eds.), The leaning ivory tower: Latino professors in American
universities (pp. 1728). Albany: State University of New York Press.
Battiste, M. (Ed.) (2000). Reclaiming indigenous voice and vision. Vancouver, Canada:
University of British Columbia Press.
Battiste, M., & Youngblood Henderson, J. (2000). Protecting Indigenous knowledge
and heritage: A global challenge. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada: Purich
Benham, M. K. P., & Stein, W. J. (Eds.). (2003). The renaissance of American Indian
higher education: Capturing the dream. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Making Intellectual Space


Blaut, J. M. (1993). The colonizers model of the world: Geographical diffusionism and
Eurocentric history. New York: Guilford.
Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professorate. The
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Brayboy, B. M. (2000, JulyAugust.). The Indian and the researcher: Tales from
the field [Special issue] International Journal of Qualitative Studies in
Education, 13(4), 415426.
Burkhart, B. Y. (2004). What coyote and Thales can teach us: An outline of
American Indian epistemology. In A. Waters (Ed.), American Indian thought:
Philosophical essays (pp. 1526). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Caplan, P. J. (1994). Lifting a ton of feathers: A womans guide to surviving in the academic world. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Cajete, G. (2000). Native science: Natural laws of interdependence. Santa Fe, NM:
Clear Light Publishers.
Churchill, W. (1997). A little matter of genocide: Holocaust and denial in the Americas
1492 to the present. San Francisco: City Lights Books.
Churchill, W. (1999). The crucible of American Indian identity: Native tradition
versus colonial imposition in postconquest North America. In D.
Champagne (Ed.), Contemporary Native American cultural issues (pp. 3967).
Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
Cocker, M. (1998). Rivers of blood, rivers of gold: Europes conquest of Indigenous peoples.
New York: Grove.
Cook-Lynn, E. (1996). Why I cant read Wallace Stegner and other essays: A tribal
voice. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Cook-Lynn, E. (2001). Anti-Indianism in modern America: A voice from Tatekeyas
earth. Urbanna: University of Illinois Press.
Deloria, V., Jr., (1997). Red earth, white lies: Native Americans and the myth of scientific fact. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.
Deloria, V., Jr. (1998). Comfortable fictions and the struggle for turf: An essay
review of The Invented Indian: Cultural Fictions and Government
Policies. In D. A. Mihesuah (Ed.), Natives and academics: Researching and
writing about American Indians (pp. 6583). Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Deloria, V., Jr. & Wildcat, D. R. (2001). Power and place: Indian education in
America. Golden, CO: American Indian Graduate Center and Fulcrum
Fixico, D. L. (1998). Ethics and responsibilities in writing about American Indian
history. In D. A. Mihesuah (Ed.), Natives and academics: Researching and writing about American Indians (pp. 8499). Lincoln: University of Nebraska


From Center to Margins

Ford-Slack, P. J., Rains, F. V., Dunlap, D., & Collay, M. (1994, April). Can we
rebuild the AERA house using the same old tools? The Academic Vampire
Chronicles III. A readers theatre on life in academia. An experimental presentation at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research
Association, New Orleans, LA.
Frierson, H. T. (1990, March). The situation of Black educational researchers:
Continuation of a crisis. Educational Researcher, 19(2), 1217.
Gedicks, A. (1993). The new resource wars: Native and environmental struggles against
multinational corporations. Boston: South End Press.
Harrison, F. V. (1993). Writing against the grain: Cultural politics of difference in
the work of Alice Walker. Critique of Anthropology, 13(4), 401427.
Hunt Jackson, H. (1880/1993). A century of dishonor: A sketch of the United States governments dealings with some of the Indian tribes. New York: Indian Head
Hurtado, A. (1996). The color of privilege: Three blasphemies on race and feminism. Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
LaDuke, W. (1999). All our relations: Native struggles for land and life. Cambridge,
MA: South End Press.
Little Bear, L. (2000). Jagged worldviews colliding. In M. Battiste (Ed.). Reclaiming
Indigenous voice and vision (pp. 7785). Vancouver, Canada: University of
British Columbia Press.
Lomawaima, K. T. (2000, Spring). Tribal Sovereigns: Reframing research in
American Indian education. Harvard Educational Review, 70(1), 121.
Macedo, D., & Bartolome, L. I. (1999). Dancing with bigotry: Beyond the politics of tolerance. New York: Palgrave Publishers.
Malin, M. (1994). What is a good teacher? Anglo and Aboriginal Australian views.
Peabody Journal of Education, 69(2), 94114.
Mihesuah, D. A. (Ed.). (1998a). Natives and academics: Researching and writing about
American Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Mihesuah, D. A. (1998b). Introduction. In D. A. Mihesual (Ed.), Natives and academics: Researching and writing about American Indians (pp. 122). Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press.
Mohanty, C. T. (1991). Introduction: Cartographies of struggle-Third world
women and the politics of feminism. In C. T. Mohanty & L. Torres (Eds.),
Third world women and the politics of feminism (pp. 147). Bloomington:
Indiana University Press.
Nason, J. D. (1996). Tribal models for controlling research. Tribal College, 8(2),

Making Intellectual Space


Nerburn, K., & Mengelkoch, L. (1991). Native American wisdom. San Rafael, CA:
New World Library.
Notah Verney, M. (2004). On authenticity. In A. Waters (Ed.), American Indian
thought: Philosophical essays (pp.133139). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Padilla, A. M. (1994). Ethnic minority scholars, research, and mentoring: Current
and future issues. Educational Researcher, 23(4), 2427.
Padilla, R. V., & Chavez Chavez, R. (1995). The leaning ivory tower: Latino professors
in American universities. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Parker, A. (2003, February). Should Native American scholars support the development
of advanced studies in Native American self-determination as a unifying theory for
the discipline of Native American Studies? Unpublished discussion paper.
Fourth Annual American Indian Studies Consortium, Arizona State
University. Tempe, AZ.
Rains, F. V. (1995). Views from within: Women faculty of color in a research university.
Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Rains, F. V. (1998b). Is the benign really harmless?: Deconstructing some benign
manifestations of operationalized white privilege. In J. Kincheloe (Ed.),
White reign: Learning and deploying whiteness in America. New York: St.
Martins Press.
Rains, F. V. (2003). To greet the dawn with open eyes: American Indians, white privilege and the power of residual guild in the social studies. In G. Ladson-Billings
(Ed.), Critical race theory perspectives on the social studies: The profession, policies and
the curriculum (pp.199227). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Reyes, M. de la L., & Halcon, J. J. (1991). Practices of the academy: Barriers to access
for Chicano academics. In P. G. Altback & K. Lomoley (Eds) The racial crisis in
American higher education. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Rock Ethics Institute. (2004). Ethics and epistemologies of ignorance conference:
Conference Goals. The Penn State University, University Park, PA.
Retrieved (April 22, 2004) from http://www.rockethics.psu.edu/eei/conference_goals.html
Roman, L. G. (1993). White is a color! White defensiveness, postmodernism and
anti-racist pedagogy. In C. McCarthy and W. Crichlow (Eds.), Race, identity
and representation in education (pp.7188). New York: Routledge.
Smith, G. H. (2000). Protecting and respecting Indigenous knowledge. In M.
Battiste (Ed), Reclaiming Indigenous voice and vision (pp. 209224). Vancouver,
B.C. Canada.
Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. New
York: Zed Books.
Stannard, D. E. (1992). American holocaust: The conquest of the new world. New York:
Oxford University Press.


From Center to Margins

Swisher, K. G. (1998). Why Indian people should be the ones to write about Indian
education. In D. A. Mihesuah (Ed.). Natives and academics: Researching and writing
about American Indians (pp.190200). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Swisher, K. G., & Tippeconnic, J. W., III. (1999a), Next steps: Research and practice
to advance Indian education. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural
Education and Small Schools.
Swisher, K. G., & Tippeconnic, J. W., III. (1999b). Research to support improved
practice in Indian education. In K. G. Swisher & J. W. Tippeconnic, III
(Eds.), Next steps: Research and practice to advance Indian education (pp.
295307). Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and
Small Schools.
Waters, A. (Ed.). (2004). American Indian thought: Philosophical essays. Malden, MA:
Blackwell Publishers.

Chapter 3

Reflections on the Process of

Becoming an Academician

or more than a decade I have spent much of my energy focused on

research involving talking to women about their development as
leaders. I found their life stories fascinating. Along with this, I have
talked with people who have experienced change and have been captivated
by the themes that emerge from their accounts of the process. I like to listen. If I were to describe my most loved and what I find, most exciting
approach to research, I would have to confess that I am, at heart, a voyeur,
not of the sexual obsession variety. Yes, it is true of me. I would rather than
eat, sleep, or take in a glorious sunset, prefer to sit quietly, injecting an occasional probe to keep a story coming, and listen. And, I find the injection of
the question What do you think? by the source of my extreme pleasure
the person talking-startling. After all, listening is not about what I think. It
is about what the speaker thinks, feels, and has experienced. It is about his or
her life in all of its unfolding wonder. The speaker brings me as close to the
question that has been on my mind since I was about seven years old when I
would sit down next to our company and simply ask: So how do you like it
here so far? They would respond with Here? Here-Where? And I would
say, This place. My mother would scold me for making our company
uncomfortable and would warn me that I was doing what she called showing off. This would embarrass me into retreating and feeling a bit peculiar
although I was, during those times, unsure of why.
I was fortunate; however, I had a rich source of other folks experiences through my neighbor and best friend in all the world at the time.
Mrs. Baily was in her eighties when she moved next door with her daughter
and son-in-law. It is important to emphasize the phrase best friend in all


From Center to Margins

the world as it was always included in my introduction of her during my

conversations with my peers. It remains, to this day, an accurate description of our relationship. And, it was part of the promise we made to each
other: to be and remain best friends in all the world. My time with her was
spent listening to her personal history and those of many of the people in
her life. The life and times of her cousin, Mr. Benny, were especially delicious to hear about.
Mrs. Bailys bedroom was in the front of the old three-story limestone Victorian row home where she lived. Her home was identical to the
one I lived in with my mother, father, and three sisters. She was in an ideal
position to sit at one of the two windows and watch people up and down
the block on South Christian Street. She knew everyones background and
business. She even knew people on Woodward, Green, and Duke Streets.
Most amazingly, as I grew up during Jim Crow and White folks did not
mix with Black folks much, she knew White peoples business as well. This
I found completely fascinating. They lived across the street and very few
talked to us. White folks lived on one side of the street and we lived on the
other. It is true that I tended to walk slowly by their houses to catch a
glimpse inside, smell what they were cooking and listen to their conversations. But compared to what Mrs. Baily knew about them, I was barely
scratching the surface of their lives.
I believe that some of Mrs. Bailys inside scoop came from her sonin-law. He hauled White folks trash in his truck. In fact, if some of the
clothing and furniture were still in good shape, Mr. Lee would sell it to
people who came to the secondhand shop he ran out of his basement.
There was a step-down alley between our houses with a door to his store.
Food, like bags of potato chips, he could save for the kids in the neighborhood if it were not too stale. My point is that everyday, for as long as she
lived, Mrs. Baily planted seeds of interests in other peoples lives in fertile
ground. She cultivated in me a fascination with other peoples lives.
During our friendship, having been found by my immediate family
to be a bit on the strange sidedifferent drummer and all of thatI began
reading books on psychology. I decided that this thing I had for wanting to
hear other peoples stories must have a name or must be diagnosed. I went
the diagnostic route because my father caught one of my sisters making up
stories and took her to our family doctor for treatment for prevarification,
which he viewed as some sort of disorder. Dr. Copper diagnosed her as
having a vivid imagination and sent her home without medication to cure
her. So I decided to diagnose myself. I found a book, whose title I do not
recall, that had to do with personality development and mental illness. I

Reflections on the Process of Becoming an Academician


almost conceded that I was in the thralls of some illness when Mrs. Baily
stepped in and saved me. Out of the blue, she said that I was a good listener
and that I was nosey just like her. I believe after noting the dejected look on
my faceI knew that nosey was not good from what people said about
hershe declared me to be curious. Curious was ok with me. I could live
peaceably with that. Heck, I could even be proud of that.
My experience with my best friend in all the world was the beginning
of consolidation, a way of knowing my world and approaching intriguing
people I encounter. Where does this put me with regard to constructing
myself as a scholar, researcher, and theorist? There were many precursive
iterations of me along these lines. I channeled my curiosity in different
directions. I read anything and everything I could take out of the Lancaster
Free Public Library. I was expelled from the library for hiding and listening to peoples conversations in the ladies room. I suspect that I was viewed
as a juvenile delinquent by the librarians. They found me out during one of
my investigations of what women do in the bathroom and why the place
remained so neat. This was dramatically different from the times my
friends and I used the facility. It turns out that adults had not figured out
ways to squirt water from the faucets at each other. At some point I did
leave the more undercover aspects of my listening behind for the overt
activities of a nurses aid. I began working as an aid during grade school
and continued on into high school. During the latter part of my tenure, as
such, I lost my innocence. Information about people was a type of currency. The more one knew and knew exclusively, the more popular she
could become.
One day, as I stood in the lunch line, one of the cafeteria ladies said to
me, Barbara, you are a very nice girl. You dont gossip. Ive never heard
you say a mean thing about anybody. She set a standard for me with her
comment, and I believed I fell short of it. I was moved by the positive
impression the woman had of me. But I also knew that she was wrong
about me from that day on. It seemed that wherever there was gossip and
mean things being saidI was there to hear them. By my very presence, it
seemed that I was duplicitous. Listening and expressing an interest in the
story looked a lot like collecting gossip and being nosey.
The desire to experience other peoples lives through their life stories became transformed by a motivation external to my own. My motivation was curiosity, however, as I continued to work in hospital settings,
first as a nurses aid, then a ward clerk, and finally as a nurse, the motivation for collecting such stories was born of a higher purpose: to help, to
nurse, to heal and make whole. The stories were tied to an ethic of caring


From Center to Margins

and unconditional positive regard. These, I incorporated into my

approach to listening. Selectivity, trust, and reciprocity became central
dynamics in this relationship. By selectivity, I am referring to a respectful
restraints. It seems to me to be reasonable, ethical, and moral to steal oneself against running brutally into other peoples lives. I have learned over
the years to step cautiously, lightly, and respectfully into lives where I am a
guest. I try not to listen in on private discussions unless I am invited.
People needed to talk to me so that I could do my job, provide, and have
them provided with services.
After graduating from Harvard Graduate School of Education, I was
fortunate to find employment as assistant to the president and the dean of
Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. When I was urged to teach as
an adjunct at the University of Delaware College of Education, I said yes.
Then I was asked to consider a full-time tenure track position in educational leadership. I met with the area faculty and discussed my doctoral
work. I was aware of the faculty interest in the work I had completed as a
graduate student, however, I was unsure of whether or not I could parlay
my studies into whatever it took to be part of the academy. Yes, at that time
I was thinking in terms of being part of the faculty, not in terms of remaining with the faculty. I was making a commitment to a line of work and production without a clue as to what that meant and how that would play out
with the individuals who would be my colleagues.
My first day as an assistant professor, I went into my office which was
a little larger than a small walk-in closet without windows, called my
mother and said, Mom guess what. I am being paid to do what I love
doingread and write. I was not factoring in the difficulty of managing a
research agenda that had to be expanded in order to support any bid for
tenure that I would make. For approximately three months, I sang quietly
to myself, the lyrics from a song from The Sound of Music: Somewhere in
my youth or childhood, I must have done something right. After a short
honeymoon, students complained that I was demanding and intimidating
in class. Jokes that I made in class to put them at ease were taken out of
context and reported to the department chair. My colleagues were dismissive at faculty meetingdoing what my mother would have described as
rolling their eyes, and seemed to be exasperated by my suggestions for program changes. It seemed to me that my suggestions were being ignored.
However, when one of my male colleagues made the same, it was treated as
if it were divinely inspired. My English was corrected, my students were
encouraged to report on their experiences in my classes, a book on teaching mysteriously showed up in my mailbox, and I began receiving job

Reflections on the Process of Becoming an Academician


announcements in my mailbox. My dream job was turning out to be a

nightmare. I felt vulnerable, inadequate, and fraudulent, as if I had no right
to work among these erudite individuals from whom I had to hide my
many flaws.
If I were to be successful at constructing myself as a member of the
faculty, I needed help. I found mentors among the women who came
into my life at conferences and professional meetings. I met women who
were similarly situated and we supported each other. I met women who
were much further along on the faculty tenure and promotion track at
my own and other institutions and they supported me. These women
mentored me through bouts of self-doubt and through idealization of
the people with whom I worked. They served as much needed resources
for reality checks.
I had to learn the conventions of the academic community. Among
those conventions was the need to see me, a Black woman, as manageable.
I did not know how to be manageable. I needed to steel myself against selfdoubt, present my work for peer reviews that often garnered me cruel,
scathing remarks. I was told not to take any of this personally even though
I was very much invested in my projects. How could I not take something
personally that was happening to me? On a rare occasion when I was feeling especially proud of a commentary on my work, my colleagues would
warn me not to believe my own press. Consequently, I was to bear the
unnecessary cruelty of reviewers who seemed to believe that it was their
job to demoralize writers rather than provide them with constructive criticism; and to disregard any positive comments when they were forthcoming
about the contributions I made to my field.
Disillusionment created a crisis of identity for me. I needed to reconsider and consolidate my beliefs about the nature of my relationship to the
others, including my colleagues, students, and individuals participating in
my research. The latter was a far more familiar relationship, or more accurately an approach, to review and rework. I came to the conclusion that the
academy would accept me on my terms; after all, I had come to who I am
through my life experiences (as had those people to whom I had given
myself over to sitting, listening, and approaching with unconditional positive regard). I committed myself to no longer tolerating those people who
approach me with their idiosyncratic styles of brutality. These days, to me,
they are people behaving badly. I decided to own and integrate those experiences that were part of me into my professional persona and my work. I
would let them in as lenses through which to know the world of academe,
and guide and enrich my work and life as an academic.


From Center to Margins

The following pages are taken from my statements on research and

teaching that are included in my professional dossier. The tone in my
speaking to you will change somewhat as they were written with another
audience and purpose in mind: to explain to my colleagues who I am as an
academic. Convention stiffens them somewhat. However, I hope that my
reconciliations are apparent in them. At least, I wanted them to be. The
voyeur and listener is still there along with the nurse, counselor, and therapist, and the clinical social worker. The nosey little girl, Ralph and
Carolyns daughter, Mrs. Bailys best friend in all the world are here.
By way of a summary, I will comment on the statements and where I
am today and issues of legitimate research approaches (the great divide
between quantitative and qualitative methodologies), the voices of
researchers and scholars, original versus elaboration of other peoples
work, offering theoretical perspectives for future studies. As my English
teacher, whose memory very much reminds my of the character in The
Prime of Miss Jean Brody, Miss Travethin taught me, I will come full circle.

On Research. . . .
I came to the university with my doctorate in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University. Upon graduation, I
worked briefly in postsecondary management or administration. However,
my background has been as a clinician following undergraduate training in
sociology and graduate work in science and social work at the University of
Wisconsin at Madison. My background is significant for several reasons.
Prior to my graduate studies at Harvard, I worked as a clinical social
worker for community mental health and mental retardation direct service
agencies. While I was employed by a state health department as a district
social service director, I also supervised field placements for graduate students majoring in social work and public administration. My own work at
the time covered mental health, public health, and community organizing
around implementation of public health policies and services.
My interest and professional development shifted from direct service
to organizational and policy issues during my doctoral studies. Upon moving into an academic career I have followed my interest in areas of organizational change including innovation design and implementation,
institutionalization, and federal and state policy implementation. I initially
concerned myself with structure and process in organizational change and
leadership, spending several years exploring these and related dynamics.
An example of this can be found in an article I wrote with my colleague

Reflections on the Process of Becoming an Academician


Paula Kleine-Kracht in the journal, Educational Planning, Continuity and

Reform: A New Discourse for Discussion of Change in Schools. (The
journal credits me solely; however, this is a mistake. Dr. Kleine-Kracht
coauthored the manuscript with me.) Following this, I turned my attention
to more of the phenomenological aspects of organizations, life in organizations, and social action groups. This shift was from issues of instrumentation as foreground and people as background to the reverse. For example, I
found the experiences of people in organizations as well as the ebb and
flow of change influences the way they define who they are with regard to
their work. This was equally compelling relative to people organizing for
social action.
I spent several years investigating school reform process characterized as outcome-based or competency-based. As active, vocal, and public
movements in opposition to this kind of reform (the more objectionable of
the outcomes were social competencies that included acceptance of diversity and tolerance) were organized, I began following their progress in
forcing negotiations to changes in schooling. During that time I was especially interested in what I have referred to as dissident voices or opposition
to change mobilized by members of religious communities. I found that
the human interaction aspects of the reform process offered a different
theoretical perspective worth considering during the change process.
Moreover, the symbolic nature of change for individuals whose lives it
influences was a significant contribution of this particular project. At the
same time, I was aware of another public movement of a religious group
that was mobilizing to advocate for its childrens educational needs. This
group was bringing legal action to secure facilities. From this exploration,
a colleague, Neil Houser (who now is on the faculty at the University of
Oklahoma) and I suggested reconsidering policies involving education
curriculum in Educational Policy titled Moderate Secularism: Constructing
a Language of Possibility for Religion in Public Education.
Although my interest in organizational change remained constant
particularly with regard to the way it was experienced, I directed my attention to leadership in general and the part it plays in developing, directing,
and supporting institutionalization. I also decided that I could make more
of a contribution to the field by focusing on womens leadership and adult
identity development in particular. This was a departure from what I
referred to as classical representations and discussions of leadership that
centered on great-men theories that dominated the field until the latter part
of the decade. To do this, I drew more directly on my background as a clinical social worker, on Kegans (1982) work on adult identity development


From Center to Margins

which he refers to as neo-Piagetian, on Lahey, Souvaine, Goodman

Kegan, Felix (n.d.) subject-object project, on Marcia, Waterman, Matteson, Archer & Orlofskys (1993) work involving ego-identity, as well as
Eriksons (1982) mastery of developmental tasks and crises, also found in
Kegans and Josselsons work and on Josselsons (1990) typologies for adult
identity work. Each of these served as scaffolding for the theoretical perspectives I was framing.
As a clinician, I find the focus on the phenomenology of ego and
identity both intriguing and rewarding. For individuals who spend a significant part of their adult lives working in organizations, this perspective
stands to be particularly useful. Taking on this lens in my work, also represented a turning point for me as a member of a faculty engaged in research
and scholarship. Up to this point, although I relied on my clinical training
and experience, I felt that I needed to emphasize my work and the change
process or leadership process outcomes rather than the perspective I
brought to it. Having taken this position, I quickly found that I was in danger of presenting organizational change and, later, leadership processes as
limited perspectives.
I have been a certified social worker since 1983. I have an ACSQ
which was the credential for private practitioners and, in some agencies,
for administrators responsible for supervising direct-service providers at
one time. I sat for the clinical licensure exam which is more widely
required for private practitioners, and then applied for the licensure that
requires an advanced degree in the discipline from an accredited school
and years of supervised clinical practice. With an ASCW and as a Licensed
Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), I committed myself to the integration of
my work as a clinician with my work as a member of a faculty.
My goal has been to represent my commitment to a clinicians perspective within the areas of my research and scholarship. This is a departure from focusing on instrumentation issues such as those depicted in
typical approaches to leadership and change. Moreover, working with people who ask for more individualized work on exploring leadership in general and their leadership in particular, has reinforced my decision to take
this particular perspective. These individuals were interested in their own
idiosyncratic leadership. In my own adult development, I have reached a
milestone in adaptation and identity consolidation in keeping with the perspectives of Erikson (1982), Kegan (1982) and Josselson (1990, 1992).
Adult identity development provided the theoretical backdrop for a
three-year study of womens leader persona. I followed a model of clinicalsession work and subject-object interviews with the women who partici-

Reflections on the Process of Becoming an Academician


pated. From this work I produced The Life Experiences of Women and
their Leadership Practice, an article published in the Journal of
International Studies in Educational Administration. Following this, I produced Women in power: Pathways to leadership in education published by
Teachers College Press. Maxine Greene, a philosopher, author of The
Dialectic of Freedom, and a scholar whom I greatly admire, wrote the forward to this book. In her own work, she urges individuals to press on with
their identity work that she refers to, as the project and this has been a
source of inspiration to me. She, along with Kay Towns, a dear friend of
mine whose council I will miss, were both role models and mentors albeit
in quite different ways. Kays steady and steadfast guidance supported me
through many difficult times as I struggled to construct myself as an academic. Maxines writings were and continue to be a source of inspiration. I
believe the chapter I had published in the book Tenure in the Sacred
Groves: Issues and Strategies for Women and Minority Faculty titled The
Caged Bird Sings: On Being Different and the Role of Advocacy
responds even more directly to Maxine Greenes stance on becoming self.
It also serves as a much needed catharsis following my first experience
with tenure and promotion.
Over the course of my explorations, I have been able to crystallize a
human interactionist perspective on organizational dynamics including
culture, change, and human resource management that integrate a clinical
perspective as well. The influence of this can be found in my writing on
leadership, leadership and organizational identity, the individuals experience in coping with rapid-cycle restructuring in organizations, and the
transitional cultures that emerge during those changes. I have advanced
theoretical perspectives on these issues in The Influence of the Leader
Persona on Organizational Identity published in The Journal of Leadership
Studies and in articles currently in process, under review, or in press.
In addition to continuing to explore ways of understanding the way
people experience and react to organizational change, develop and become
leaders, I have been concerned with reforms within the public school systems. I have spent several years collecting background data related to the
intentions of those who frame reforms with regard to the sweeping overhaul
of public schools, I have been listening to the perspectives of teachers as they
bring the concerns they have with the reforms into my seminars where discussions develop on the ways in which the changes and new demands influence self-perception and raise issues of efficacy and mastery. Those teachers
raise issues of object relations or their relationship to others as well. They are
aware that the teacher/student interactions and relationships are subject to


From Center to Margins

destabilization as a result of changed expectations in many cases. In these

discussions research and teaching become joined.
I have had an opportunity to work with a colleague who is a gifted
third grade teacher and designs interventions for students with severe
behavior problems in order to keep them in the classroom. This was an
opportunity to capture a more intimate view of her and her colleagues as
they work within a changing pedagogical environment. Although some of
her students are struggling with significant adjustment problems related to
the conflict between divergent cultures (differences between at home
and at school), along with divergent parental and teacher expectations,
this teacher was able to assess and implement successful interventions for
conflict resolution. The progression for her approach follows from classroom structure to process, and then to the phenomenological, as well. This
classroom practitioner and diagnostician, as well as others like her, are
shaping my impressions of the teachers experiences of change and its
influence on how they define who they are, their work, and their relationship with the children with whom they work.
I began my discussion by recounting my background and describing
my work, my interest, and the transformations these have undergone as a
result of the directions that I have taken. I join my background and years of
experience as a clinician with my investigations of organization and leadership. It is important to note here that much of my work has also fallen
within the area of womens studies relative to womens advancement in
areas of leadership, organizational issues and dynamics, and identity work.
As a result, I was invited to become a member of the affiliated faculty in
womens studies and to make contributions to publications related directly
to womens issues.
A more unusual work for me was the book titled Sweet Words So
Brave: the Story of African American Literature, (1996) published by Zino
Press, that I wrote with a colleague. This project, as unassuming as it was,
and completed over a period of six months, gave me the opportunity to
work with archival holdings at historically Black institutions. I found the
experience of working within a community of African American scholars
and students to be novel, as I received my education at majority institutions
from grade school through my post-secondary years and live aspects of my
life as a minority.
Working on this project, I was able to draw on the contributions of
African Americans to American culture and society, and explore African
American identity through the creative work of poets and writers. I could
explore ways of conveying a sense of the duality of biological and psy-

Reflections on the Process of Becoming an Academician


chosocial reality along with the deliberateness that is involved in constructing African American identity. As I stated earlier, Maxine Greene
(1988), within the context of the philosophy of education, refers to identity
work as a project in which people deliberately, voluntarily, and sometimes
forcibly define who they are. I decided to convey these through multiple
storylines: historical documentary that involved designing a framework
with temporal references and varying contexts, and employing oral tradition, including the use of poetry and metaphor as the voice of an elder juxtaposed to that of a child. The latter represents the process of informing
the companion character and audience about the speaker and his relationship to them as other.
In addition to addressing identity construction, I also hoped to
achieve a type of social advocacy. The book has been widely celebrated and
accepted for its contribution to the areas of social and cultural studies. It is
used in multicultural education and won the Teachers Choice Award. It
was displayed in the Education Department of the Museum of African
American History in Detroit, and Museum of Art in Chicago, because of
its unusual artwork and combination of historical content and poetic-narrative style.
My work and interests, described here, continue through a number
of projects. These include women in leadership, and leadership and cognition. I hope to continue to develop perspectives on human interaction, to
address identity construction issues, leadership and, perhaps, do more on
social advocacy.

For Miss Travethin

I have been criticized for focusing only on women in my studies of
leadership and identity development, and for my journalistic style of writing. I focus on women because I am interested in the way they have transformed leadership. The humanistic philosophy, described as soft and
closeted feminism, is in contrast to leadership that relies heavily on instrumentation: hierarchical formal structures for decision making, power over
those being led, formal policies and procedures. The humanistic philosophy driving soft leadership pays particular attention to the interpersonal
experiences people have in their work places. It does not require a disintegration of the self into a private and professional individual. Soft leadership, with its humanistic perspective, pays attention to psychosocial
meaning systems, and takes a constructivist position with regard to these.
As a result, it assumes a higher level of consciousness for leaders. It also


From Center to Margins

assumes that an organizations culture is created by all of its members. The

emphasis here is on all and the approach is deliberate by design. These
leaders offer a duality of strength and vulnerability that suggests an aesthetic or way of being cultivated through life experiences along with some
deliberateness in molding a persona.
As a final caveat regarding my interest in women as leaders, I must
add that I am a baby boomer and so have been part of several movements of
the last century that have profoundly changed the way women and minorities live today in the United States. I am proud to say that I was part of both
the civil rights and the womens movements. I am a nappy-headed, card
carrying, bra burner.
I do not believe that depersonalization is always useful in reporting
and discussing research. Depersonalization allows us to distance ourselves
from the people we are studying and puts them at risk for being mistreated,
not only by us as researchers, but by the people who use our research to
further their interests, causes, and political and socioeconomic agendas. I
want the reader to know that what I say is not divinely inspired, rather it
comes from me: an individual with all of the frailty of being human.
There has been a great deal of controversy over what is the better or
more accurate, less biased approach to research: quantitative, qualitative,
strictly science based, or applied methodology. The response, that makes
sense to me is that it depends on what I am trying to do. For me, the guiding or underlying ethic and moral imperative for any approach to exploration must be to do no harm.

Erikson, E. (1982). The life cycle completed. New York: W. W. Norton.
Greene, M. (1988). The dialectic of freedom. New York: Teachers College Press.
Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problem and process in human development.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Josselson, R. (1990). Finding herself: Pathways to identity development in women. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Josselson, R. (1992). The space between us: Exploring the dimensions of human relationships. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lahey, L., Souvaine, E., Kegan, R., Goodman, R., & Felix, S. (n.d.). A guide to the
subject-object interview: Its administration and interpretation. Cambridge:
Subject-Object Research Group.
Marcia, J. E., Waterman, A. S., Matteson, D. R., Archer, S. L., & Orlofsky, J. L. (1993).
Ego identity: A handbook for psychosocial research. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Chapter 4

Language, Literacy, and Culture

Intersections and Implications

iven my background and early life experiences, I should not be

expected to write about literacy and learning. According to the
traditional educational literature, my home and family situation
could not prepare me adequately for academic success. My mother did not
graduate from high school and my father never made it past fourth grade.
They came to the United States as immigrants from Puerto Rico and they
quietly took their place in the lower paid and lower status of society. In my
family, we never had bedtime stories, much less books. At home we did not
have a permanent place to study, nor did we have a desk with sufficient
light and adequate ventilation as teachers suggested. We did not have
many toys and I never got the piano lessons I wanted desperately from the
age of five. As a family, we did not go to museums or other places that
would give us the cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1985) it was thought we
needed to succeed in school. We spoke Spanish at home, even though
teachers pleaded with my parents to stop doing so. And when we learned
English, my sister and I spoke a nonstandard, urban Black and Puerto
Rican version of English: we said aint instead of isnt and mines
instead of mine and, no matter how often our teachers corrected us, we
persisted in saying these things. In a word, because of our social class, ethnicity, native language, and discourse practices, we were the epitome of

1. This article was previously published in the National Reading Conference

Yearbook, 49, pp. 4160. Reprinted with permission of the author and the National
Reading Conference.


From Center to Margins

what are now described as children at risk, young people then described
when we were coming up as disadvantaged, culturally deprived, and
even problem students.
I was fortunate that I had a family who, although unable to help me
with homework, would make sure that it got done; a family who used
Education, Sonia, education! as a mantra. But they kept on speaking
Spanish (even when my sister and I switched to English), they did not buy
books, and they never read us bedtime stories. My parents, just like all parents, were brimming with skills and talents: they were becoming bilingual,
they told us many stories and riddles and tongue twisters and jokes. When
my father, 20 years after coming to this country, bought a bodega, a small
Caribbean grocery store, I was awed by the sight of him adding up a column of figures in seconds, without a calculator or even a pencil. My
mother embroidered beautiful and intricate patterns on handkerchiefs,
blouses, and tablecloths, a trade practiced by many poor women in Puerto
Rico, to stock the shelves of Lord and Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue in
New York. These skills, however, were never called on by my teachers; my
parents were thought of as culturally deprived and disadvantaged, another
segment of the urban poor with no discernible competencies.
Sometime in my early adolescence, we bought a small house in a
lower middle class neighborhood and I was able to attend a good junior
high and an excellent high school. I did not particularly like that high
schoolit was too competitive and impersonal and I felt invisible there
but in retrospect I realize that my sister and I got the education we needed
to prepare us for college, a dream beyond the wildest imagination of my
parents, most of my cousins, and the friends from our previous neighborhood. My new address made a profound difference in the education that I
was able to get. I eventually dropped the aint and the mines and hid
the fact that I spoke Spanish.
I begin with my own story, not because I believe autobiography is
sacrosanct, or that it holds the answer to all educational problems. My
story is not unique and I do not want to single myself our as an exception
in the way that Richard Rodriguez ended up doing, intentionally or not, in
his painful autobiography Hunger of Memory (1982). I use my story because
it undersores the fact that young people of all backgrounds can learn. They
need not be compelled, as Richard Rodriguez was, to abandon their family
and home language for the benefits of an education and a higher status in
society. In many ways, I am like any of the millions of young people in our
classrooms and schools who come to school eager (although perhaps not,
in the current jargon, ready) to learn, but who end up as the waste prod-

Language, Literacy, and Culture


ucts of an educational system that does not understand the gifts they bring
to their education. They are the reason that I am concerned about language, literacy, and culture, and the implications that new ways of thinking
about them have for children.
Language, literacy, and culture have not always been linked either
conceptually or programmatically. But this is changing, as numerous
schools and colleges of education around the country are beginning to
reflect a growing awareness of their intersections, and of the promise they
hold for rethinking teaching and learning. My own reconceptualized program at the University of Massachusetts, now called Language, Literacy,
and Culture, mirrors this trend. I believe the tendency to link these issues
is giving us a richer picture of learning, especially for students whose identitiesparticularly those related to language, race, ethnicity, and immigrant
statushave traditionally had a low status in our society. One result of this
reconceptualization is that more education programs reflect and promote a
sociocultural perspective in language and literacy, that is a perspective
firmly rooted in an anthropological understanding of culture; a view of
learning as socially constructed and mutually negotiated; an understanding
of how students from diverse segments of societydue to differential
access, and cultural and linguistic differencesexperience schooling; and a
commitment to social justice. I know that multiple and conflicting ideas
exist about these theoretical perspectives, but I believe some basic tenets of
sociocultural theory can serve as a platform for discussion. I will explore a
number of these tenets, illustrating them with examples from my research
and using the stories and experiences of young people in U.S. schools.
The language of sociocultural theory includes terms such as discourse, hegemony, power, social practice, identity, hybridity, and even the very
work, literacy. Today, these terms have become commonplace, but if we
were to do a review of the literature of 20 years ago or less, we would be
hard pressed to find them, at least as currently used. What does this
mean? How has our awareness and internalization of these terms and
everything they imply changed how we look at teaching and learning? Let
us look at literacy. It is generally accepted that certain family and home
conditions promote literacy, including an abundant supply of books they
read, and other such conditions (Snow, Barnes, Chandler, Goodman, &
Hemphill, 1991). I have no doubt that this is true in many cases, and I
have made certain that my husband and I did these things with our own
children. I am sure we made their lives easier as a result. But what of the
children for whom these conditions are not present, but who nevertheless
grow up literate (Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines, 1988)? Should children be


From Center to Margins

doomed to educational failure because their parents did not live in the
right neighborhood, were not privileged enough to be formally educated,
or did not take their children to museums or attend plays? Should they be
disqualified from leaning because they did not have books at home?

Tenets of Sociocultural Theory

I began with my story to situate myself not just personally, but
socially and politically, a primary premise of sociocultural theory. Given
traditional theories, the only way to understand my educational success
was to use traditional metaphors: I had pulled myself up by my bootstraps; I had melted; I had joined the mainstream. But I want to suggest these traditional metaphors are as unsatisfactory as they are
incomplete because they place individuals at the center, isolated from the
social, cultural, historical, and political context in which they live.
Traditional theories explain my experience and those of others who do not
fit the conventional pattern as springing primarily, if not solely, from our
personal psychological processes. Sociocultural theory gives us different
lenses with which to view learning and different metaphors for describing
it. This is significant because how one views learning leads to dramatically
different curricular decisions, pedagogical approaches, expectations of
learning, relationships among students, teachers and families, and indeed,
educational outcomes.
Sociocultural and sociopolitical perspectives are first, and foremost,
based on the assumption that social relationships and political realities are
at the heart of teaching and learning. That is, learning emerges from the
social, cultural, and political spaces where it takes place, and through the
interactions and relationships between learners and teachers.
I propose five interrelated concepts that undergird sociocultural and
sociopolitical perspectives. These concepts are the basis of my own work,
and they help me make sense of my experience and the experiences of
countless youngsters that challenge traditional, deficit views of learning.
The concepts are also highly consistent with a critical multicultural perspective, that is, one that is broader than superficial additions to content or
holidays and heroes approaches.
I will focus on five concepts: (1) agency/coconstructed learning, (2)
experience, (3) identity/hybridity, (4) context/situatedness/personality,
and (5) community. Needless to say, each of these words holds many
meanings, but I use them here to locate some fundamental principles of
sociocultural and sociopolitical theory. These terms are also both deeply

Language, Literacy, and Culture


connected and overlapping. I separate them here for matters of convenience, not because I see them as fundamentally independent concepts.

In many classrooms and schools, learning continues to be thought of
as transmission rather than as agency, or mutual discovery by students and
teachers. At the crudest level, learning is thought to be the reproduction of
socially sanctioned knowledge, or what Michael Apple (1993) has called
official knowledge. These are dominant attitudes and behaviors that
society deems basic to functioning. The most extreme manifestation of
this notion of learning is what Paulo Freire (1970) called banking education, that is, the simple depositing of knowledge into students who are
thought to be empty receptacles. In an elegant rejection of the banking
concept of education, Freire instead defined the act of study as constructed
by active agents. According to Freire (1985), To study is not to consume
ideas, but to create and re-create them (p. 4).
Although teachers and theorists alike repudiate learning as the
reproduction of socially sanctioned knowledge, it continues to exist in
many schools and classrooms. It is the very foundation of such ideas as
teacher-proof curriculum, the need to cover the material in a given
subject, and the endless list of skills and competencies that every student
should know (Hirsch, 1987). This contradiction was evident even near
the beginning of the twentieth century when John Dewey (1916) asked:
Why is it, in spite of the fact that teaching by pouring in, learning by
a passive absorption, are universally condemned, that they are still so
entrenched in practice? That education is not an affair of telling
and being told, but an active and constructive process, is a principle
almost as generally violated in practice as conceded in theory (p. 38).
Why does this continue to happen? One reason is probably the
doubt among the public that teachers and students have the ability to construct meaningful and important knowledge. Likewise, in low income
schools with students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds,
very little agency exists on the part of either students or teachers. In such
schools, teachers learn that their primary responsibility is to teach the
basics because students are thought to have neither the innate ability nor
the experiential background of more privileged students. In the case of students for whom English is a second language, the assumption that they
must master English before they can think and reason may prevail.


From Center to Margins

Let me share some examples of agency, or lack of it, from the words
of students of diverse backgrounds whom a number of colleagues (Paula
Elliott, Haydee Font, Maya Gillingham, Beatriz McConnie Zapater, Mac
Lee Morante, Carol Shea, Diane Sweet, and Carlie Tartakov) and I interviewed for my first book (Nieto, 1992, 2000). We found that students
views largely echoed those of educational researchers who have found
that teaching methods in most classrooms, especially those in secondary
schools and even more so in secondary schools attended by poor students
of all backgrounds, vary little from traditional chalk and talk methods;
that textbooks are the dominant teaching materials used; that routine and
rote learning are generally favored over creativity and critical thinking;
and that teacher-centered transmission models still prevail (Cummins,
1994; Goodlad, 1984). Students in my study (Nieto, 1992, 2000) had
more to say about pedagogy than about anything else, and they were especially critical of teachers who provided only passive learning environments for students.
Linda Howard, who was just graduating as the valedictorian of her
class in an urban high school, is a case in point. Although now at the top of
her class Linda, had failed seventh and eighth grades twice, for a variety of
reasons both academic and medical. She had this to say about pedagogy:
Because I know there were plenty of classes where I lost complete
interest. But those were all because the teachers just Open the
books to this page. They never made up problems out of their head.
Everything came out of the book. You didnt ask questions. If you
asked them questions, then the answer was in the book. And if you
asked the question and the answer wasnt in the book, then you
shouldnt have asked that question! (pp. 5556)
Rich Miller, a young man who planned to attend pharmacy school after
graduation, described a normal teacher as one who gets up, gives you a
lecture, or theres teachers that just pass out the work, you do the work,
pass it in, get a grade, goodbye! (p. 66)
The students were especially critical of teachers who relied on textbooks and blackboards. Avi Abramson, a young man who had attended
Jewish day schools and was now in a public high school, had some difficulty
adjusting to the differences in pedagogy. He believed that some teachers
did better because they taught from the point of view of the students:
They dont just come out and say, All right, do this, blah, blah,
bla . . . theyre not so one-tone voice (p. 116). Yolanda Piedra, a Mexican

Language, Literacy, and Culture


student, said that her English teacher just does the things and sits down
(p. 221). Another student mentioned that some teachers just teach the
stuff. Here, write a couple of things on the board, see, thats how you do
it. Go ahead, page 23 (p.166).
These students did not just criticize, however; they also gave examples of teachers who promoted active learning. Hoang Vinh, in his junior
year of high school, spoke with feeling about teachers who allowed him to
speak Vietnamese with other students in class. He also loved working with
groups, contrary to conventional wisdom about Asian students preference
for individual work (demonstrating the dangers of generalizing about fixed
cultural traits). Vinh particularly appreciated the teacher who asked students to discuss important issues, rather than focus only on learning what
he called the words meaning (p.143) by writing and memorizing lists of
words. Students also offered thoughtful suggestions to teachers to make
their classrooms more engaging places. One student recommended that
teachers involve more students actively: More like making the whole class
be involved, not making only the two smartest people up here to do the
work for the whole class (p. 125).
Teaching becomes much more complex, when learning is based on
the idea that all students have the ability to think and reason.
Sociocultural and sociopolitical theories emphasize that learning is not
simply a question of transmitting knowledge, but rather of working with
students so that they can reflect, theorize, and create knowledge. Given
this notion of agency, banking education (Freire, 1970) makes little
sense. Instead, the focus on reflective questions invites students to consider different options, to question taken-for-granted truths, and to delve
more deeply into problems.

That learning needs to build on experience is a taken-for-granted
maxim, based on the idea that it is an innately human endeavor accessible
to all people. But somehow, this principle is often ignored when it comes
to young people who have not had the kinds of experiences that are
thought to prepare them for academic success, particularly those students
who have not been raised with the culture of power (Delpit, 1988), or
who have not explicitly learned the rules of the game for academic success.
The experiences of these studentsusually young people of culturally and
linguistically diverse backgrounds and those raised in povertytend to be
quite different from the experiences of more economically and socially


From Center to Margins

advantaged students, and these differences become evident when they go

to school.
Pierre Bourdieu (1985) has described how different forms of cultural capital help maintain economic privilege, even if these forms of capital are not themselves strictly related to economy. Cultural capital is
evident in such intangibles as values, tastes, and behaviors, and through
cultural identities such as language, dialect, and ethnicity. Some signs of
cultural capital have more social worth, although not necessarily more
intrinsic worth, than others. If this is true, then youngsters from some
communities are placed at a disadvantage relative to their peers simply
because of their experiences and identities. Understanding this reality
means that power relations are a fundamental, although largely unspoken,
aspect of school life.
We also need to consider the impact of teachers attitudes concerning
the cultural capital that students bring to school, and the subsequent behaviors of teachers relative to this cultural capital. Sociocultural theories help
to foreground these concerns. For example, a 1971 article by Annie Stein,
cited a New York City study in which kindergarten teachers were asked to
list, in order of their importance, the things a child should learn to prepare
for first grade. In schools with large Puerto Rican and Black student populations, socialization goals were predominant, but in mostly White schools,
educational goals were invariably first. In fact, according to Stein, several teachers in the minority-group kindergartens forgot to mention any
educational goals at all (p.167). This is an insidious kind of tracking, where
educational ends for some students are sacrificed for social aims.
All children come to school as learners and thinkers, aptitudes usually recognized as important building blocks for further learning. But there
seems to be a curious refusal on the part of many educators to accept as
valid the kinds of knowledge and experiences some students bring to
school. For instance, teachers often think that speaking languages other
than English, especially languages with low status, is a potential detriment
rather than a benefit to learning. Likewise, traveling to Europe to ski is
usually considered culturally enriching; the same is not true of traveling to
North Carolina, Haiti, or the Dominican Republic to visit relatives. The
reason teachers evaluate these kinds of experiences differently has more to
do with their cultural capital than with their educational potential or
intrinsic worth.
The reluctance, or inability to accept and build on students experiences is poignantly described by Mary Ginley, a teacher in Massachusetts
who taught in a small city with a large Puerto Rican student population. A

Language, Literacy, and Culture


gifted teacher, Mary also knew that being nice is not enough, an idea she
elaborated on in a journal she kept for a class she took with me:
Every child needs to feel welcome, to feel comfortable. School is a
foreign land to most kids (where else in the world would you spend
time circling answers and filling in the blanks?), but the more distant
a childs culture and language are from the culture and language of
school, the more at risk that child is. A warm, friendly, helpful
teacher is nice, but it isnt enough. We have plenty of warm friendly
teachers who tell the kids nicely to forget their Spanish and ask
mommy and daddy to speak to them in English at home; who give
them easier tasks so they wont feel badly when the work becomes
difficult; who never learn about what life is like at home or what they
eat or what music they like or what stories they have been told or
what their history is. Instead, we smile and give them a hug and tell
them to eat our food and listen to our stories and dance to our music.
We teach them to read with our words and wonder why its so hard
for them. We ask them quietly and well tell them whats important
and what they must know to get ready for the next grade. And we
never ask them who they are and where they want to go. (pp. 8586)
A case in point is Hoang Vinh, the Vietnamese student I mentioned
previously. Vinh was literate in Vietnamese and he made certain that his
younger siblings spoke it exclusively at home and they all write to their parents in Vietnam weekly. He was a good student, but he was struggling to
learn English, something that his teachers did not always understand. He
told how some teachers described his native language as funny, and even
laughed at it. But as he explained, [To keep reading and writing
Vietnamese] is very important. . . . So, I like to learn English but I like to
learn my language too (Nieto, 1992, 2000, p. 178). Even more fundamental
for Vinh was that teachers try to understand their students experiences and
culture. He explained: [My teachers] understand some things, just not all
Vietnamese culture. Like they just understand some things outside. . . . But
they cannot understand something inside our hearts (p. 178). Vinhs words
are a good reminder that when students skills and knowledge are dismissed
as inappropriate for the school setting, schools lose a golden opportunity to
build on their students lives in the service of their learning.

How students benefit from schooling is influenced by many things
including the particular individual personalities of students and the values


From Center to Margins

of the cultural context in which they have been raised. Traditional theories, however, privilege individual differences above all other circumstances. As a result, it is primarily through tests and other measures of
students individual abilities that their intelligence is determined.
Sociocultural theory goes beyond this limited perspective to include other
issues such as students cultural identities. But culture should not be
thought of as unproblematic. Mary Kalantzis, Bill Cope & Diana Slade
(1989) remind us that:
. . . we are not simply bearers of cultures, languages, and histories,
with a duty to reproduce them. We are the products of linguistic-cultural circumstances, actors with a capacity to resynthesize what we
have been socialized into and to solve new and emerging problems of
existence. We are not duty-bound to conserve ancestral characteristics which are not structurally useful. We are both socially determined and creators of human features (p. 18).
Culture is complex and intricate; it cannot be reduced to holidays, foods,
or dances, although these are, of course, elements of culture. Everyone has
a culture because all people participate in the world through social and
political relationships informed by history as well as by race, ethnicity, language, social class, sexual orientation, gender, and other circumstances
related to identity and experience.
If culture is thought of in a sentimental way, then it becomes little
more than a yearning for a past that never existed, or an idealized, sanitized
version of what exists in reality. The result may be an unadulterated, essentialized culture on a pedestal that bears little resemblance to the messy
and contradictory culture of real life. The problem of viewing some
aspects of culture as indispensable attributes that must be shared by all
people within a particular group springs from a romanticized and uncritical understanding of culture.
Let me share an example of this. Last year, I received an email message with the subject heading You Know Youre Puerto Rican When. . . .
The message was meant to be humorous and it included a long list of experiences and characteristics that presumably describe what it means to be
Puerto Rican in the United States (for example, being chased by your
mother with a chancleta (slipper) in hand; always having a dinner that consists of rice and beans and some kind of meat; having a grandmother who
thinks Vicks Vapor Rub is the miracle cure for everything). I laughed at
many of these things (and I shared a good number of these experiences

Language, Literacy, and Culture


when I was growing up in New York City), but it was also sobering to read
the list because it felt like a litmus test for puertoriqueidad (Puerto
Ricanness). If you could prove that you had these particular experiences,
you could claim to be authentic. By putting them to paper, the author
was making it clear that these experiences defined the very essence of being
Puerto Rican.
Reading the list made me reflect on my own daughters, born and
raised in the United States by highly educated middle class parents. My
daughters would likely not pass the Puerto Rican litmus test; their dinner
was just as likely to consist of take-out Chinese or pizza as rice and beans;
they barely knew what Vicks Vapor Rub was; and I do not remember ever
chasing them, chancleta in hand. But both of them identify as Puerto Rican,
and they speak Spanish to varying degrees and enjoy rice and beans as
much as the next Puerto Rican. But they also eat salmon and frog legs and
pizza and Thai food. The email message I received made it seem as if there
was only one way to be Puerto Rican. The result of this kind of thinking is
that we are left with just two alternatives: either complete adherence to one
definition of identity, or total and unequivocal assimilation. We are, in the
words of Anthony Appiah (1994) replacing one kind of tyranny with
another (p.163).
My daughters identities are complicated. They live in a highly
diverse society in terms of race, ethnicity, social class, and other differences, and they enjoy privileges they have received as a result of their parents social class. The point of this story is to emphasize that culture does
not exist in a vacuum, but rather is situated in particular historical, social,
political, and economic conditions, another major tenet of sociocultural
theory. That is, culture needs to be understood as dynamic; multifaceted;
embedded in context; influenced by social, economic and political factors; created
and socially constructed; learned; and dialectical (Nieto, 1999). Steven Arvizus
(1994) wonderful description of culture as a verb rather than a noun captures the essence of culture beautifully. That is, culture is dynamic, active,
and changing, always on the move. Even within their native contexts, cultures are always changing as a result of political, social, and other influences in the environment. When people with different backgrounds come
in contact with one another, such change is to be expected even more.
Let me once again use the example of Linda Howard, one of the
young women we interviewed for Affirming Diversity (Nieto, 1992, 2000).
The issue of identity was a complicated one for her. Being biracial, she
identified as Black American and White American, and she said:


From Center to Margins

I dont always fit inunless Im in a mixed group. . . . Because if Im

in a group of people who are all one race, then they seem to look at
me as being the other race . . . whereas if Im in a group full or [racially
mixed] people, my race doesnt seem to matter to everybody
else. . . . Then I dont feel like Im standing out. . . . Its hard. I look at
history and I feel really bad for what some of my ancestors did to
some of my other ancestors. Unless youre mixed, you dont know
what its like to be mixed. (pp. 515)
The tension of Lindas identity was not simply a personal problem. It was
evident throughout her schooling, and especially when she reached secondary school. She found that teachers jumped to conclusions about her
identity, assuming she was Latina or even Chinese, and identifying her as
such on forms without even asking her.
Linda had won a scholarship to a highly regarded university. When
discussing her future, she exclaimed proudly, Ive got it all laid out. Ive
got a four-year scholarship to one of the best schools in New England. All
Ive gotta do is go there and make the grade. Lindas future seemed hopeful, overflowing with possibilities. But she did not quite make the grade.
When Paula Elliott, who had interviewed Linda the first time, spoke with
her again 10 years later, she found out that Linda had dropped out of college after just a few months, and she had never returned. Over dinner,
Linda described her experience at the university in this way: I felt like a
pea on a big pile of rice. Using a sociocultural lens, we can see that identity is not simply a personal issue, but that it is deeply embedded in institutional life. Had there been a way to validate her hybridity, perhaps Linda
might have graduated. She certainly had the intellectual training and
resources; what she did not have was the support for her identity to ease
the way.
In some ways, we can think of culture as having both surface and
deep structureto borrow a concept from linguistics (Chomsky, 1965).
For instance, in the interviews of students of diverse backgrounds (Nieto,
1992, 2000), we were initially surprised by the seeming homogeneity of the
youth culture they manifested. Regardless of racial, ethnic, linguistic background, or time in the United Statesbut usually intimately connected to
a shared urban culture and social classthe youths often expressed strikingly similar tastes in music, food, clothes, television, and so on. When I
probed more deeply, however, I found evidence of deeply held values from
their ethnic heritage. For instance, Marisol, a Puerto Rican high school
student, loved hip hop, rap music, pizza, and lasagna. She never mentioned

Language, Literacy, and Culture


Puerto Rican food and Puerto Rican music to her was just the old fashioned and boring music her parents listened to. But in her everyday interactions with parents and siblings, and in the answers she gave to my
interview questions, she reflected deep aspects of Puerto Rican culture;
respect for elders; a profound kinship with and devotion to family; and a
desire to uphold important traditions such as staying with family rather
than going out with friends on important holidays. Just as there is no such
thing as a pure race, there is likewise no pure culture. That is, cultures
influence one another, and even minority cultures and those with less status have an impact on majority cultures, sometimes in dramatic ways.
Power is deeply implicated in notions of culture and language
(Fairclough, 1989). Indeed, what are often presented as cultural and linguistic differences are, above all, differences in power. Put another way, cultural
conflict is sometimes little more than political conflict. Let me give you
another example concerning the link between culture and context based on
an experience I had that took me by surprise even as a young adult.
Rice is a primary Puerto Rican staple. There is a saying in Spanish
that demonstrates how common it is: Puertorriqueos somos como el arroz
blanco: estamos por todas partes (Puerto Ricans are like white rice: we are
everywhere), an adage that says as much about rice as it does about the
diaspora of Puerto Rican people, almost half of whom live outside the
island. As a rule, Puerto Ricans eat short grain rice, but I have always preferred long grain rice. Some Puerto Ricans have made me feel practically
like a cultural traitor when I admitted it. I remember my surprise when a
fellow academic, a renowned Puerto Rican historian, explained the real
reason behind the preference for short grain rice. This preference did not
grow out of the blue, nor is that rice innately better. On the contrary, the
predilection for short grain rice was influenced by the historical context of
Puerto Ricans as a colonized people.
Near the beginning of the twentieth century, when Puerto Rico was
taken over by the United States (as spoils of the Spanish-American War),
there was a surplus of short grain rice in the United States. Colonies have
frequently been the destination for unwanted or surplus goods, so Puerto
Rico became the dumping ground for short grain rice, which had lower
status than long grain rice in the United States. After this, of course, the
preference for short grain rice became part of the culture. As is true of all
cultural values, however, this particular taste was influenced by history,
economics, and power. This example was a good lesson to me that culture
is not something inherent, but often arbitrary and negotiated.


From Center to Margins

Hybridity complicates the idea of cultural identity. It means that culture is always heterogeneous and complex; it also implies that assimilation
or cultural preservation are not the only alternatives. Ariel Dorfmans
(1998) autobiography, Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey,
eloquently described the turmoil he experienced as a child in developing
his identity, first in New York City, and later in Chile:
I instinctively chose to refuse the multiple complex in-between person I would someday become, this man who is shared by two equal
languages and who has come to believe that to tolerate differences
and indeed embody them personally and collectively might be our
only salvation as a species. (p. 42)
As an adult, he reflected on the demand to be culturally pure that he
experienced in the United States as a graduate student:
Sitting at my typewriter in Berkeley, California that day, precariously
balanced between Spanish and English, for the first time perhaps fully
aware of how extraordinarily bicultural I was, I did not have the maturityor the emotional or ideological space, probably not even the
vocabularyto answer that I was a hybrid, part Yankee, part Chilean,
a pinch of Jew, a mestizo in search of a center, I was unable to look
directly in the face of the divergent mystery of who I was, the abyss of
being bilingual and binational, at a time when everything demanded
that we be unequivocal and immaculate. (p. 22)
The notion of hybridity and/or culture, as implicated with power and
privilege, complicates culturally responsive pedagogy. Rather than simply
an incorporation of the cultural practices of students families in the curriculum, or a replication of stereotypical ideas about learning styles, culturally responsive pedagogy, in the broadest sense, is a political project.
According to Gloria Ladson-Billings (1994), it is about questioning (and
preparing students to question) the structural inequality, the racism, and
the injustice that exist in society (p.128). Culturally responsive pedagogy
is not simply about instilling pride in ones identity or boosting selfesteem. It is also about context and positionality.

When culture is thought of as context free, we fragment peoples
lives. In the words of Frederick Erickson (1990), as we freeze them out-

Language, Literacy, and Culture


side time, outside a world of struggle in concrete history (p. 34). Context
is also about situatedness and positionality, reminding us that culture includes
the social markers that differentiate a group from others. It is once again
the recognition that questions of power are at the very heart of learning.
This view of culture also implies that differences in ethnicity, language,
social class, and gender need not, in and of themselves, be barriers to learning. Instead, it is how these differences are viewed in society that can make
the differences in whether and to what extent young people learn.
Judith Solskens (1993) definition of literacy, as the negotiation of
ones orientation toward written language and thus ones position within
multiple relations of power and status (p. 6) brings up a number of questions that have traditionally been neglected in discussions of reading and
writing, questions such as: How do students learn to use language in a way
that both acknowledges the context in which they find themselves, and
challenges the rules of that context? And how do young people learn to
negotiate the chasm that exists between their home languages and culture
and those of school?
Let me share with you another example from Linda Howard. What
helped Linda go from a struggling student in junior high to valedictorian
of her class several years later? There are probably many answers to this
question, but one ingredient that made a tremendous difference was Mr.
Benson, her favorite teacher in high school. He too was biracial, and Linda
talked about some of the things she had learned from Mr. Benson about
positionality and context:
Ive enjoyed all my English teachers at Jefferson. But Mr. Benson,
my English Honors teacher, he just threw me for a whirl! Cause Mr.
Benson, he says, I can go into Harvard and converse with those people, and I can go out in the street and rap with yall. Its that type of
thing, I love it. I try and be like that myself. I have my street talk. I get
out in the street and I say aint this and aint that and your
momma or whas up? But I get somewhere where I know the people arent familiar with that language or arent accepting that language, and I will talk properly. . . . I walk into a place and I listen to
how people are talking and it just automatically comes to me. (p. 56)
Lindas statement is an example of the tremendous intelligence
needed by young people whose discourses (Gee, 1990) are not endorsed by
schools, and who need to negotiate these differences on their own. Lindas
words are also a graphic illustration of James Baldwins characterization of


From Center to Margins

language as a political instrument, means, and proof of power (p. 68). In

the case of African American discourse, Baldwin suggestedas Linda
learned through her own experienceIt is not the Black childs language
that is in question, it is not his language that is despised: It is his experience (p. 70). As David Corson (1993) reminds us; education can routinely repress, dominate, and disempower language users whose practices
differ from the norms it establishes (p. 7).
What does this mean for teachers? Situations such as Linda
Howards suggest that, We are faced with essential epistemological questions such as, what counts as important knowledge or knowing? (NelsonBarber & Estrin, 1995, p. 178). These questions are at the core of
sociocultural theory, and they are neither neutral nor innocent. They are
rarely addressed openly in school, although they should be. As Ira Shor
(1992) has said: A curriculum that avoids questioning school and society is
not, as is commonly supposed, politically neutral, It cuts off the students
development as critical thinkers about their world (p.12).
Sociocultural and sociopolitical perspectives have been especially
consequential because they have shattered the perception that teaching
and learning are neutral processes uncontaminated by the idiosyncrasies of
particular contexts. Whether (and to what extent) teachers realize the
influence social and political context have on learning can alter how they
perceive their students and, consequently, what and how they teach them.
A good example of positionality is the status of bilingual education.
Bilingualism is only viewed as a problem and a deficit in a context where
speakers of a particular language are held in low esteem or seen as a threat
to national unity. This is the case of bilingual education in the United
States, and especially for children who speak Spanish. There is nothing
inherently negative about the project of becoming bilingual (many wealthy
parents pay dearly for the privilege), but rather it is the identities of the
students, and the status of the language variety they speak, that make bilingual education problematic. This is clearly explained by Lizette Roman, a
bilingual teacher whose journal entry for one of my classes reads as follows:
Unfortunately, most bilingual programs exist because they are mandated by law, not because they are perceived as a necessity by many
school systems. The main problem that we bilingual teachers face
every day is the misconception that mainstream teachers, principals,
and even entire school systems have about bilingual education. . . . As
a consequence, in many school districts bilingual education is doubly
disadvantaged, first because it is seen as remedial and, second,

Language, Literacy, and Culture


because little attention is paid to it. Many mainstream teachers and

administrators see bilingual education as a remediation program and
do not validate what bilingual teachers do in their classrooms even
when what they are teaching is part of the same curriculum. . . . The
majority think that there must be something wrong with these children who cannot perform well in English. As soon as the children
transfer out of the bilingual program, these teachers believe that this
is the moment when the learning of these children starts. The perception of the majority distorts the importance and the purpose of
bilingual education. It extends to bilingual children and their parents. Bilingual children and their parents sense that their language
places them in a program where they are perceived to be inferior to
the rest of the children. What isolates children in the bilingual program is not the way the program is conducted, but the perceptions
the majority has about people who speak a language different from
the mainstream. (pp. 8788)
Lizettes reflections suggest that if teachers believe intelligence and learning
are somehow divorced from context, then they will conclude that the political and economic realities of their students livesincluding their school
environmentshave nothing to do with learning. In short, teachers can
delude themselves by believing that they and the schools in which they work
inhabit an ideology free zone in which dominant attitudes and values play
no role in learning. When students are asked to give up their identities for an
elusive goal that they may never reach because of the negative context in
which they learn, students may be quite correct in rejecting the trade.

How we define and describe community is of central significance in
sociocultural theory. Lev Vygotskys (1978) research in the first decades of
the twentieth century was a catalyst for the viewpoint that learning is above
all a social practice. Vygotsky suggested that development and learning are
firmly rooted inand influenced bysociety and culture. Accepting this
notion means that it is no longer possible to separate learning from the
context in which it takes place, nor from an understanding of how cultures
and society influence and are influenced by learning.
Vygotsky, and others who have advanced the sociocultural foundation of cognition (Cole & Griffin, 1983; Scribner & Cole, 1981), have provided us with a framework for understanding how schools either
encourage or discourage the development of learning communities.


From Center to Margins

Because schools organize themselves in specific ways, they are more or less
comfortable and inviting for students of particular backgrounds. Most
schools closely reflect the traditional image of the intelligent, academically
prepared young person, and consequently, these are the young people who
tend to feel most comfortable in school settings. But institutional environments are never neutral; they are always based on particular views of
human development, of what is worth knowing, and of what it means to be
educated. When young people enter schools, they are entering institutions
that have already made some fundamental decisions about such matters. In
the process, some of these children may be left out through no fault of
their own. The ability to create community, so important in sociocultural
theory, is lost.
Maria Botelho, a doctoral student of mine and a former early childhood teacher and librarian, remembers very clearly what it was like to
begin school as a young immigrant student in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
After viewing a short video on bilingual education in one of my classes, she
felt almost as if she had stepped back in time. The video highlights a number of students, one of them Carly, a young Portuguese student in a bilingual class in Cambridge. Maria reflected on her reactions to the video in
the journal she kept for my class:
I viewed the video Quality Bilingual Education twice. I wept both
times. The Portuguese-speaking girl, Carla, attended kindergarten
in a school that is less that a block from where my parents live in
Cambridge; it was too close to home, so to speak. Like Carla, I
entered the Cambridge Public Schools speaking only Portuguese.
Unlike Carla, I was placed in a mainstream first-grade class. I still
remember my teacher bringing over a piece of paper with some writing on it (a worksheet) and crayons. I fell asleep. There I learned quietly about her world and my world was left with my coat, outside the
classroom door. (Nieto, 1999, p. 110)
Sociocultural theories are a radical departure from conventional
viewpoints that posit learning as largely unaffected by context. Traditional
viewpoints often consider that children such as Maria (who do not speak
English) have low intelligence. As a result, these children are automatically
barred from entering a community of learners. A Vygotskian perspective
provides a more hopeful framework for thinking about learning, because if
learning can be influenced by social mediation, then conditions that help
most students learn can be created in schools. These conditions can result

Language, Literacy, and Culture


in what Carmen Mercade (1998) describes as the fashioning of new

textstexts of our collective voices (p. 92) that emerge as a result of organizing learning environments in which literacy is for sharing and reflecting. Particularly significant in this regard is the notion of the zone of
proximal development or ZPD (Vygotsky, 1978). But the ZPD is not simply
an individual space, it is a social one. Thus, according to Henry Trueba
(1989), if we accept Vygotskys theory of ZPD, then the failure to learn
cannot be defined as an individual failure, but rather as a systemic failure,
that is, as the failure of the social system to provide the learner with an
opportunity for successful social interactions.
In order to change academic failure to success, appropriate social and
instructional interventions need to occur. For teachers, this means they
need to first acknowledge the differences of students and then act as a
bridge between their differences and the culture of the dominant society.
The metaphor of a bridge is appropriate for teachers who want to be effective with students of diverse backgrounds. This is a lesson I learned from
Diane Sweet, a former student who had been an engineer until she fell in
love with teaching ESL at the plant where she worked and decided to
become a teacher. Diane is well aware of the benefits of bridges, and she
applies the metaphor to teaching:

a bridge provides access to a different shore without closing off

the possibility of returning home; a bridge is built on solid
ground but soars toward the heavens; a bridge connects two
places that might otherwise never be able to meet.

The best thing about bridges is that they do not need to be burned once
they are used; on the contrary, they become more valuable with use
because they help visitors from both sides become adjusted to different
contexts. However, that is a far cry from how diverse languages and cultures tend to be viewed in schools. Conventional wisdom tells us that, if
native languages and cultures are used at all, they should be discarded or
burned once one learns the important language and culture. This is definitely a one-way street with no turning back.
The metaphor of the bridge also suggests a different stance: you can
have two homes, and the bridge can help you cross the difficult and conflict-laden spaces between them. Teachers, who take seriously their
responsibility for working with students of diverse backgrounds, become
bridges, or what Diaz, Flores, Cousin & Soo Hoo (1992) have called sociocultural mediators. That is, they accept and validate the cultural symbols


From Center to Margins

used by all their students, and not just those from majority backgrounds. In
sociocultural theory, learning and achievement are not merely cognitive
processes, but complex issues that need to be understood in the development of community.
Three of my colleagues provide a hopeful example of using students
experiences and identities as a basis for creating community. Jo-Anne
Wilson Kennan, a teacher-researcher (working with Judith Solsken and
Jerri Willett, professors at the University of Massachusetts), developed a
collaborative action research project in a school in Springfield,
Massachusetts, with a very diverse student body. The projectbased on
the premise that parents and other family members of children from
widely diverse backgrounds have a lot to offer schools to enhance their
childrens learningwas distinct from others in which parents are simply
invited to both speak about their culture and share food. Their research
focuses on demonstrating how parents can promote student learning by
transforming the curriculum. But engaging in this kind of project is not
always easy. Kennan, Solsken, and Willett (1993), point out that collaborating with families required that we confront our own fears of difference
and open our classrooms to discussion of topics that may raise tensions
among the values of different individuals, groups, and institutions: (p. 64).
Through inspiring stories based on in-depth analysis of the families visits.
They describe how they attempted to build reciprocal relationships with
parents, and concluded:
Both the extent and the quality of participation by the parents belies
the common perception that low-income and minority parents are
unable or unwilling to collaborate with the school. Even more
important, our study documents the wide range of knowledge, skills,
and teaching capabilities that parents are already sharing with their
children at home and that are available to enrich the education of
their own and other children in school. (p. 64)
The important work of Moll & Gonzalez (1997) and their colleagues is
another well-known example of research that builds on family knowledge.

No theory provides all the answers. The persistent problems of education are not just about teaching and learning, but are about a societys
ideology. Sociocultural theories give us different insights into these prob-

Language, Literacy, and Culture


lems. While we need to accept the inconclusiveness of what we know, we

also need to find new, more empowering ways of addressing these concerns. Maxine Greene (1994), in a discussion of postmodernism, poststructuralism, feminism, literary criticism, and other sociocultural theories,
discusses both the possibilities and the limits they have. She writes: The
point is to open a number of fresh perspectives on epistemology in its connection with educational research (p. 426), but she adds, no universalized or totalized viewing, even of a revised sort (p. 426) is possible.
Nevertheless, in spite of this inconclusiveness, we know enough to
know that teachers need to respect students identities. They need to learn
about their students if they are to be effective with them. Ron Morris, a
young man attending an alternative school in Boston, describes the disappointing relationships he had with teachers before attending his alternative
school. He said:
When a teacher becomes a teacher, she acts like a teacher instead of a
person. She takes her title as now shes mechanical, somebody just
running it. Teachers shouldnt deal with students like were
machines. Youre a person. Im a person. We come to school and we
all act like people. (p. 265)
Ron reminds us that we do not have all the answers, and indeed, that some
of the answers we have are clearly wrong. Ray McDermott (1977)
described this fact beautifully: We are all embedded in our own procedures, which makes us both very smart in one situation and blind and stupid in the next (p. 202). More recently, Herbert Kohl (1994) suggests that
students failure to learn is not always caused by a lack of intelligence,
motivation, or self-esteem. On the contrary, he maintains that To agree
to learn from a stranger who does not respect your integrity causes a major
loss of self (p. 6) or what Carol Locust (1988) has called wounding the
spirit (p. 315).
Much has been written in the past few years about teachers reluctance to broach issues of difference, both among themselves and with their
students (Fine, 1991; Jervis, 1996; McIntyre, 1997; Sleeter, 1994;
Solomon, 1995; Tatum, 1997). This is especially true of racism, which is
most often addressed in schools as if it were a personality problem. But
prejudice and discrimination are not just personality traits or psychological
phenomena; they are manifestations of economic, political, and social
power. The institutional definition of racism is not always easy for teachers
to accept because it goes against deeply held notions of equality and justice


From Center to Margins

in our nation. Bias, as an instrumental system, implies that some people

and groups benefit and others lose. Whites, whether they want to or not,
benefit in a racist society; males benefit in a sexist society. Discrimination
always helps those with power, which explains why racism, sexism, and
other forms of discrimination continue to exist. Having a different language, to speak about differences in privilege and power, is the first step in
acquiring the courage to confront differences.
Finally, sociocultural and sociopolitical concepts give us a way to
confront what Henry Giroux (1992) has called our nations retreat from
democracy (p. 4). Paulo Freire (1998), writing a series of letters to teachers focused on this problem:
When inexperienced middle-class teachers take teaching positions in
peripheral areas of the city, class-specific tastes, values, language, discourse, syntax, semantics, everything about the students may seem
contradictory to the point of being shocking and frightening. It is
necessary, however, that teachers understand that the students syntax; their manners, tastes and ways of addressing teachers and colleagues; and the rules governing their fighting and playing among
themselves are all part of their cultural identity; which never lacks an
element of class. All that has to be accepted. Only as learners recognize themselves democratically and see that their right to say I be is
respected will they become able to learn the dominant grammatical
reasons why they should say I am (p. 49; emphasis in the original)
All students are individuals. They are members of particular groups,
whose identities are either disdained or respected in society. When we
understand this, then my story, and those of countless others, can be
understood not simply as someone pulling herself up by her bootstraps
or melting or joining the mainstream, but as a story of the concepts of
agency/co-constructed learning, experience, identity/hybridity, context/
situatedness/positionality, and community can be explained. When language, literacy, and culture are approached in these ways, we have a more
hopeful way of addressing teaching and learning for all students.

Appiah, A. (1994). Identity, authenticity, survival: Multicultural societies and social
reproduction. In A. Gutman (Ed.), Multiculturalism (pp.149163). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Language, Literacy, and Culture


Apple, M. W. (1993). The politics of official knowledge: Does a national curriculum make sense? Teachers College Record, 95, 222241.
Arvizu, S. F. (1994). Building bridges for the future: Anthropological contributions
to diversity and classroom practice. In R. A. DeVillar, C. J. Faltis, & J.
Cummins (Eds.), Cultural diversity in schools: From rhetoric to reality (pp.
7597). Albany: State University of New York Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1985). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of
theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241248). Westport, CT:
Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Cole, M., & Griffin, P. (1983). A socio-historical approach to re-mediation.
Quarterly Newsletter of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, 5(4),
Corson, D. (1993). Langiage, minority education and gender: Linking social justice and
power. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Cummins, J. (1994). Knowledge, power and identity in teaching English as a second language. In F. Genesee (Ed.), Educating second language children: The
whole child, the whole curriculum, the whole community (pp. 3558). Cambridge,
England: Cambridge University Press.
Delpit, L. D. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating
other peoples children. Harvard Educational Review, 58, 280298.
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: Free Press.
Diaz, E., Flores, B., Cousin, P. T., & Soo Hoo, S. (1992, April) Teacher as sociocultural mediator. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational
Research Association, San Francisco.
Dorfman, A. (1998). Heading south, looking north: A bilingual journey. New York:
Erickson, F. (1990). Culture, politics, and educational practice. Educational
Foundations, 4(2), 2145.
Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and power. New York: Longman.
Fine, M. (1991). Framing dropouts: Notes on the politics of an urban high school. Albany:
State University of New York Press.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury.
Freire, P. (1985). The politics of education: Culture, power and liberation. New York:
Bergin & Garvey.
Freire, P. (1998). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare to teach.
Boulder, CO: Westview.


From Center to Margins

Gee, J. P. (1990). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideologies in discourse. Bristol, PA:
Giroux, H. (1992). Educational leadership and the crisis of democratic government, Educational Researcher, 21(4), 411.
Goodlad, J. I. (1984). A place called school. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Greene, M. (1994). Epistemology and educational research: The influence of
recent approaches to knowledge. In L. Darling-Hammond (Ed.), Review of
research in education, 20 (pp. 423464). Washington, DC: American
Educational Research Association.
Hirsch, E. D. (1987). Cultural literacy, What every American needs to know. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin.
Jervis, K. (1996). How come there are no brothers on that list?: Hearing the hard
questions all children ask. Harvard Educational Review, 66, 546576.
Kalantzis, M., Cope, B., & Slade, D. (1989). Minority languages. London: Falmer.
Kohl, H. (1994). I wont learn from you and other thoughts on creative maladjustment.
New York: Free Press.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American
children. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Locust, C. (1988). Wounding the spirit: Discrimination and traditional American
Indian Belief sytems. Harvard Educational Review, 3, 315330.
Mercado, C. I. (1998). When young people from marginalized communities enter
the world of ethnographic research: Scribing, planning, reflecting and sharing. In A. Egan-Robertson & D. Bloome (Eds.), Students as researchers of culture and language in their own communities (pp. 6992). Cresskill, NJ:
McDermott, R. P. (1977). Social relations as contexts for learning in school.
Harvard Educational Review, 47, 198213.
McIntrye, A. (1997). Constructing an image of a white teacher. Teachers College
Press, 98, 653681.
Moll, L., & Gonzalez, N. (1997). Teachers as social scientists: Learning about culture from household research. In P. M. Hall (Ed.), Race, ethnicity and multiculturalism Vol.1 (pp. 89114). New York: Garland.
Nelson-Barber, S., & Estrin, E. T. (1995). Bringing Native American perspectives
to mathematics and science teaching. Theory into Practice, 34, 174185.
Nieto, S. (1992, 2000). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural
education. New York: Longman.
Nieto, S. (1999). The light in their eyes: Creating multicultural learning communities.
New York: Teachers College Press.

Language, Literacy, and Culture


Rodriguez, R. (1982). Hunger of memory: The education of Richard Rodriguez. Boston:

David R. Godine.
Scribner, S., & Cole, M. (1981). The psychology of literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Shor, I. (1992). Empowering education: Critical teaching for social change. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Sleeter, C. E. (1994). White racism. Multicultural Education, 1(4), 58, 39.
Snow, C. E., Barnes, W. S., Chandler, J., Goodman, I. F., & Hemphill, L. (1991).
Unfulfilled expectations: Home and school influences on literacy. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
Solomon, R. P. (1995). Beyond prescriptive pedagogy: Teacher inservice education for cultural diversity. Journal of Teacher Education, 46, 251258.
Solsken, J. W. (1993). Literacy, gender and work in families and in school. Norwood,
NJ: Ablex.
Tatum, B. D. (1997). Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? and
other conversations about race. New York: HarperCollins.
Taylor, D., & Dorsey-Gaines, C. (1988). Growing up literate: Learning from innercity families. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Trueba, H. T. (1989). Raising silent voices: Educating the linguistic minorities for the
21st century. Cambridge, MA: Newbury House.
Vygotsky, L. E. (1978). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

This page intentionally left blank.

Chapter 5

The Outsider within Multicultural

Understanding the Field from a
Marginalized Viewpoint

he field of Multicultural Education arose from the commitment

of educators to provide equal educational opportunity to students
from underrepresented communities who had been continually
denied access to quality schooling. The needs of students were at the heart
of the movement. In order to accomplish this important goal, leading
scholars in the field called for total school reform (Banks, 2002; Gay, 2000;
Grant & Sleeter, 1998). As a scholar who studies Multicultural Education,
I believe the paradigm shift that multicultural educators proposed during
the early 1970s challenged the inherent nature of educational institutions:
the field called into question the flawed reality of our national ideal of
equality in the lived experiences of many folks in this democracy; the field
demanded equity for all children; and the field called for continual resistance of systemic institutional oppression (Welch, this volume). The purpose of this chapter is to examine the field of Multicultural Education
through the lens that I have chosen as a researcher and teacher. As part of
this analysis, I address two main questions posed by Pollard and Welch.
They are (1) How have you come to know what you know about research?
And (2) What are some of the factors, issues, and concerns that have
guided you as a researcher? The thrust of this chapter will focus on these
two questions and discussion of the obstacles that I see facing scholars in
the field of Multicultural Education.


From Center to Margins

Though I am an insider (in that I am a scholar within the field), I

often find myself marginalized by various forces. However, I do understand that change is slow and the national politics and social context of the
present time do not encourage divergent thinking. As this book describes,
women in academia often find themselves on the borders. In order to
explain that marginalization process, I include several examples from my
own journey. The reader needs to understand that my filter/lens is a composite of various subcultures: mother, member of the Japanese community, and elementary grade teacher.
First, I am a mother who believes in young people. Motherhood has
given me many insights into how children develop and learn. I worked as a
lecturer for nine years while our children were growing up. Many folks
could not understand why I would choose to be the caretaker of our daughter and son working as an adjunct, when I had earned a PhD. The life of an
adjunct is difficult because one is paid poorly and treated as second class.
One quarter I taught part-time at three local universities so I could teach at
night when my husband was home. During another quarter, I taught 120
miles round trip from our home at a fourth university.
Motherhood has been the most important role I have taken on. I
believe parents have a limited time with their children and I enjoyed mine.
Children grow up so quickly. I remember volunteering every week in our
daughter and sons early grades. I was never a room mother because I was
an adjunct professor, however I went on many field trips with their classes.
Our daughter and sons classes went on train trips to the salmon ladder of
the local science museum, and I was there with them. I also spent many
hours tutoring in the classroom. My time with the children was full and
busy. What I learned most about children was that they are intelligent,
inquiring, and energetic learners. I found all the children to be fun and
interesting. This taught me about the importance of teacher quality. If the
teacher could see the potential of each child, the child would be affirmed
and consistently encouraged. As a mother, I realized that quality time and
quantity time was needed by most children. Parents often do not understand the powerful influence they have on the lives of children. Therefore,
the many hours I spent at home reinforced the importance of continual
adult mentoring and guidance to young people from parents and teachers.
It was not always easy to stay home as the full-time caretaker. I saw
my colleagues advancing in their careers, while I made cupcakes and wrote
small grants for their elementary school. Though I was able to find financial support for the school library and bring to all the children in the school
Asian Pacific American authors such as Jose Aruego and Laurence Yep,

The Outsider within Multicultural Education


people at the university questioned my commitment to the academy

because I did not hold a tenure track position. My role as a mother was
seen as a weakness. In fact, professors generally in the College of
Education where I earned my PhD did not believe I would be successful in
higher education. They evaluated behaviors in terms of their own value
systems and did not understand how underlying cultural values guided my
life as a third generation Japanese American.
Motherhood is a powerful role in Japanese culture, and children are
considered precious gifts to the family. This, in itself, indicates a specific
cultural orientation. Family is seen at the core of life. Though many sociologists have described the rapid cultural assimilation of Japanese
Americans, I believe it is incorrect to assume that various cultural values do
not remain underneath the hip clothes or professional demeanor of many.
Throughout my career, I found folks from various communities responded
to me based upon extremely powerful stereotypes held about Asian
women. Though I usually do not fit into their stereotypical expectations of
Asian women, this has and continues to be a double-edged sword.
I am neither a quiet weak female nor the Suzy Wong sex kitten.
Rather, I am a researcher who teaches and studies the areas of Multicultural Education, Urban Education, and Teacher Education. However,
people have expectations that I often do not fill. Sometimes, I am included
on a panel not for my knowledge but because of my ethnicity. However,
this can be positive. Asian Pacific Americans are often used as the poster
children for affirmative action, and used to rebuff the claims of Blacks and
Latinos that racism is alive. In fact, Asian Pacific Americans are sadly used
in society as model minorities or presented as White-like in order to
demonstrate the American mythology of equal opportunity. Another way
that I feel marginalized is when people react, not to my, but to their own
expectations of how I should behave and respond. For example, I may be
vocal in a committee meeting. I can quickly identify from the nonverbal
behaviors of others, that they do not expect me to say something in opposition to the general feeling. For example, I have been on numerous university personnel committees. In some of my votes regarding tenure and
promotion of assistant and associate professors, I may demonstrate a viewpoint that others do not agree with. I have been in the position where those
in the majority will try to intimidate me to change my decision through
their aggressive tone of voice or accusatory statements. Unfortunately, one
of the patterns that I find is that many academics are uncomfortable with
women from Asian American communities who dissent. They may speak
louder as if this will help. I am a native speaker of English, but this seems to


From Center to Margins

escape some folks. Even more surprising, some White women who write
on the issue of White Privilege see their role as being smarter and more
able to make decisions than myself. These folks will continue to question
me about an issue, though I believe they are not listening to the context of
my comments. I feel they are responding to my physical exterior and
relate to me as if I have a lower social status. This is even harder for me to
understand because I have great respect for their scholarship, however
walking the talk of equality is difficult for all of us. These examples
demonstrate how marginality is created by many unconscious forces
within a community.
I was an elementary grade teacher and I believe in the importance of
teaching the whole child. When trusting relationships are formed as the
basis for learning, children have confidence these teachers will do all they
can to ensure student success. In this way, children are motivated to try
because they know that their efforts will be affirmed and their abilities will
be encouraged. Throughout my life, there have been many who have
influenced my beliefs: students, teachers, scholars, family members, and
friends. Like most folks, my cultural background is extremely diverse and
yet, my values center on social justice, compassion, and community. These
forces have shaped my belief system and have led me to study the issues I
have chosen in my career. I think my own experiences as a women, a
Japanese American, a mother, and a teacher have led me towards the
importance of choosing a philosophical worldview that affirms and reflects
my multidimensional identity.

Informed Social Criticism

Educators must carefully consider and participate in extensive discussions about human ideals and their extension in actual practices.
Within this process, educators must question the traditional focus of
schooling from transmission of cultural knowledge to informed social
criticism (Vinson, 1998). Teachers must be reflective thinkers who challenge social adaptation (Stanley & Nelson, 1994; Hahn, 1996; Ross, 2001)
and struggle with complex issues such as race and racism. Addressing
inequalities in schooling is a challenging goal. It is also imperative that
scholars in the field carefully articulate an in-depth philosophy and present
a comprehensive knowledge base for teachers because this will provide
essential grounding.
In this chapter, I expand on how to strengthen the foundations of
Multicultural Education as a field so that informed social criticism is

The Outsider within Multicultural Education


possible. In the discussion, I weave descriptions of several vital challenges

that I feel hinder the development of the discipline. Finally, I end with a
story about my oldest student, who was originally an engineer, and whose
story demonstrates how trusting relationships, as Noddings (1984) has
explained through her framework of the Ethic of Caring, must also be at
the foundation of Multicultural Education.

Preparing Students and Teachers for a Complex, Multicultural

World: An Analogy
As educators our role, in a democracy, is a vital one. What does a student, in a school where informed social criticism, is prevalent, look like,
and how does she behave? The following story presents an analogy of an
individual who begins to understand the importance of developing higher
order thinking skills and participating in the decision-making process of a
democracy. An analogy is a mental cultural model or tool that is used as a
bridge to deepen understanding (DAndrade, 1987).
The chick and egg analogy can be used to represent a paradigm shift
from adaptation to informed social criticism. Picture an egg. The egg
represents the first phase of a chicks life where she lives in a protective
environment. The chick may stay in that shell where it is warm and sheltered or she may decide she must breakout of the shell. The chick may find
it difficult to break out of the shell because shattering the shell may be
viewed as fighting against conformity and becoming self-empowered. The
shell acts like a filter and obstacle. The chick finds it difficult to see clearly
outside, however, she realizes it is vital for her to get out of the egg so she
can investigate the world and develop her own voice. She wants to break
out from the margins of her life. She sees that the shell acts as a structure
that has been created to ensure her development, as well as a mechanism
that perpetuates the status quo. Paradigm change is not easy because the
institutional structures of egg making are based upon conformity and
keeping the status quo in place.
The chick and egg analogy is a powerful way to look at the struggles
women of color must face in the academy and their careers. It is easy for
individuals to appear to be engaged in culturally diverse or antibiased
activities that are low risk, such as eating ethnic foods or being careful not
to name call others. This is to stay within the safety of the eggs shell.
However, it is far more difficult to break out of the shell, see life from the
views of people on the margins, and challenge oppression. It often takes


From Center to Margins

courage to speak out against oppressive practices such as White privilege

or the academic tracking that is common in K12 schools.
Initially, I saw many scholars in Multicultural Education crush the
shell and fight the system of entrenched inequalities. However, because
some had not adopted a new paradigm, their attitudes and actions became
mainstream; they began to adopt practices that rebuilt the eggshell. For
example, discussions were closed, and some scholars in the field did not
allow for the presentation of opposing views. As Friere (1972) writes, the
oppressed become the oppressors. Those of us in the field of Multicultural Education must guard against this and encourage open dialogue.
This is especially important in a young field, where leading scholars need
to identify a common definition for Multicultural Education.
This leads to another concern. Though the shell can be broken, the
chick cannot become completely self-empowered without collaboration
with others. Multicultural Education is especially dependent upon a community of scholars who work towards common goals in school. However,
scholars in the field do not hold a common knowledge base that includes a
common definition of Multicultural Education. This hampers our ability
to integrate equity philosophy, and culturally relevant curriculum practices, in schools. Our efforts as multicultural educators have been limited;
there is evidence demonstrating this. For example, in some elementary
classrooms, I still see alphabet cards that include I for Indian. This
demonstrates that teachers have not looked at another perspective regarding this issue. In Multicultural Education, many educators point out that
the use of the card, I for Indian, objectifies a group of people, just as the
use of a ball to refer to the letter B. Many teachers do not even have a
minimal understanding of the field or its purposes.
Change is slow in many educational arenas. The above example deals
with elementary schools; change is also needed in colleges of education.
Therefore an educator who is dedicated to equity in schools must clearly
identify her beliefs. With strong ethical grounding, she will be more able
to address her goals and deal with obstacles. Often this means one must
take risks and be willing to do things that are perceived to be on the margins. These are choices many women of color in academia must make. For
example, when I was a doctoral student, I had a strong desire to investigate
the self-concept of Japanese American children (not adults, children). I
could not find studies on this topic. There were several measuring the selfconcept and self-esteem of African American, Caucasian, and Vietnamese
American children. However, there was a dearth of research on Japanese
American youth. When I first approached one of my doctoral professors,

The Outsider within Multicultural Education


the Asian American professor advised me not to conduct research on

Japanese Americans. He explained that this would be career suicide. It
would be much better for me to conduct research that was more mainstream, otherwise, I would find myself at the margins of the academy.
Given the time period of the late 1970s it is somewhat understandable why
he advised me not to choose a study that examined an ethnic population.
Though he pleaded with me several times, I felt it was important for me to
follow my interest. He also told me that many educators believed Japanese
American students were model minorities and did not need to be studied
or served. However, I believed I would be making a contribution to the
educational community if I did research on the self-concept of Japanese
Americans. Fortunately, I did study the physical and general self-concept
of Japanese Americans for my dissertation. I discovered that if educators
only used general measures of self-concept, they missed patterns about
specific dimensions of identity. I found that a general self-concept score
often masked a lower physical self-concept in fourth through sixth graders
(Pang, Mizokawa, Morishima, & Olstad, 1985). Later, I was awarded a
postdoctoral fellowship by the National Academy to examine academic
and test anxiety in high achieving Asian American middle school students.
In this study, I found that Asian American middle school students showed
significantly higher test and achievement anxiety in comparison to their
European American peers. However, these Asian American young people
felt significantly more encouraged and supported by their parents than the
Caucasian sample (Pang, 1991).
Since one of my goals is to address inequities in education, I felt it
was important for me to take a leadership position in presenting educators
with vital information about Asian American students. These research
findings can be used by teachers to address these students needs better.
This encouraged me to provide leadership in a book project. I was senior
editor of Struggling to be heard: The unmet needs of Asian Pacific American
children (Pang & Cheng, 1998), one of the few research books on Asian
Pacific American children. I broke out of the academic shell. I followed
my cultural values, keeping the children and students I serve at the heart
of my work.

Multicultural Education: Identifying an Educational Belief System

As an academic, I am concerned that many scholars focus primarily
on politics and have not grounded their work in philosophy and research.
Though I understand that working in schools can be considered a political


From Center to Margins

act, and educators must be politically active, I also think the work we do
must be grounded in educational theories. I am not a Diane Ravitch or
Chester Finn (who do not believe in Multicultural Education). I am an
educator who believes the field can make a difference, but I am frustrated
by the lack of leadership, rigor, and clarity in the discipline. Few of the
leaders in Multicultural Education have written clearly about their philosophical orientation. Several exceptions are Carl Grant, Christine Sleeter,
Geneva Gay, and Sonia Nieto.
Understanding the philosophical orientation of educational scholars
is vital. Identification of a scholars philosophy indicates the value system
and filters an educator uses in viewing issues or the foundation of their
decisions. Grant and Sleeter (1999) have presented social reconstructionism as a key philosophy. Gay (2000) has written extensively about progressive education and John Dewey, in particular. Nieto (2000) has chosen
critical theory as her philosophical framework and extends the beliefs of
scholars such as Paulo Freire. These philosophical orientations demonstrate that some scholars in the field have chosen social change, aimed at
providing educational equity, as a major goal. They are dedicated to moving schools toward reforms that center on providing equity in education.
Though there are many other scholars who write in the field, they have not
clearly identified the theories that form their belief system.
My philosophical framework is grounded in the work of John Dewey,
Lev Vygotsky, Vanessa Siddle Walker, Geneva Gay, Luis Moll, and Nel
Noddings. Since the ethic of care as developed by Noddings is foundational
to the framework, it is called caring-centered multicultural education
(Pang, 2005). I believe it is critical to have a strong philosophical orientation that includes educational principles and educational psychological theories, because they address the learning process. The principles and
theories of these researchers form an integrated and holistic orientation
towards education that emphasizes the importance of critical thinking
skills, culture, and the creation of a community of learners. However, as an
outsider within the field, my theoretical orientation has been marginalized.
This leads to another omission found in the field. Few multicultural
educators identify an educational psychological orientation. This is a glaring oversight, especially when multicultural educators call for reform in
instructional practice. What are the underlying theories that guide their
instruction? Educational psychological theories are critical to effective
instruction. These theories can provide educators with important directions for choosing curricular as well as instructional strategies. For example, some theorists believe that it is vital for teachers to construct

The Outsider within Multicultural Education


curriculum that builds upon what students already know and have a deep
grasp of because that provides a steady foundation for new knowledge
(Moll, 1990).

Research: A Vital Need in Multicultural Education

Research and scholarship is a critical component in the growth of
Multicultural Education. Just as the need for a common definition, rigorous research must be conducted to add to the knowledge base of the discipline. However, many scholars continue to present anecdotal examples of
teacher bias and prejudice without solutions for change. There is an overabundance of qualitative research where only one, two, or four teachers are
studied.The repetitive nature of this type of research slowly erodes the
foundation of the field. I, myself, am guilty of this weakness. The research
must include both quantitative and qualitative studies. The lack of more
comprehensive studies may, in part, be a result of increases in professors
teaching loads. Even in some research institutions, faculty members may
be required to teach up to six courses yearly and supervise numerous doctoral students. My own teaching load is eight courses per year. The
increase in teaching and administrative responsibilities is making it
increasingly difficult for scholars to conduct comprehensive research.
In addition, there is little funding for in-depth educational research.
Current funding is aimed at standards-based education rather than
research on issues dealing with culture and equity. So, without financial
assistance, many scholars have studied the teachers they serve because, in
this way, they integrate research with their teaching. Though qualitative
research can provide in-depth understanding of particular types of teachers, and how bias manifests itself, scholars must also continue to investigate
the beliefs and practices of large numbers of teachers using quantitative
methods. For example, Margo Monteith has led various studies of racial
bias. Her work involves the use of the Implicit Association Test (IAT). She
and her colleagues found that individuals who are less prejudiced and told
they have minor biases, are less likely to address them (Monteith, Veils, &
Aashbury-Nardo, 2001). My colleague, Park, and I built upon Monteiths
theory of self-regulation, and examined stereotypes held by preservice
teachers. We collected both quantitative and qualitative data and found
that self-regulation skills could be taught to novice teachers, and this
assisted them in identifying personal prejudices (Pang & Park, 2003). We
would like to extend this study because research in teacher prejudice
reduction can point out effective strategies that can be implemented in


From Center to Margins

professional development. The field would benefit from more studies that
contribute to enlarging its research base.

Multicultural Education: Building a Knowledge Base

Presenting interdisciplinary knowledge is essential for the expansion
of Multicultural Education as a discipline. Since the field deals with many
social issues, teachers must be exposed to extensive knowledge from many
fields and multiple perspectives regarding issues of social inequities,
whether they deal with ethnic patterns of privilege, economic have-nots,
or inequalities in academic success among different groups of students
(Nofke, 2000).
One important example deals with affirmative action. Some beliefs
about affirmative action may have altered or changed over the years since
the Supreme Courts Bakke decision in 1978. Initially, the use of quotas was
seen as one of the most effective strategies to assure equal opportunities in
universities and federal employment for members of underrepresented
communities. However, in the 21st century, many people opposed quotas,
and affirmative action programs were eliminated by public initiatives in
such states as Washington and California. Not only would teachers benefit
from examining the history of affirmative action, they would also benefit
from viewpoints that have come from other disciplines such as law. Laycok,
Issacharoff, and Wright, law professors from the University of Texas, predicted that if affirmative action programs were eliminated, lower standards
would be established by universities (Rosen, 2003). They felt this occurred
in Texas after the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
banned affirmation action in 1996 and the Texas legislature adopted a
series of laws that required the University of Texas to lower its admissions
standards in various ways (Rosen, 2003, p. 54). One of the ways they
thought this occurred was the implementation of a ten percent plan. This
assured that high school graduates, who graduated in the top ten percent of
their class, would be admitted to any public university in Texas, regardless
of their test scores, the classes they took, or their ability to contribute to
intellectual diversity (Rosen, 2003, p. 54). Therefore, Laycok, et al., felt
affirmative action programs should be continued rather than eliminated,
because then, academic excellence would be preserved.
There are other educators who support affirmative action and question the values supported by the law professors. They argue that institutional practices, such as the use of standardized achievement test scores,
are not accurate indicators of academic success (Mathison, 2001; Noguera,
2003). In addition, other educators argue that educational excellence and

The Outsider within Multicultural Education


equity are complex issues and involve more than the school context. For
example, Noguera (2003) discusses social complexities that students and
parents from urban schools face every day. The lack of adequate employment, health care, and housing are huge obstacles in the lives of many students. He believes the No Child Left Behind Initiative left behind
thousands of students in urban schools. Noguera writes:
The extreme disparities in wealth that pervade U.S. society are
largely responsible for the plight of young people and the state of
education in urban areas. However, the dearth of good schools is also
the inevitable by-product of a system that is almost completely unaccountable to those it serves. Public education is one of the few enterprises where the quality of service provided has no bearing
whatsoever on the ability of the system to function. Even when there
is little evidence that schools are able to fulfill their basic mission
educating childrenthe system continues to chug along and all
employees get paid (some quite well). This is why I believe that the
high-stakes exams adopted in states such as Massachusetts and
California are fundamentally flawed and morally irresponsible. The
exams are used to hold students accountable for their achievement
even though the authorities who have imposed the exams know that
they cannot guarantee the quality of the education students receive.
(2003, p.15)
These examples demonstrate how the examination of issues using data
from multiple disciplines can help teachers develop a more comprehensive
understanding of complex social problems such as affirmative action.
In the previous section, I provided recommendations that I believe
will strengthen the knowledge base in the field of Multicultural Education.
In the next section, I turn to teaching and, in particular, to the importance
of caring in Multicultural Education. This section describes Raymond, the
oldest student in my 35 years of teaching, who taught me a great deal about
successful teaching. By creating a bond of trust, Raymond allowed me the
opportunity to see into his life and understand, partially, essential values
that helped define him. This story demonstrates that it is through reciprocal trusting relationships between students and teachers that quality teaching is created in the classroom.

Raymonds Story
Last summer I taught an introductory class in Multicultural Education
at a large public university. This is a working students university, serving


From Center to Margins

almost 35,000 students, and where a majority of students work 2040

hours a week in addition to carrying a full load of courses. My class was
early in the morning. Many students took the class at that time so they
could go to their jobs immediately afterwards. This class was a prerequisite
to enter the teacher certification program. One of the students was
Raymond who was almost 65. He was to have a birthday at the end of this
class session. Every morning he arrived at the university about 40 minutes
before class. I would often see him sitting on the steps in the foyer.
Ray was no marshmallow. He had very definite feelings and was willing to share them with the class. It was obvious that he didnt want to be in
the class. He told me on the first day that he didnt believe in Multicultural
Education. Once, during a class discussion, Ray made a profound
announcement, I dont believe in this culture stuff. Kids just need to work
harder in school. I dont think we should be babying them. Several of the
others students disagreed; one identified a racist action of a teacher. The
conversations were always interesting and thought provoking.
I required students in this class to read The Autobiography of Malcolm
X, and asked them if the life of Malcolm X should be taught in schools.
Each student was to indicate why or why not. One by one, students took a
stand based on their beliefs. Many openly proclaimed that they thought
Malcolm Xs life should be taught because he was an example of selfempowerment. Some others felt intimidated by peer pressure; they
thought they would be labeled racist if they did not want to teach about
Malcolm X. However, when it was Raymonds turn, he stood up and
unflinchingly stated the opposing perspective. I didnt know much about
Malcolm X before reading the book, however, after much thought, I still
do not believe [he] should be taught in schools. He was himself racist and a
violent man. Some of the other students were surprised, others were
relieved. Ray was always upfront.
Originally, Ray had been a civil engineer and city manager of a city of
about 75,000 people. One of the issues that still troubled him was affirmative action. He explained to the class that he felt that many affirmative
action programs allowed for the less qualified person to be hired. Once he
had to choose between two potential employees; one Latino and the other
White. Both were well-qualified for the position. Ray chose the Latino
candidate, however it wasnt because of his ethnic background. He felt that
though both were equally qualified technically, the Latino man lived in the
area and had a better grasp of city issues.
Now retired, Ray worked as a teaching assistant, in a local middle
school, tutoring children in math. He began to create math lessons built on

The Outsider within Multicultural Education


the knowledge his children brought to school He was beginning to see the
impact of culturally relevant teaching. He also enjoyed being among the
2035 year olds planning to enter the teacher certification program. Two
of these students asked if he would help them with their math homework
and Ray tutored them after class for several days.
Another student, a young woman about 25-years-old was quiet and
reserved, often sitting by herself. One day she asked to make a presentation
about her health issues. Through her lesson she described her depression
and its impact on her life. After the presentation, Ray thanked her. He had
thought she did not want to talk but learned she was shy and found it difficult to rise out of her shell and reach out to others because of her illness.
Ray showed flexibility and openness that was not readily obvious.
During the last week of class, Ray did not attend on Monday or
Tuesday. This was unusual because he had not missed any sessions.
Someone asked if anyone had heard from him. No one knew what had
happened to him. On Tuesday, I called Ray at home. He had been in the
hospital over the weekend after his son found him unconscious at home.
However, he was feeling better and assured me he would be on class on
Thursday. However, on Thursday he wasnt in class. I called him again and
he explained he had to go back to the hospital for tests. I let him know that
students asked how he was. I said should I tell them you send your best
regards? Immediately he said No, I want you to tell them that I love each
one of them. Ray never came back to class. The doctors told him he had
stomach cancer. He died two weeks later.
Ray reminded me of the importance of the relationships we
develop in the classroom. Yes, sometimes he was a bit prickly, but
inside, he was ethical, open-minded, and caring. He was an extremely
complex person who was willing to reflect on some of his values. He
seemed so set in his ways, yet he was also open to new ideas. At the
beginning, he did not believe in Multicultural Education. Later, as the
class progressed, Ray began to understand the importance of knowing
more about the cultural diversity of children in the classroom. I
observed him work with several middle school Latino students in a
remedial class. Ray was extremely positive, asked questions about the
students and built a career unit on police officers because they were
interested in this profession. He had them read important selections
about police officers and gave them information about how to get
admitted to the police academy. The students asked questions and
were engaged in the lesson. Raymond was excellent with children.
He believed in the ability of each of his mentees and built trusting


From Center to Margins

relationships with them. Though age was somewhat of an obstacle, initially, Ray used humor to work effectively with them.

A scholar of color must decide what path to take. Should she break
out of the egg? If she does, she must be prepared for a journey where folks
will continually question her motives, her research methods, and her
beliefs. When she aligns herself with individuals from the mainstream,
there may be talk of being an assimilationist, a sell out, a banana, oreo,
apple, or coconut. When she builds coalitions with people of color, others
will say she is segregating herself. Knowing that there will always be criticism, one must choose an ethical and educational philosophy that serves to
anchor her so that students are at the heart of her work. In this way, she
does not feel she is working from the margins because the choices she
makes arise out of her integrity to the community.
My research in education is grounded within a multidimensional
identity. As a Japanese American female, mother, and elementary school
teacher, I created a value system that is based on these subcultures.
Though I often feel marginalized within academia, I am able to move forward in my work because of the strong cultural foundation that I have chosen. These various communities have assisted me in choosing research that
I believe will lead to more compassionate and effective schools. There are
always costs to those who risk. However, I believe these risks have led to
my learning that resistance is a good place to be. As Janice Mirikitani wrote
in her poem, Who is Singing this Song, the way to live ones life:
. . . We are required legacies of grandparents, parents
our enslaved and servant ancestors, our heroes and sheroes,
our fighters for freedom, to be
now the storm of hands
that wave in protest against apartheid, racism, classism, sexism,
war, hate, crime, violence and indifference to the poor
. . . Who is singing this song?
I am.
You are.
Our music is beautiful. (Mirikitani, 2001, pp. xxxivxxxc)

Banks, J. A. (2002). An introduction to multicultural education ( 3rd ed.) Boston: Allyn
& Bacon.

The Outsider within Multicultural Education


DAndrade, R. (1987). Folk models of the mind. In D. Holland & N. Quinn (Eds.),
Cultural models in language and thought. New York: Cambridge University
Freire, P. (1972). The pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice. New
York: Teachers College Press.
Grant, C. A., & Sleeter, C. (1999). Turning on learning. New York: Wiley.
Hahn, C. (1996). Research on issues-centered social studies. In R. W. Evans & D.
Saxe (Eds.), Handbook on teaching social issues (pp. 2541).Washington, DC:
National Council for Social Studies.
Mathison, S. (2001). Assessment in social studies: Moving toward authenticity. In
E. W. Ross (Ed.), The social studies curriculum: Purposes, problems and possibilities (Rev. ed, pp. 217234). Albany: State University of New York Press.
Mirikitani, J. (2001). Who is singing this song? In V. Nam (Ed.), Yell Oh Girls! (pp.
xxxixxxv). New York; Quill Publishers.
Moll, L. (1990). Vygotsky and education: Instructional implications and applications of
sociohistorical psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Monteith, M. J., Voils, C., & Ashburn-Nardo, L. (2001). Taking a look underground: Detecting, interpreting, and reacting to implicit racial biases. Social
cognition, 19(4), 395417.
Nieto, S. (2000). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education. New York: Longman.
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral development.
Berkeley; University of California Press.
Noguera, P. (2003). City schools and the American dream. New York: Teachers
College Press.
Nofke, S. (2000). Identity, community and democracy in the new social order. In
D. W. Hursh & E. W. Ross (Eds.), Democratic social education: Social studies for
change (pp. 7383). New York: Flamer.
Pang, V. O. (2005). Multicultural education: A caring-centered, reflective approach (2nd
ed.). Boston; McGraw Hill.
Pang, V. O. (1991). Test anxiety and math achievement: Their relationship to
parental values in Asian American and White American middle school students. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 24, 110.
Pang, V. O., & Park, S. D. (2003). Examination of the self-regulation mechanism:
Prejudice reduction in pre-service teachers. Action in Teacher Education.
Pang, V. O., Mizokawa, D., Morishima, J., & Olstad, R. (1985). Self-concepts of
Japanese-American children. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 16, 99108.


From Center to Margins

Pang, V. O., & Cheng, L. L. (1998). Struggling to be heard: The unmet needs of Asian
Pacific American children. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Rosen, J. (2003, June 1). How I learned to love quotas. The New York Times
Magazine, 5355.
Ross, E. W. (2001). The struggle for the social studies curriculum. In E. W. Ross
(Ed.), The social studies curriculum: Purposes, problems and possibilities (Rev. ed.,
pp. 1941). Albany: State University of New York Press.
Stanley, W. B., & Nelson, J. L. (1994). The foundations of social education in historical context. In R. Martusewica & W. Reynolds, (Eds.), Inside/out:
Contemporary critical perspectives in education (pp. 266284). New York: St.
Martins Press.
Vinson, K. (1998). The traditions revisited: Instructional approach and high school
social studies teachers. Theory and Research in Social Education, 26, 5082.
Welch, O. M. (2006). Making the familiar strange: Inclusion, exclusion, and erasure: Summarizing the philosophies of women researchers of color in D.
Pollard and O. M. Welch (eds.) From center to margins: The importance of selfdefiinition in research, Albany: State University of New York Press.

Chapter 6

Seeing with the Cultural Eye

Different Perspectives of African American
Teachers and Researchers

he disparities between the achievement of African American students and their White and Asian peers have perplexed researchers, educators, and policymakers for decades. Most explanations
center on socioeconomic, sociopathological, and cultural explanations for
what is generally called the BlackWhite achievement gap. Recently,
researchers have begun to examine another explanation for the lack of
achievement among African American students: the quality of their teachers.
However, the research on teacher quality variables has not included
the perspectives of African American teachers. Perhaps this exclusion is
related to the fact that African American teachers see things differently
than researchers (Foster, 1997; Mitchell, 1999; Siddle Walker, 1996;
Stanford, 1998). For more than 20 years I have been a boundary crosser
between the world of researchers and the world of African American
teachers. My experience in working in both of these very different domains
is that African American teachers seldom reference or validate researchers
perspectives that attempt to explain African American students low
achievement. Instead teachers look introspectively at how their ethnic
identity, classroom practices, and their beliefs are related to the achievement of their African American studentsa complex examination indeed

1. Reprinted from Educating Teachers for Diversity: Seeing with the Cultural Eye.
Teachers College Press with permission of the author and Teachers College


From Center to Margins

(Irvine, 2002b). Hence, African American teachers perspectives about the

BlackWhite achievement gap originate from a historical and cultural view
of teaching and are derived from a process of unlearning and modifying
what they have been taught in the academy.
Here are a few stories that African American teachers have shared
with me:

A beginning African American teacher said: I never thought that

I had to convince my principal that my students labeled at risk
or low level or some other insulting term could truly be successful if we all held high expectations. Just because they arent learning doesnt mean they cant.
Another 30-year veteran African American teacher said that she
never looks at the test profile of her students from the central
office. She said, I just put them in the drawer.
Another teacher, commenting on what she learned in an instructional methods course, said: I tried a lot of teaching methods
that I learned in collegecooperative learning, whole language
centers. But, you know, when I work with my kids I found out
how much they like to perform on a program. You knowlike
church, like an Easter speech.
Yet another teacher confronted her colleagues who had been
taught that a good measure of parental involvement is the frequency with which parents attend school conferences. She said,
I heard a teacher say that African American parents didnt care
about their kids because they dont come to school. My parents
didnt come to school meetings but I know they cared about us.
So I said something to her about that.

The Cultural Eye

An obvious limitation of researchers explanations of African American
underachievement is their failure to acknowledge appropriately the influence of culture on the teaching and learning processes. This is what I refer to
as the cultural eye of African American teachers. The cultural eye is associated with culturally specific ways in which African American teachers see
themselves, not as the reason for the existence of the Black-White achievement gap, but rather, as one strategy for closing it. This oversight or omission of African American teachers conceptions, is a serious issue because it
leaves their perspectives and voices, and the African American community as
a whole silenced, marginalized, and invisible once again.

Seeing with the Cultural Eye


I argue here, using the metaphor of sight or vision, that researchers

and African American teachers view both their world and their work from
the perspective of their cultural eye. I contend that researchers fail to recognize the influence of the cultural eye in their own research in the classrooms of African American teachers and fail to understand how African
American teachers situate themselves professionally and personally to
address the problem of the Black students underachievement. Finally, I
suggest that researchers learn to use their third eye to:


understand the perspectives of African American teachers and

how their views of themselves and their practice influence
African American students achievement;
envision new ways of closing the gap between Black and White
students achievement; and
see that the problem of the achievement gap reflects a much
larger and intractable problem of race and racism in America.

Researchers Perspectives
Williams Sanders, formerly a statistician at the University of
Tennessee, reported findings on the significant impact of teachers on student achievement, particularly for African American students. He concluded that a single ineffective teacher may retard a childs progress for at
least four years (cited in Wenglinsky, 2000). There are other researchers,
such as Darling-Hammond (1999) who have isolated the teacher quality
variable as the focus of their research, citing data that specifically show
how unqualified teachers hinder the achievement of low income children
of color.
In high poverty schools, teachers are twice as likely to be teaching
out of field than in low poverty schools (U.S. Department of Education,
1999). In the state of California, for example, students in low income
socioeconomic status schools are ten times as likely to be taught by
uncertified teachers as students in high socioeconomic status schools
(Haycock, 2000).
Perhaps the National Commission on Teaching and Americas
Future (NCTAF) best exemplifies this focus. NCTAFs recommendation,
A competent teacher for every child, has become the mantra for policymakers who have mandated teacher competency tests and more rigorous
standards for admission to teacher education programs and teacher licensure (Darling-Hammond, 1997a). Proponents of this line of thinking cite


From Center to Margins

the results of the Massachusetts certification tests, where 60% of the 1,800
candidates failed, as support for their position. John Silber of the
Massachusetts State Board of Education proclaimed that any bright tenth
grader could pass such an essay test (Laitsch, 1998).
The push for a highly qualified teaching force is a reasonable and
worthwhile objective. However, similar to the analysis of student deficits,
there are criticisms of researchers who narrowly examine teacher quality
variables. The prestigious National Research Council (NRC) issued a
report in which members of the council concluded: there is little evidence
about the extent to which widely used tests distinguished between those
who are minimally competent and those who are not (Bradley, 2000, p.1).
In addition to concerns regarding measurement and methodological
issues, members of the NRC are concerned about the high failure rate of
teacher candidates of color. On the Massachusetts teacher certification
test, for example, only 5% of those who took the Communications and
Literacy Skills test were people of color. Of the 5% who took the test, only
46% passed compared to 70% of White test takers. This dismal rate promoted Kiang (1998/1999), a professor of teacher education and Asian
American Studies to write:
By constructing a test based on a sequence of isolated, decontextualized questions that have no relationship to each other, the underlying
epistemology embedded in the test design has a Western-cultural
bias, even if individual questions include or represent multicultural
content. Articulating and assessing a knowledge base required examining not only what one knows, but also how one knows. (p. 23)
On a poignant note, Kiang adds that he has come to understand why
African American teachers in the past have often referred to the National
Teachers Examination (NTE) as The Negro Teacher Eliminator.
Ingersolls work (1999) on out-of-field teaching in secondary schools
suggests that there is serious misunderstanding on this issue. He documents that out-of-field teaching is related to the lack of fit between
teachers fields of preparation and their teaching assignment, as well as the
shortage of teachers. (More than 2 million teachers will be needed over the
next ten years). Ingersoll concludes that the problem of unqualified teachers is as much related to the mismanagement of schools and the poor treatment of teachers as semi-skilled workers as it is to the charge that teachers
are incompetent or intellectually inferior.

Seeing with the Cultural Eye


African American Teachers Perspectives

In chapter 1 (Irvine, 2003), I assert that African American teachers
view teaching as telling, guiding, and facilitating mastery of mandated content standards; but they also define teaching as caring, other mothering,
believing, demanding the best, and a calling and disciplining. There are
other researchers whose work supports my conclusion that teachers execute their practice and look at teaching through their cultural eye (Foster,
1997; Mitchell, 1999; Siddle Walker, 1996; Stanford, 1998).
Dyson (1996) in an interesting essay titled, Shakespeare and
Smokey Robinson describes his fifth grade teacher, Mrs. James, who
would not let them skate through school without studying hard, without
mastering high standards; and without appreciating their Black culture (p.
128). He writes:
Mrs. James helped bring the people off the pages and into our lives.
She instructed us to paint their pictures, and to try our hand at writing poetry and sharpening our rhetorical skills. Mrs. James instilled
in her students a pride of heritage and history that remains with me
to this day. (p. 127)
Another researcher, Rickford (1999), illustrates how one Black
teacher used Black cultural church rituals in his disciplinary and classroom
management strategies. In spite of the fact that not all of the children were
regular churchgoers, they were familiar with these church-based rituals.
For example, the student who was assigned the role of class monitor
assumed responsibilities comparable to those of a church usher. The students hand signals directed the groups sitting, standing, and exiting.
Rickford describes the practice in the following way:
These classroom seating procedures represent direct borrowings
from the Black Church where assigned ushers formally welcome
members and visitors on Sunday morning, and escort them to their
seats. . . . In effect, Mr. Peters (the African American teacher) transported the familiar concept of church into the classroom. (p. 54)
Similar findings regarding the influence of spirituality and religion on
African American teachers can be found in the works of Lipman (1998) and
Siddle Walker (1999).


From Center to Margins

In comparing Black teachers culturally specific teaching styles with

those of White teachers, Cooper (2002) concludes that Black teachers
often exercise authority directly when teaching. Conversely, White teachers often see their role as facilitators and joint constructors of knowledge.
Consider statements made by White teacher-researchers such as Kohl
(1998), Ayers (1993), and Hankins (1998). Kohl states that, Listening to
students voices means giving up the authoritarian role of the teacher. I
found myself much more at ease in a dialogue with my students than in
telling them what to do all the time (1998, p. 14). Ayers (1993), wrote
that, I have almost always begun the year by asking students to think
about their own learning agendas: What do you want to do this year?
(p.43). Hankins (1998) describes her frustration and failure in preventing
her African American students from moving books from a particular area
of her classroom. She finally decided that rather than admonishing them
she would celebrate how the African American children changed the rule
about books and staying in the book corner: (p.89).
Compare these statements to an African American teacher in
Ladson-Billings work (1994) who said:
I know it seems old-fashioned but I believe the students benefit from
the structure. Its as if it were important for them to know what
comes next. I have children in here who other teachers told me
couldnt read. Heck, they (the students) told me they couldnt read.
But I look them squarely in the eye in the beginning of the school
year and tell them, you will read, and you will read soon. (p.114)

Failure to See Eye to Eye

The African American teachers quoted in this chapter believe that
their culturally specific views of teaching are not included in researchers
explanations of the school experiences of African American students and,
more specifically, the Black-White achievement gap. Why is it that
researchers look at variables, such as African American students social
class and income, teacher variables (like test scores) on mandated professional competency exams, and theories of cultural incompatibility, yet fail
to see African American teachers perspectives?
Researchers and African American teachers do not see eye to eye
because they do not share the same physical spaces, and consequently,
tend to see different worlds as related to the world of schools and classrooms. Researchers and African American teachers do not see eye to eye

Seeing with the Cultural Eye


because teachers see their classrooms and conduct their practice through
their cultural lens and researchers through their assumed intellectual and
objective lens.
Researchers inability to see African American teachers perspectives
is related to:

Scant attention to the ways in which knowing is inherently culture-bound and perspectival (Lather, 1991, p. 2)
Nave beliefs that researchers do not seek research conclusions
that fit their prejudices (Myrdal, 1969, p. 43); and
Adherence to claims that objectivity is independent of the race,
color, creed, occupation, nationality, religion, moral preference,
and political predispositions of the investigator.

Researchers work does not resonate with many African American

teachers because they act as if their research is produced from no standpoint, out of no personal history (Sartwell, 1998. p. 5). Their work is
assumed to come from a neutral, all-seeing eye and the African American
teachers and students they research are mere objects of their gaze.
Researchers, as well as the African American teachers and students they
write about, bring prior socialization and present experiences, race, gender, ethnicity, and social class to the table (Banks, 1996). These cultural
attributes shape the cultural eye of the research, that is, perspectives, questions, choice of methodology, interpretation, and the teachers cultural eye
that influences the ways they view their profession and practice their craft.
Although it is unfair to imply that teachers and researchers are solely a
product of their cultural experiences, it is equally nave to assume that their
research and teaching are unaffected by cultural variables as well as ethnic
and racial backgrounds. Consequently, it is important to acknowledge that
the race and culture of researchers and African American teachers are critical components of their conscious and subconscious selves, and hence
become manifest in their work.
Most of the studies of teacher thinking, including wisdom of practice studies (Shulman, 1987), do not consider the influence of teachers
racial identity on their belief systems. This is surprising given the research
documenting the ways in which previous life experiences, identities, cultures and critical life incidents help shape their view of teaching and the
core elements of their practice (Gay, 2000).
Although demographic data predict that educational researchers
will increasingly study African American teachers and African American


From Center to Margins

students, too few researchers are knowledgeable about African American

culture. I believe that it is critical for educational researchers to understand
diverse populations by first acknowledging their own cultural eye and
understanding the cultural eye of African American teachers and African
American students. Instead of assuming that these teachers and students
are deficient, that is blind or suffering from bad eyesight, researchers
should try to understand situated pedagogy and how African American
teachers make meaning within their classrooms and communities and
how they describe their teaching roles.
How may researchers begin to see through their own cultural eye
and understand the cultural eye of the African American teachers and
African American students that they research? I propose that seeing with
the third eye is an invaluable first step.

Seeing with the Third Eye

To acquire an intimate understanding of African American teachers
and, hence a different view of the achievement gap problem, researchers
should raise a different set of questions and consider the problem of
African American students lack of academic success from multiple perspectives. In particular, it is imperative that they include the perspectives
of African American teachers who teach African American students. I challenge researchers to look beyond the limitations of the physical eye to what
in Asian philosophy is called the third eye. The third eye is situated at the
center of ones forehead and is a symbol of transcendent wisdom and extraordinary insight. Educational researchers should learn to look through the
third eye to see a different picture and examine alternative explanations
offered by African American teachers about African American school
achievement. How may this alternative vision be applied to education
research? Alternative vision may be attained by addressing the four following points:
1. Changing the place where research is conducted. Place is a significant variable in the discourse on research and cultural diversity. Place is a
simple five-letter word that means much more than the obvious. Place is
more than setting; it represents power, import, and status. For example,
there are some researchers who have little contact and almost nothing in
common with K-12 teachers. Some educational researchers believe that
these schools are large, unwieldy bureaucratic structures that house underclass children who are so incapacitated by the culture of poverty that teaching and learning are essentially impossible tasks. Consequently, the idea of

Seeing with the Cultural Eye


changing the place or setting for research from the university to the school
is not considered a serious proposal by many researchers, especially if a
school is ethnically and culturally diverse, urban and poor.
Yet, this change is exactly what I advocate. There should be more
authentic collaborative efforts among teachers of color and their culturally
diverse students and researchers than currently exists. Importantly, such
alliances should identify ways to improve the research process from problem conception to data interpretation. Working relationships should be
established in which the roles of subject and investigator are indistinct and
protean. Researchers who employ this strategy do not simply impose
meaning through their own obstructed cultural lens, but meaning is negotiated through a reciprocal process of discussion and mutual respect.
Murrell (1998) refers to this stance as assuming, the humility of a good
anthropologist (p. 31).
Changing the place where research is conducted is the first step, but
we should also examine the curriculum used in programs of educational
research. Hence, alternative Third Eye vision also includes:
2. Changing how we train researchers. How do we revise the doctoral
research curriculum to help students use their third eye to understand that
African American teachers and their students do not wish to be simply
objects or subjects of research. Rather, they want to be actively involved in
studying their own lives and classrooms. Residents in urban communities
of color are demanding that their children, schools, and communities not
become convenient locations where researchers collect data without any
prior experiences, training, or knowledge of the school or community
that is, collecting research data as if picking up orders at the drive-in window of a fast food restaurant.
Additionally, many researchers overestimate their levels of knowledge and familiarity with communities of color based on cursory and
superficial experiences. However, their blind spot precludes them from
seeing the subtleties of culture and critical webs of significance (Geertz,
1973). Researchers often forget that they are research tools as well as
processors of inquiry data. As such, researchers should reflect and engage
in perspective-taking to unearth hidden assumptions about themselves as
cultural beings. It is inadequate to hire a devoted graduate student
researcher who shares the ethnicity of the cultural other. Furthermore,
scholars should be cognizant that attending to bias is not mere adherence
to methodological or technical rigor reducible to terms such as Differential


From Center to Margins

Item Functioning (DIF), reliability, and validity. The process extends

beyond keeping a researcher journal, completing member checks, and triangulating data sources. Researchers biases and perspectives should be
made visible and public as well as problematic. Problematization demands
that researchers address their biases and limited knowledge in methodological ways.
Researchers should prepare to enter communities of color by reading relevant scholarly literature, talking to community members, observing and participating in selective community events disclosing their
relevant personal experiences, making their values and agendas explicit,
recognizing their predispositions, and monitoring their conduct throughout their research.
Third eye vision involves complex research issues of ethics and ownership as related to interpreting data and telling the story of the cultural
other. Is the story being told correctly? Who owns the research? Who has
the last word? Who has the power to veto or change the research? This orientation recognizes the right of cultural communities to disagree with
researchers conclusions as well as to provide alternative interpretations and
explanations. Members of cultural communities should ask researchers
questions such as: Who establishes the rules of discourse? Who speaks?
What may be said? What is left unsaid and unwritten? Who is the audience? Who decides, as Vivian Gadsden and Irvine (1994) have previously
asked, When private lives become public research conversations? (p. 2)
Where is the recognition of the unequal power and status between the
researcher and the researched: Before entering communities of color,
researchers should realize that the study of culture is more than a sociological investigation or inquiry into diverse groups behaviors, artifacts, values,
beliefs, and norms. There should be recognition of the difference in status
and power between the researcher and the informant that could make the
researcher and the informant parts of a power struggle. What does informed
consent really mean for African American teachers and students who hold
little power? Where is the reciprocity in the research process? What should
the researcher leave for the school and the informantsa report? Enhanced
opportunities? Lieberman (1995) writes about research that not only
describes schools, but research that can be an aid to improving them. I
believe that as researchers, we have a responsibility not only to adhere to the
ethical principle of do no harm but we should also do good.
Too often researchers, and the professors who train them, ignore
these questions and the issues raised here. Instead, they proceed with a
nave, color- and culture-blind approach in their research. This avoidance,

Seeing with the Cultural Eye


denial, and defensiveness will result in researchers working in cultural

communities who believe that they are, making the familiar strange
(Erickson, 1985, p.121). Yet, in actuality, they are making what is strange
even stranger. Siddle Walker (1999) provides many examples of this phenomenon in her work on how culture differences can exaggerate and distort research findings.
Changing the location and manner in which we train researchers will
produce different and more powerful research agendas than presently prevail. There is I believe, a third focus of alternative vision that is:
3. Changing the nature of the research questions that we investigate.
I often ponder the question: Why cant researchers apply their knowledge
and skills to closing the achievement gap between Black and White children? As summarized in a report of Education Week, The bottom line is
that no one knows for sure what causes the achievement gap: (Johnson &
Viadero, 2000, p. 20). I think the answer lies, in part, in the fact that we
often ask very ordinary research questions and use the findings from such
research to implement very ordinary school reforms.
We have, as Leonard (1984) stated, simply tinkered and rearranged
the educational horse and buggy under the guise of educational research
and reform. We spruce up the buggy, give the horse more training, keep
the passengers on board longer, invite the business community to join us
on the buggy, increase salaries for drivers, and now politicians want to give
parents a choice among buggies. Adding to the banality of this scenario are
research questions that seek answers to justify the horse and buggy mentality. We have asked and answered questions such as: Do White children
travel faster in a horse and buggy than African American children? Do
African American horse and buggy drivers perform better than White drivers? Do African American children travel longer distances in Black buggies, White buggies, or integrated buggies? If corporations adopt Black
buggies, do they move faster and more efficiently than buggies without
their assistance?
Unless researchers envision their work differently and ask more
compelling questions, there will always be an achievement gap between
Black and White students. Researchers who study the classrooms of
African American teachers should look for what they cannot distinctly and
apparently see. Schoenfeld (1999) summarizes that:
If researchers do not understand a teachers understanding of what
they are teaching (and those understandings are deep), then they


From Center to Margins

cannot get a real sense of what the classes are all about. If researchers
do not understand teachers conceptions of (and goals for) learning
communities, their understandings of their classrooms, will be
equally impoverished. (p.173)
Seeing with the third eye will produce research questions that are
jointly constructed by researcher, teachers, teacher educators, school
administrators, and parents who employ new and improved methodologies, collect data in different places, and establish and maintain collegial
research relationships. I recommend a more complex, multivariable, and
interdisciplinary rubric to explore nuances of context as suggested by
Bronfenbrenner (1976) whose inclusive ecological approach to research is
instructive. His model for research includes microsystem, mesosystem
(relationships), and macrosystem variables (economic, legal, political).
Bronfenbrenners macrosystemic variables are most pertinent to the
fourth and last change that I suggest, which is to recognize that race influences everyones daily livesincluding educational researchers. Appreciating the salience of race in academic inquiries may be accomplished by:
4. Changing how we see the influence of race in our work. In Parting the
Waters, Branch wrote that Almost as color defines vision itself, race
shapes the cultural eyewhat we do and do not notice, the reach of empathy, and the alignment of response (1988, p. xi). Branchs quote reminds
us of the power and significance of race in shaping the cultural eye.
However, many researchers remain both blind and mute when it comes to
issues of race. Researchers refusal to see out of the cultural eye and their
inability to talk about race is indeed ironic because research professors
earn their living by making astute observationsthat is, seeing what others
do not see and sharing their observations with the uninformed.
How may researchers help to close the achievement gap between
Black and White students when they do not acknowledge the role of race
in their own lives and in the lives of the students they study? The blind spot
in our national vision reveals more about ourselves as researchers than it
does those African American students who cannot ever seem to catch up
with their White counterparts. Yankelovich (quoted in Johnson &
Viadero, 2000, p. 21) boldly asserts that our society may not be seriously
ready to assault the achievement gap problem because if Black students
perform as well or outperform Whites, the myth of Black intellectual inferiority is destroyed.

Seeing with the Cultural Eye


I hope the transformative vision of the third eye will allow us to see
that the great divide between the achievement scores and performance of
Black and White students is merely a mirror that reflects the great divide
between Blacks and Whites in American society. As researchers, we should
deconstruct the binary between the self and other (Kumashiro, 2000, p.
35). Deconstruction of the binary begins by situating ones work in broad
conversations about race and racism and accepting African American
teacher explanations of the Black-White achievement gap as legitimate
and important arguments.

Ayers, W. (1993) To teach. New York: Teachers College Press.
Banks, J. A. (1996) The African American roots of multicultural education. In J. A.
Banks (Ed) Multicultural education, transformative knowledge and action:
Historical and contemporary perspectives. (pp. 3045) New York: Teachers contemporary College Press.
Bradley, A. (2000, March 15) National research panel tepid over tests for licensing
teachers. Education Week, 19 (27), pp. 1,6.
Branch, T. (1988) Parting the waters: America in the King years, 1954-63. New York:
Simon & Schuster. A
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1976) The experimental ecology of education, Educational
Researcher, 5, 5-15.
Cooper, P. M. (2002) Does race matter? A comparison of effective Black and
White teachers of African American students. In J. J. Irvine (Ed.) In Search of
wholeness: Aftican American teachers and their culturally specific classroom practices (pp. 47-63). New York: Palgrave.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1 997a) Doing what matters most: Investing in teacher quality.
New York: National Commission on Teaching and Americas Future.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1999) State teaching policies and student achievement (Center
for the Study of Teaching and Policy Report No.2) Stanford, CA: Stanford
University Press.
Dyson, M. E. (1996) Between God and gangsta rap: Bearing witness to Black culture.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Erickson, F. (1985) Qualitative methods in research on teaching. In M. C.
Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching (pp. 119-16 1). New York:
Foster, M. (1997) Black teachers on teaching. New York: New Press.
Gadsden, V. L. & Irvine,, J. J. (1994, March). Private lives in public conversations: The
ethics of research across cultural communities. Paper presented at the annual


From Center to Margins

meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New
Orleans, LA.

Gay, G. (2000) Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice. New
York: Teachers College Press.
Geertz, C. (1973) The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Hankins, K. H. (1998) Cacophony to symphony: Memoirs in teacher research,
Harvard Educational Review, 68, 1, 8095.
Haycock, K. (2000) Honor in the boxcar: Equalizing teacher quality, Thinking
K-16, 4 (1)5112.
Ingersoll, R. M. (1999) The problem of underqualified teachers in American secondary schools, Educational Researcher, 28(2), 26-37.
Irvine, J. J. (2002) In search of wholeness: African American teachers and their African
culturally specific classroom practices. New York: Palgrave.
Johnson, R. C. & Viadero, D. (2000, March 15) Unmet promise: Raising minority
achievement, Education Week, 19(27), pp. 1, 18-23.
Kiang, P. (1998/1999 winter) Trivial pursuits, Rethinking Schools, 13, (2) 23.
Kohl, H. The discipline of hope. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kumashiro, K. K. (2000) Toward a theory of anti-oppressive education, Review of
Educational Research, 70 (1), 25-53.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995) The dreamkeepers. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass.
Laitsch, D. (1998, August 31) The Massachusetts teacher tests: What happened?
American Associationfor Colleges of Teacher Education Briefs, 19(11), 1-3.
Lather, P. (199 1) Getting smart. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall.
Leonard, G. (1984, April) The school reform hoax, Esquire Magazine, 4756.
Lieberman A. (1995) Practices that support teacher development, Phi Delta
Kappan, 76,591-596.
Lipman, P. (1998) Race, class and power in school restructuring. Albany: State
University of New York Press. ,
Mitchell, A. (1999) African American teachers: Unique roles and universal lessons,
Education and Urban Society, 31, (1)5 104122.
Murrell, P. C. (1998) Like stone soup: The role of the professional development school in
the renewal of uban schools. Washington, DC: American Association of
Colleges for Teacher Education.
Myrdal, G. (1969) Objectivity and social research. New York: Pantheon Books.
Rickford, A. (1999) I can fly. Lanham MD: University Press of America.
Sartwell, C. (1998) Act like you know. Aftican American autobiography and White identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Seeing with the Cultural Eye


Schoenfeld, A. H. (1999) The core, the canon and the development of research
skills. In E. C. Lagemann & L. S. Shulman(Eds) Issues in educational research:
Problems and possibilities (pp. 166-202). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Shulman, L. (1987) Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform,
Harvard Educational Review, 57, 122.
Siddle Walker, V. (1996) Their highest potential: An Aftican American school community in the segregated South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Siddle Walker, V. (1999) Culture and commitment: Challenges for the future
training of educational researchers. In E. C. Lagemann & L. S. Shulman
(Eds) Issues in educational research (pp. 224244). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Stanford, G. (1998) African American teachers knowledge teaching: Understanding the influence of remembered teachers, Urban Review, 30, 229-243.
U. S. Department of Education (1999) A talented, dedicated and well-prepared teacher
in every classroom. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Wenglinsky, H. (2000) How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into the discussions of teacher quality. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

This page intentionally left blank.

Chapter 7

Response to Papers on From Center to

Margins: The Importance of
Self-Definition in Research

should like to respond to these revealing and significant papers from

a number of points of view. One has been shaped by an intensified
consciousness of what might be called social suffering, a suffering due
to the injustices that increasingly afflict individuals in our society. More
often than not, they are afflicted because of their membership in a group
discriminated against and excluded from any fair distribution of social
goods and benefits. As distinctive persons, they are rendered invisible in
Ralph Ellisons sense: their invisibility is a condition of the eyes of those
who look at them. They may be seen as minorities, the disadvantaged,
single mothers, immigrants (frequently, illegal immigrants); distinctive
beings defined and classified by the categories into which they have been
thrust. Seldom do observers think of them as induplicable, even though
they know on one level that no human being can be a duplicate of another.
The problem usually is that they have been stigmatized by their share of
social suffering.
The voices we have heard [here] give us important clues as to how
this has been experienced by aware, intelligent women who are in touch
with their own narratives, their own quests for meaning, and their own primordial landscapes, our original encounters with the world as embodied
beings, imagining, and perceiving before entering into the life of language,
and beginning to layer meanings on imagined, sensed, and perceived


From Center to Margins

ground. In losing touch with the ground of our knowing, and our sense of
what it is to be alive, we may too easily be seduced into compliance with a
reality presumed to be objectively existent, and constructed by those in
power, a reality beyond the grasp of feeling, intuition, empathy, imagination, and even wonder. It is to be understood rationally; analyzed and
synthesized logically; known by means of symbol systems; penetrated and
made significant in human practice by technologies. Those who are
excluded, and stigmatized by their exclusion, are kept (often without realizing it) from breaking the codes that hold the secrets to fundamental
knowledgeor what is considered such.
Those thrust to the margins (or the boundaries) of what is called the
great conversation or the carrier of Western tradition over time, are condemned to silence, in spite of the many voices said to be heard in the conversation. Unheard, unheeded, however, have been the voices of countless
women, like the voices raised in cultures considered undeveloped, even
primitive. And today, those trying to be listened to at the so-called Center
are likely to cause a certain unease in those identifying themselves with
ideas conceived to be universal utterances of a voice from nowhere. Not
only does an unfamiliar diversity of opinion threaten their certainties, a
specter of postmodern relativism begins to haunt them whatever their fundamentalism. They feel a wind from the margins that does not merely
chill. It is likely to cause severe irritation among those who define and justify their lives by belief in the absolute and the unquestionably true. And,
more often than not, they regard those outside the boundaries of their
belief system as not only different, but inferior. In time, of course, this
applies to those who are conceived as lesser beings because of their gender,
color, class, or nationality.
Admitting my own privilege, I have to say a few works about how my
own self-definition as student, teacher, writer, and researcher was affected
by my particular experiences with marginality. I am Jewish but the child of
stubbornly secular people who sent me to an Episcopalian school in order
to assimilate. Not only were all the girls Christian; most rode in horse
shows, looked forward to debuts, were sure of acceptance at the best
womens colleges. I learned this mostly by hearsay, since even my best
friend could not invite me to her home because my grandma doesnt like
Jews. And the sympathetic principal told me it was too bad I was Jewish or
she could have got me a scholarship to Mt. Holyoke. I never forgave myself
for whispering, Im sorry. Yes, I knew vaguely about college quotas; and
I had seen a sign on a Cape Cod house saying No Jews or dogs allowed.
But I was somehow sure there was a place for me in the great conversation,

Response to Papers on From Center to Margins


perhaps because of the books I read, the number of Jewish novelists there
were (male novelists, of course), the notion that even a girl like me, from
Brooklyn, could cross the bridge to the city, to opportunity. I guess I
thought (having done well at Barnard, the college with the largest quota of
Jews) that I could somehow pass as a scholar, a researcher, an intellectual. I
continued to be marginalized as a woman, as a qualitative researcher, as an
existentialist when proper philosophers were analytic and language
philosophers and literary critics were formalists. I think being marginalized helped in my self-definition. I believe, after all, that we create ourselves by choice and action, and that we (like Ellisons narrator) have to
achieve our own visibility. So repeatedly choosing myself as a humanities,
aesthetics, existentialist person (usually in reaction against dominant orientations), I survived. I still often feel like an imposter, not rigorous
enough, not really part of the majority; and I keep being (as I have said too
often) what I am not yet.

This page intentionally left blank.

Chapter 8

Making the Familiar Strange

Inclusion, Exclusion, and Erasure: Summarizing the
Philosophies of Women Researchers of Color
In purpose and design this book has been about putting women
[researchers] at the center of the discourse. In trying to rethink, and in
some instances, reframe our personal experiences into new and meaningful patterns from a self-conscious and personal perspective, the process of
putting ourselves in the center has been at the heart of the effort.
This book has proposed a way of looking at epistemology and
ontology structured out of the dailiness of women [researchers] lives,
and it has attempted to put the doing [of research] into practice
Aptheker, 1989, p.7.

s the above-amended quotation from Bettina Aptheker suggests,

our purpose in developing this text involved intentionally placing
the experiences or women of color who are also researchers at the
center of the discourse on research. Using the dailiness of their experiences as researchers, we have sought to highlight the impact of their contributions to knowledge construction in their disciplines as well as the
challenges they faced in having those contributions accepted by colleagues whose discourses dominate and, at some level, determine debate
in the Center.
Thus, in the preceding chapters you have come to know the experiences of women researchers whose epistemological and ontological
stances developed, shifted, and continue to evolve in the Margins. In presenting their responses to the question: How have you come to know what
you know about research? And, What are some of the factors, issues, and
concerns that have guided you as a researcher? each of the contributors has
interwoven portions of her/story that provide an alternative context for
considering the margins of educational research.


From Center to Margins

In this summary chapter, I examine the central theme of the text that
the Margins are viable sites for conducting, analyzing, and interpreting
research questions in a variety of disciplines. To underscore that point, I
provide an overview of each researchers perspective. Finally, in the latter
half of the chapter, I offer suggestions for promoting a climate of engagement within the general research community that recognizes and appreciates the valuable roles that women researchers of color can play in
dialogues on epistemology and ontology designed to advance equity in

The Margins as Sites of Resistance and Reclamation

Aptheker (1989) posits that women have a consciousness of social
reality that is distinct from that put forth by men. She believes this consciousness represents a particular way of seeing and interpreting the world.
Although not uniform, these ways of seeing are unique to women in each
specific culture or group that is distinct from the way the men of their culture or group see things (p.12). Indeed, Aptheker suggests that all women
share this process of distinction. (p.12)
Moreover, she advances the idea that the only way to make visible
womens particular consciousness is to make visible the culture it creates.
Aptheker notes that; Culture may be defined as the ordered system of
meanings in terms of which people define their world, express their feelings, and make judgments (p.13). Furthermore, she states that womens
ways of knowing and communicating in particular groups can be linked to
the shared consciousness of ordered meanings and symbols (p.13).
In much the same way, Hill Collins (1991) speaks about her concept
of the particularistic nature of Black feminist thought. She suggests that
Black women share a consciousness born of their outsider-within status in
White society. This outsider-within status has provided a special standpoint on self, family, and society for Afro-American women (Hill Collins,
1986, p. 514). As Black feminist critic bell hooks notes, living as we did
on the edgewe developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked
both from the outside in and from the inside out. We understood both
(hooks, 1984 as cited in Hill Collins, 1986, p. 515).
Merten (1972), in his article on Insiders and Outsiders cites the position of stranger as developed by Simmel (1950) in his description of the
outsider within. Simmel suggests that the stranger, unfettered by the commitments and constraints imposed by group membership, is able to

Making the Familiar Strange


acquire the strategic role of the relatively objective inquirer (p. 32). Merten
provides the following quote by Simmel on this role of stranger:
He (the stranger) is freer, practically and theoretically. He surveys
conditions with less prejudice; his criteria for them are more general
and more objective ideals; he is not tied down in his action by habit,
piety, and precedent. . . . It is the stranger, too, who finds what is
familiar to the group significantly unfamiliar and so is prompted to
raise questions for inquiry less apt to be raised at all by Insiders.
(Simmel, 1950 as cited in Merten, 1972. pp. 3233)
Thus, as both Outsiders Within and Women of Color, the contributors to this volume have crafted their own self-definitions and self-valuations as researchers. In speaking about this process for Black women, Hill
Collins (1986) suggests:
The insistence on Black female self-definition reframes the entire
dialogue from one of determining the technical accuracy of an
image, to one stressing the power dynamics underlying the very
process of definition itself. When Black women define themselves,
they clearly reject the taken-for-granted assumption that those in
positions granting them the authority to describe and analyze reality
are entitled to do so.
The related theme of Black female self-valuation pushes the
entire process one step further. While Black female self-definition
speaks to the power dynamics involved in the act of defining images
of self and community, the theme of Black female self-valuation
addresses the actual content of these self definitions. (Hill Collins,
1986, pp. 516517)
In a very real sense then, the women of color in this text have used their
positions of marginality as sites of both resistance and reclamation. The
margins have become sites of resistance to definitions of either themselves
or their research by those whose views dominate the Center. Moreover,
the margins also have become sites of reclamation and validation where
these same women have contested the racist and sexist ideologies that have
attempted to treat them as Objects lacking full human subjectivity (Hill
Collins, 1986, p. 518).
Therefore, rather than seeing the margins as providing information
that only gains credibility when it is assimilated into the Center, in this volume, our colleagues argue that the Margins are viable epistemological sites


From Center to Margins

that are essential and necessary to understand, not only the researchers
but also the communities from which they come. Further, as each
researcher has suggested, the margins represent spaces that cannot and
should not be appropriated or contested by a hegemonic Center. Instead,
the books overriding message is that the Margins can furnish an essential
space where interrogation of old disciplinary questions and knowledge
production can occur. Indeed, along with our colleagues, we suggest that
the creation of this space is essential in order to develop new strategies
and evolve more inclusive and authentic questions that will expand the
understanding of both Margin and Center researchers of each others
worlds and research stances.

Worlds Separate and Inseparable: Summarizing the Individual and

Relating the Particular Stances of the Researchers
In the opening chapter, Pollard discussed four themes that emerged
from the literature. The themes of invisibility from the Center, obstacles
and barriers imposed by the Center, identifying supports, and developing
alternative perspectives described in the first chapter represent forms of
inclusion and erasure that underscore the issues and questions regarding
research stances raised by each contributor to this volume. In this section,
I attempt to illustrate the explicit and implicit role of self-determination
in each of these researchers stances by providing an overview of the major
points presented by the individual researchers. I have prefaced each of
these overviews with a theme that I feel represents my best effort to capture the essence of each of these particular epistemological and ontological positions.

Theme 1: Self-determination as a research imperative

In describing her response to the two questions posed, Frances Rains
deliberately focused on how assimilationist practices in the academy
silenced and circumscribed epistemologies and the construction of new or
oppositional knowledge. She frames her discussion around her/story as an
untenured, Native researcher attempting to establish an authentic research
voice. She suggests that the academy, far from being a place hospitable to
debate and dialogue that is unrepresentative and even critical of dominant
discourses, is instead a system that supports narrowly, closely monitored
knowledge construction. She adds that this system breeds conformity,

Making the Familiar Strange


expediency, and in some cases, redundancy while maintaining the undisturbed superiority of dominant paradigms.
Rains struggles and yet continues to assert the need for an alternate
practice in her research, one that stresses self-determination, alternative
ways of presenting ones research ideas (i.e., opening up the definitions of
premier or elite publication venues to include those that deal with the
particular issues confronting individual communities of color), and a wider
and different conceptualization of the purpose of research. She argues that
such a conceptualization would revere and seek rather than revile and represent the views from within the communities of color being
researchedviews that are often different from those possessed by the
outsider researcher who is looking in, but whose views of those communities may affect the nature of research on a general level.
Raines notes: Self determination in research means that research is
not about taking in an individualistic, career-driven way. Instead, it is
about respectful reciprocity that honors the commitment and needs of the
tribe or community, while framing the research in ways that honor
Indigenous epistemologies , metaphysics, and knowledge: (p. 56 ). Rains
contends that this self-determination will, in turn, change the role of the
researcher and his/her relationship with the communities in which and
with whom the research is conducted. Indeed, she adds that the very reciprocity of the relationship holds the promise of producing a grounded theory that makes use of Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous epistemic
frameworks opening a new and potentially more collaborative and authentic intellectual space. For Rains, self-determination is the heart of her discourse from the margins.

Theme 2: Hearing People Into Voice (Palmer, 1983)

Barbara Currys ways of knowing involve a process similar to that
employed by Parker Palmer in his teaching, that is, hearing people into
voice. This process entails a deliberate decision on the part of the listener
to background his/her discourse in order to foreground the experience of
the speaker. For Curry, this means a commitment to temper her desire to
know the stories of others as well as the curiosity that prompted that
desire through the use of respectful restraint, (p. 52) the ethic of caring,
trust and reciprocity: Guided by this framework, Curry describes the integration of her work as a clinician with her work as a faculty member in the
crafting of a varied and yet focused research agenda on leadership behavior. In choosing this focus, Curry talks about a conscious decision to center


From Center to Margins

her inquiry on individuals rather than instrumentation, situating her scholarship in the theoretical frameworks of Erikson (1982); Kegan, (1982); and
Josselson (1990, 1992) as cited in Curry, this volume. Hearing people into
voice for this researcher, means a fidelity to ensuring authenticity in the
presentation of the experiences of others. To do so, she is committed to
advancing an agenda of social advocacy. She makes no apologies for that
commitment, believing that foregrounding the experiences of women
administrators, teachers, and other clinicians, requires her to become an
agent of transformation in research. Curry speaks from several sites in the
margins and in much the same way as researchers like bell hooks and
Cornel West, intentionally challenges the dominant discourses of the
Center on leadership, identity development, hierarchical formal structures
for decision-making, and a focus on instrumentation over people in discussions of organizational culture. She is clear that she wishes to be a catalyst
for dialogue between the Center and the Margins but not at the expense of
harming those professionals in administration, teaching and social work
that she considers to be her research colleagues and collaborators.

Theme 3: Affirming Diversity by Advancing the Currency of

Marginalized Cultural Capital
Sonia Nieto speaks of the interrelatedness of language, literacy, and
culture in education. Her research philosophy reflects the sociocultural
perspective that promotes a view of learning as socially constructed and
mutually negotiated. Taking as a conceptual framework, support for social
justice, Nieto describes the kind of learning that emerged for her within
the personal space of a home that validated knowledge construction rooted
in Puerto Rican culture and how often that knowledge was discounted in
the public schools she attended. In defining the sociocultural theory that
has influenced her work, she speaks of learning that occurs as a result of
social relationships that are enacted in social, cultural, and political spaces.
In describing these interactions she introduced five concepts: agency/coconstructed learning, experience, identity/hybridity, context/positionality,
and community. Moreover Nieto views these concepts as interrelated,
deeply connected and overlapping. She suggests that in order to change
academic failure to success, teachers must acknowledge the different cultural capital their students bring into classrooms. Not only must the value
of home knowledge construction and culture be recognized, teachers
must act as bridges between their students differences and the culture of
the dominant society (p 79). In this way knowledge from the Margins and

Making the Familiar Strange


that from the Center become confluent, meeting and complimenting each
other. Nieto believes this process can result in a new and more authentic
form of border crossing, one that privileges no process of knowledge
construction or form of knowledge over another.

Theme 4: Questioning the Status Quo from the Inside

Valerie Pang uses the metaphor of Insider/Outsider (Merten, 1972;
Hill Collins, 1986; Simmel, 1950) as cited in Merton, 1972 pp. 3233 to
characterize her experiences as a researcher in multicultural education. In
discussing these experiences, she situates herself both within the discourse
on Multicultural Education and, outside of that same discourse. Thus,
Pang is an Outsider on the Inside. As such, her epistemology is a composite of the various roles (i.e., motherhood, third generation Japanese
American, elementary grade teacher, and woman). Because of these roles,
she contends that she has crafted an epistemic position that allows her to
differ from her colleagues who are also recognized authorities in
Multicultural Education. As one situated within that discourse, Pang also
has taken risks (i.e., writing about the self concept development of
Japanese American children in her dissertation against the explicit advice
of a major professor who considered the topic a form of career suicide.)
This risk taking has sometimes placed her outside of the dominant discourse. From that position, she has fashioned the concept of caring multicultural education and the recommendations for improving Multicultural
Education featured in this volume.

Theme 5: Unlearning Center Knowledge, Re-Conceptualizing

the Margins: See with the Cultural Eye
In evolving her stances on epistemology and ontology, Jacqueline
Jordan Irvine has been a staunch advocate of research partnerships with
practitioners. Her contribution to this volume underscores that commitment as she lays out the exclusions and omissions in research on the
achievement gap between African American and White children occasioned by researchers own mono-cultural perspectives. She proposes as an
alternative paradigm, seeing with the cultural eye, in which the marginalized discourse of African American perspectives and voices are moved to
the center of discussions on ways to facilitate the achievement of African
American children. In addition, like Ladson-Billings, Jordan Irvine
endorses collaboration between communities of color and researchers to


From Center to Margins

assure an authentic representation of the communities issues and questions, in the selection of research methodologies, data collection and
analysis, and, above all, in the interpretation and dissemination of findings.
In calling for this new, inclusive paradigm, she centers the issue of achievement squarely within the larger and intractable problem of race and
racism in America. (p. 105) Therefore, for Jordan Irvine, deconstruction
of the self and other binary systems involves situating the work of the
researcher in broad conversations about race and racism. (p. 115)
Recognition of this binary system, in turn, compels researchers to
face the difference in status and power that exists between themselves and
their informants, differences that can and do effect who really has control
over whether or not the research findings result in positive effects and
enhanced opportunities for the participant communities. Thus, for
Jordan Irvine, epistemology and ontology coalesce around the issues of
collaboration and ownership by all of the stakeholders in the research
process. She warns that without the authentic collaboration and ownership
particularly of the research questions that can emerge from a perspective
built on seeing with the Third Eye, finding solutions to the achievement
gap between Black and White children will remain an elusive goal.

Theme 6: From a Situated Being . . . I am Still . . . Becoming

In the previous chapter and throughout her career, Maxine Greene
has been concerned herself with the possible, with what can be imagined rather than what already exists. By making the familiar strange
she constantly interrogates her own privileged insider stance by stressing
the importance of pluralism in research as well as in the arts. Like Rains,
Curry, Nieto, and Pang, she crafts her epistemology from multiple perspectives (i.e., Jewish/philosopher/White/woman/intellectual), perspectives she views not as static but rather evolving. In arguing for this
pluralism, she also rejects a monocultural definition of a common epistemological landscape, suggesting that such a definition marginalizes all
other stances based on ethnicity, gender, class, or race while reinforcing
the supremacy of a dominant and primarily Western discourse. Quoting
Dewey, Sartre, and Said, Greene (1993) stresses that this process of
homogenization reduces rather than encompasses the complexity and
multiplicity of the human experience, an experience that does not preexist but rather is created in the choice of action, in the choice of project. Thus, in the spirit of Nietos metaphor, Greene presents herself as
a bridge, suggesting that she seeks to become aware of the reasons why

Making the Familiar Strange


ethnic, racial, religious, or political affiliations are used as excuses, even

rationales, for exclusion. She adopts this epistemological stance as both
recognition and celebration of people from various cultures who use
their victimization and perceived deficits as catalysts for evolving alternative research paradigms. It is these alternative paradigms that, Greene
argues, allows educators to challenge the positivist stances of a global,
imperialism that both excludes and seeks to stifle the possibilities and
opportunities for new ways of knowing and seeing. In adopting this
position, she also affirms that even as a celebrated scholar of the Center,
she seeks to understand the epistemologies of those in the Margins as a
form of self-transformation.

Toward a Climate of Engagement in Educational Research

Each of the contributors to this volume has intentionally developed a
counter hegemonic epistemological stance articulated in their approaches
to knowledge construction and in their discussions of alternative paradigms for achieving praxis between research and practice in their fields.
Together, these stances offer a potential framework for building a more
inclusive climate of engagement in educational research. Such a climate
would stress a blurring of the lines between Margin and Center in ways
that would complement and not compromise the integrity of either.
Instead, like concentric circles, each would inform and be informed by the
other in a nonprivileged, nonhierarchial, and inclusive paradigm. Indeed,
each would consider the others perspectives and issues critical to the construction of new knowledge. Moreover, any knowledge produced would be
considered incomplete and suspect if it did not reflect the multiple epistemological lenses and inclusive viewpoints of both dominant and historically marginalized scholars. In suggesting this paradigm, the coeditors of
this volume are mindful of the accusation that what we envision ignores
the entrenched historical and systemic barriers that would need to be dismantled. While we do not dispute this reality, we believe that by presenting alternative, epistemological stances, we can contribute to the kind of
dialogue between Center and Margin researchers that is crucial to the
development of any framework. In doing so, we situate our discussion
squarely within our own epistemological standpoints as African American
feminists. For, as Gloria Ladson-Billings (2000) reminds us, An epistemology is a system of knowing that has both internal logic and external
validity (p. 267). This distinction between epistemology and ways of
knowing is not a trivial one. Indeed, she notes that epistemology is linked


From Center to Margins

ultimately to worldview and offers the following quotation from Shujaa

(1997) as cited in Ladson-Billings, 2000 to illustrate her point:
Worldviews and systems of knowledge are symbioticthat is, how
one views the world is influenced by what knowledge one possesses,
and what knowledge one is capable of possessing is influenced deeply
by ones worldview. Thus the conditions under which people live
and learn shape both their knowledge and their worldviews.
[Moreover,] the process of developing a worldview that differs from
the dominant worldview requires active intellectual work on the part
of the knower, because schools, society, and the structure and production of knowledge are designed to create individuals who internalize the dominant worldview and knowledge production and
acquisition process. [Indeed,] the hegemony of the dominant paradigm makes it more than just another way to view the worldit
claims to be the only legitimate way to view the world (2000, p. 258).
Black feminists have questioned not only what has been said about
Black women, but the credibility and the intentions of those possessing the
power to define. Likewise, for our contributors, self-determination and
self-valuation denote deliberate responses to exclusion and erasure. Thus,
they represent the kind of agency exercised by each of these women as they
pursued the sometimes dichotomous and oppositional research agendas
they have described. Hill Collins (1986) depicted the construct of dichotomous oppositional difference as a means of categorizing people, things and
ideas in terms of their differences from one another. As she notes:
The terms in dichotomies such as black/white, male/female/, reason/emotion, fact/opinion, and subject/object gain their meaning
only in relation to their difference from their oppositional counterparts. Moreover, another fundamental characteristic of this construct is that difference is not complementary in that the halves of the
dichotomy do not enhance each other. Rather, the dichotomous
halves are different and inherently opposed to one another (p. 51).
As each contributor demonstrates, the need to develop alternative epistemologies is intricately tied to issues of self-determination and self-definition. They chose these alternative perspectives in order to retain their own
sense of self and fidelity to their own cultural contexts. In a real sense, then,
whether at the Margins or the Center, these researchers use that position
as a site of resistance and reclamation.

Making the Familiar Strange


Through the contributions of our colleagues, we highlight the crucial role of self-determination in the research of women of color. In presenting discussions of their individual epistemologies, we intentionally
focus on how these alternative perspectives can and have enriched research
discourse in each contributors discipline and/or field. Having said this, we
are emphatic that we do not view these perspectives or our conclusions as
a unilateral and unassailable cookbook perspective, Our contributors
themselves, eschew such a simplistic and reductionist portrayal of their
work. Instead, we all conclude by stating that this volume should be
viewed, not as the definitive dialogue on the multiple epistemologies of
women researchers of color, but rather as the beginning of what we hope
will be an ongoing conversation about an ever evolving and changing phenomenonresearch epistemologies and their ontological antecedent.
We believe the importance of developing such an authentic dialogue
on epistemology and ontology between Center and Margin is eloquently
captured in the following poem, Marginalized by Renard Harris (2002)
with which we conclude this chapter.
I dont like being in the margin.
It is like the corner of a room.
Im caged,
My freedom is fenced with barbed wire,
I wake with ideas
But go to sleep with rejections.
I shout for dreams
And I am hushed by reality,
A reality that controls my choices,
Choices measured by someone elses vision.
What they cannot see
Cannot be my choice.
I choose to have a voice,
I choose to be heard!
But I am in the margin.
No one listens
Harris, 2002, Academic Exchange, used by permission of the author.

Apetheker, B. (1989). Tapestries of life: Womens work, womens consciousness and the
meaning of daily experience. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.


From Center to Margins

Greene, M. (1993). The passions of pluralism: Multiculturalism and the expanding

community. Educational Researcher, JanuaryFebruary, 1318.
Harris, R. (2002). Marginalized, Academic Exchange, unpublished.
Hill Collins, P. (1986). Learning from the outsider within: The sociological significance of Black feminist thought. Social Problems, 33 (6), 514532.
Hill Collins, P. (1991). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics
of empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman.
Ladson Billings, G. (2000). Racialized discourses and ethnic epistemologies. In N.
K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp.
257277). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Merten, R. K. (1972). Insiders and outsiders: A chapter in the sociology of knowledge. Varieties of Political Expression in Sociology. [An American Journal of
Sociology Publication]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Palmer, P. J. (1983). To know as we are known: Education as a spiritual journey. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Barbara K. Curry is an associate professor in the College of Human

Services, Education, and Public Policy at the University of Delaware. She
works with students in the School of Education graduate leadership programs. Prior to obtaining her Doctorate in Education from Harvard
University, she received her training as a social worker at the University of
Wisconsin and worked in the field as a clinician. She is a member of the
Academy of Certified Social Workers and is a Licensed Clinical Social
Worker. Dr. Curry continues to bring a clinical perspective to bear on her
interests in human interaction and other phenomenological aspects of
organizational management and change, leadership development and
adult identity development.
Maxine Greene, Professor Emerita at Teachers College, Columbia
University, is renowned for her teaching and scholarship in educational
philosophy. She has been a faculty member at Teachers College since
1965, and was founder of the Center for Social Imagination, the Arts and
Education; Director of Teachers College-Lincoln Center Project in the
Arts and Humanities; editor of Teachers College Record, and the William F.
Russell Professor in the Foundations of Education. She is a past president
of the Philosophy of Education Society, the American Educational Studies
Association, and the American Educational Research Association (AERA).
In 1984, she was elected to the National Academy of Education. She has
received Educator of the Year awards from both Columbia University and
Ohio State University. She is the author of six books, numerous professional articles, and book chapters. Dr. Greene lectures widely at universities and educational associations throughout the United States.
Jacqueline Jordan Irvine is the Charles Howard Chandler Professor of
Urban Education at Emory University. Her research and teaching specializes


From Center to Margins

in multicultural education and urban teacher education, particularly the

education of African American students. She is the author of: Black students
and school failure; Growing up African American in Catholic Schools; Critical
Knowledge for Diverse Students; Culturally Responsive Lesson Planning for
Elementary and Middle Grades; In search of Wholeness: African American
Teachers and Their Culturally Specific Pedagogy; and, Educating Teachers for
Diversity: Seeing with the Cultural Eye. In addition she has published
numerous articles and book chapters. Dr. Irvine has received a number of
awards, including the Distinguished Career Award from the SIG on Black
Education of the American Educational Research Association, an award
from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development for
exemplary contributions to the education of African American children,
the 2000 Dewitt-Wallace/AERA Lecture Award and the American
Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) 2003 AACTE
Lindsey Award for distinguished Research in Teacher Education.
Sonia Nieto is professor of Education at the University of Massachusetts.
Her scholarly work focuses on multicultural and bilingual education, curriculum reform, teacher education, Puerto Rican childrens literature, and
the education of Latinos, immigrants, and other culturally and linguistically diverse student populations. She is widely known for her publications
including Affirming Diversity (1992) now in its fourth edition (2004); The
Light in Their Eyes: Creating Multicultural Learning Communities; What
Keeps Teachers Going?; and Puerto Rican Students in U.S. Schools. In addition,
she has published numerous articles in professional journals and contributed to edited books. Dr. Nieto has received many awards from state
and regional entities as well national and international professional associations and universities for her scholarship, teaching and advocacy of educational equity for all students.
Valerie Ooka Pang is a professor in the School of Teacher Education at
San Diego State University. She was a first-and second-grade teacher in
rural and urban schools. Her second edition of Multicultural Education: A
Caring-centered Reflective Approach, presents theories, issues, and curriculum about educational equity and culture. She was also senior editor of
Struggling to be Heard: The Unmet Needs of Asian Pacific American Children
that was awarded honorable mention by the Gustavus Meyers Center for
the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights at Boston University. She has
published in a variety of journals including Harvard Educational Review;
The Kappan; The Journal of Teacher Education; Action in Teacher Education;



Social Education; Theory and Research in Social Education; and Multicultural

Education. Dr. Pang has been a consultant for Sesame Street, Fox
Childrens Network, Family Communications (Producers of Mr. Rogers
Neighborhood) and Scott Foresman. Dr. Pang was a senior fellow for the
Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and honored
by organizations such as the American Educational Research Associations
Standing Committee on the Role and Status of Minorities in Education,
the National Association for Multicultural Education, and the University
of Washingtons College of Education.
Diane S. Pollard is Professor Emerita of Educational Psychology at the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research focuses on factors
related to coping and achievement in African American children, and
African American families contributions to their children and on the
intersections of gender and race. She has published two books, Gender and
Education (with S. Knopp Biklen) and African Centered Schooling in Theory
and Practice (with C. S. Ajirotutu). In addition she has published articles in
journals such as the Journal of Negro Education, Educational Psychologist,
Social Policy and Educational Leadership; has contributed chapters to several
books; and has presented her work at national and international conferences, and U.S. universities. She is the 1996 recipient of the American
Educational Research Associations Willystine Goodsell Award.
Frances V. Rains, Ph.D. is a faculty member of the Native American &
World Indigenous Peoples Studies at Evergreen State College. Her
research interests include critical race theory, social justice, and American
Indian educational issues. She writes on issues of white privilege and
racism, and American Indian issues in curricula. Dr. Rainss recent scholarship includes a book chapter on White privilege and Indian representation in G. Ladson-Billings (ed.) Critical Race Theory Perspectives on the Social
Studies: TheProfession, Policies, and the Curriculum. Greenwich, CT:
Information Age Publishing, Inc.
Christine E. Sleeter is Professor Emerita in the College of Professional
Studies at California State University, Monterey Bay. Her research focuses
on antiracist multicultural education, and multicultural teacher education.
She also lectures nationally and internationally. Dr. Sleeter has received
several awards for her work, including the California State University
Monterey Bay Presidents Medal, the National Association for
Multicultural Education Research Award, and the AERA Committee on


From Center to Margins

the Role and Status of Minorities in Education Distinguished Scholar

Award. Her journal articles appear in publications such as Review of
Research in Education; Journal of Teacher Education; Teacher Education
Quarterly; and Social Justice. Her most recent books include Culture,
Difference and Power (Teachers College Press); Multicultural Education as
Social Activism (SUNY Press); and Turning on Learning with Carl Grant
(Wiley). Dr. Sleeter is currently completing a book on multicultural curriculum in the context of the standards movement.
Olga M. Welch is dean of the School of Education at Duquesne
University. She also has served as the department head of Counseling,
Deafness, and Human Services, and interim department head of
Educational Administration and Policy Studies and professor of the
College of Education, Health and Human Services at the University of
Tennessee. Her extensive publication record centers on social justice,
equity, and diversity. She has served on editorial boards for journals; and
reviewed for Educational Researcher (AERA); American Annals for the Deaf;
and The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. At the
University of Tennessee, she has been the recipient of the Chancellors
Award for Research and Creative Achievement; The University of
Tennessee Alumni Associations Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award;
and the Chancellors Citation for Extraordinary Service to the University.
In 2000, she was named the Professor of the Year by the Alpha Kappa
Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa. In 2003, she was corecipient of the University
of Tennessees Commission for Women Angie Warren Perkins Award for
excellence in governance and administration. Dr. Welchs most recent
publication (with C. Hodges) is Making Schools Work: Negotiating
Educational Meaning and Transforming the Margins (2003) Peter Lang,
Volume 8 of the series, Adolescent Cultures, School and Society, coedited by J.
L. DeVitis and L. Irwin-DeVities.


teachers, 28
academic disengagement, 15
acculturation, 15
achievement gap, ix, 114, 129
Black-White, 1035, 108, 115
ACSQ, 56
affirmative action, 27, 89, 96, 97, 98
Africa, viii, 22
African American, 9, 58, 92
children, 15, 108, 129; colleges and
universities, 12: community, 104;
culture, 110; discourse, 76; feminist,
131; identity, 5859; perspectives,
129; researcher, 4; scholars, 58;
school achievement, 110; students,
viii, 103, 105, 10812; teachers,
10313, 115; underachievement,
104; women, 7, 10, 12, 16
Affirming Diversity, 71
African art, viii
agency/coconstructed learning, 64,
6567, 82
American Indian history, 31;
American Indian scholars, 31; culture and society, 58; higher education, 34; history, 31; Indians, 31, 37,
42, 47, 48; mythology, 89
American Educational Research
Association (AERA), vii, 3, 21
antibiased, see bias
Arab, viii

ASCW, 56
Asia, 22, 23, 47
Asian: philosophy, 110
Asian American, 12, 89, 93
Asian students, 67
American, 88, 89, 93; American
women, 12; women, 12
assimilation, 21, 25, 26, 27, 71, 74
assimilate, 120; model, 25, 28, 30
assimilationist, 100
assimilationist practices, 29, 126
Australia, 28
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 98
banking education, 65, 67
Barnard, 121
belief systems, ix, 90, 94, 109, 120
Bering Strait theory, 23, 47
bias, 82, 95, 11112
antibiased, 91; racial, 95; teacher,
95; Western-cultural, 106
bilingual, 62, 76
children, 77; education, 7677, 78;
programs, 7677; teachers, 76
bilingualism, 76
blind review, 33, 35, 42
blind spot, 111
border crossing, 129
Britain, 47
The Caged Bird Sings: On Being
Different and the Role of
Advocacy, 57



Cape Cod, 120

California, 96, 97, 105
Berkeley, 74
Caribbean, 62
caring-centered multicultural
education, 94
Carlisle Indian Industrial School, 27
Caucasian, 92, 93
centrist thinking, 8
chalk and talk, 66
Chicanos, 34
children at risk, 62
Chile, 74
Chilean, 74
Chinese, 71, 72
Choctaw/Cherokee, 23, 25
Christian, 120
class, 4, 7, 120, 130
clinical licensure exam, 56
clinical social worker, 54, 55, 56
Coast Salish, 21
College of Education, 89
Colonel Pratt, 27
colonialism, 23
Communications and Literacy Skills
test, 106
community, 64, 7780, 128
comparative design, 30
context/situatedness/personality, 64,
7477, 82, 128
Continuity and Reform: A New
Discourse for Discussion of Change
in Schools, 55
Contributions of Black American Academic
Women to American Higher
Education, 9
critical theory, 94
cross-cultural research, 7
cultural background, 90
cultural capital, 61, 68, 128
cultural diversity, 8, 99
cultural eye, 1045, 107, 109
cultural knowledge, 90
cultural and linguistic differences, 63
cultural preservation, 74
culturally deprived, 62
culturally diverse, 91

culturally relevant curriculum practices, 92

culture, 63, 70, 71, 73, 74, 75, 77, 79,
94, 95, 98, 109, 11213, 120, 124,
128, 131
Puerto Rican, 128
culture of poverty, ix
the culture of power, 67
culture on a pedestal, 70
The Dialectic of Freedom, 57
Differential Item Functioning (DIF),
discourse, 63
discrimination, 81, 82
disenfranchised populations, 2
district social service director, 54
dominant orientations, 121
dominant/subordinate paradigm, 30
Dominican Republic, 68
divergent cultures, 58
diversification, 28
Education Department of the Museum
of African American History in
Detroit, 59
Education Week, 113
educational leadership, 52
Educational Planning, 55
Educational Policy, 55
educational psychological theories, 94
elders, 40, 47
Episcopalian, 120
frameworks, 40, 42; frameworks of
research, 36; paradigm, 35, position,
129, standpoint, 26, 39, 41, 42
epistemologies of ignorance, 21
epistemological, 1, 5, 21, 22, 26, 29, 31,
76, 123, 125, 126, 130, 131
hegemonic, 131; imperialism, 32;
indigenous epistemological framework, 30; supremacy, 32; Western
epistemological dominance, 35
epistemology , ix, 2, 22, 27, 29, 34, 36,
37, 42, 47, 48, 81, 12324, 126, 129,
130, 13133

epistemology, cont.
Feminist standpoint, 1516; indigenous, 24, 35, 39, 42, 127; western,
24, 30, 31, 47; western colonizing
epistemologies, 23, 33, 35, 4243
equality, 81
inequality, 92
equity, vii, 2, 5, 92, 94, 95, 97, 124
philosophy, 92
ethnicity, 3, 7, 61, 63, 68, 70, 71, 75,
109, 130
ethnocentric research, 16
Euro-American, 29
Europe, 47, 68
European, 22
American, 93
existentialist, 121
experience, 64, 6769, 82, 128
exploitative research, 16
Feminist(ism), 23, 16, 24, 59, 81
African American, 131; Black, 124,
132; of color, 15
First Nation, 4, 47
Franklin and Marshall College in
Lancaster, 52
From Center to Margins: The
Importance of Self-Definition in
Research, 34
fundamentalism, 120
gender, 3, 4, 7, 8, 15, 27, 70, 75, 120,
Great Spirit, 28
Haiti, 68
Harvard: 54, 75
Graduate School of Education, 52
Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey, 74
hegemonic, 5, 126
epistemological, 131; hegemony,
63, 132
Hispanic, 12
Historically Black Colleges and
Universities (HCBUs), 10, 58
homogeneity, 8, 72


humanistic philosophy, 59
Hunger of Memory, 62
hybridity, 63
identity, 15, 28, 53, 56, 57, 58, 59, 63,
68, 70, 71, 72, 74, 76, 77, 80, 93, 109
adult, 55, 56; African American,
5859; construction, 59; cultural,
32, 68, 70, 74, 82; development, 59,
128; ego-identity, 56; multidimensional, 90, 100; racial, 28, 109
identity/hybridity, 64, 6974, 82, 128
ideological, 25
ideology, 25, 27
ideology-free zone, 77
immigrant, 61, 71
European, 47; immigrant status, 63
imperialism, 131
Implicit Association Test (IAT), 95
Indian, 22, 23, 27, 28, 32, 47, 92
American, 23, 25, 31, 32, 37, 42;
American Indian history, 31;
American Indian scholars, 31; country, 22; education, 31, 37; history,
30, 31; misrepresentations, 30; students, 30; self-determination, 42
indigenous: 48
academic publications, 25; communities, 36, 39; epistemologies, 24,
35, 39, 42, 47, 127; indigenous epistemological framework, 30, 127;
knowledge, 21, 23, 24, 33, 37, 39,
40, 41, 47, 127; people, 23, 36, 47;
research, 25; researcher, 24, 39, 42;
scholars, 22, 37, 38, 4041;
students, 40
inequity, ix, 14
racial/ethnic, 12; sexual, 12; social,
The Influence of the Leader Persona
on Organizational Identity, 57
informed social criticism, 90, 91
Insider/Outsider, 129
institutionalization, 24, 29
interdisciplinary knowledge, 96
interethnic differences, 15
intraethnic diversity, 15
invisibility, 10, 11, 126
ivory tower, 22, 43



Japanese, 25
American, 15, 89, 90, 92, 93, 100,
129; community, 88, culture, 89;
Japanese American children, 129;
Japanese American students, 93
Jew, 74, 12021
Jewish, 12021
Journal of American Indian Education, 35
Journal of International Studies in
Educational Administration, 57
Journal of Latinos and Education, 35
The Journal of Leadership Studies, 57
Journal of Negro Education, 35
Keepers of Traditions and Languages,
language, 62, 63, 65, 68, 69, 70, 73, 75,
76, 79, 82, 119, 121, 128
Language, Literacy, and Culture, 63
Latina, 4, 72
Latinos, 89, 98, 99
leadership, 5457, 59
leadership processes, 56
Lewis and Clark, 22
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
(LCSW), 56
The Life Experiences of Women and
their Leadership Practice, 57
literacy, 61, 63, 75, 128
literary criticism, 81
literary critics, 121
macrosystem, 114
Mainstreaming Minority Womens
Study Program, 13
Maori, ix
Massachusetts, 68, 97 , 106
Boston, 81; Cambridge, 78; Certification Test, 106; Springfield, 80
Massachusetts State Board of
Education, 106
mental cultural model, 91
mental health, 54
mental illness, 50
Mexican, 66
American, 15

mesosystem, 114
Mestizo, 74
methodologies, 22, 33, 35, 42, 130
applied, 60; methodological, 34;
qualitative, 54, 60; quantitative, 54,
60; science-based, 60
Michelangelos Pieta, 1
microsystem, 114
Middle East, viii
minorities, 9
Minority women and higher
education, 11
Minority women in research in education:
A report of the Dallas conference on
expanding the role of minority women
in educational research, 13
model minority, 12, 89
Moderate Secularism: Constructing a
Language of Possibility for Religion
in Public Education, 55
monocultural, 130
monolithic, 7
Montreal, 21
Canada, 1
Mt. Holyoke, 120
Multicultural Education, 87, 89, 9091,
92, 9394, 9596, 97, 98, 99, 129
Museum of Art in Chicago, 59
National Academy, 93
National Commission on Teaching
Americas Future (NCTAF), 105
National Council for Research on
Women, 13
National Research Council, 106
National Teachers Examination
(NTE), 106
nationality, 120
native, 28
Alaska, 37, 47; Americans, 27, 30;
children, 27; communities, 31, 33,
37, 39, 40, 42; cultural integrity, 27;
education, 40; language, 61;
Nations, 21, 22, 23, 27, 33, 37, 38,
39, 47, 48; Native American
research, 31; people, 22, 23, 33, 36,
38, 39; research, 32; researcher, 22,

26, 33, 39, 126; scholars, 21, 25, 31,
37, 40, 42, 43; science, 36;
Sovereign Native Nations, 22; sovereignty, 22, 38, 40, 42; tribes, 40;
youth, 42
Negro Teacher Eliminator, 106
neo-Piagetian, 56
New England, 72
New York City, 68, 71, 74
Brooklyn, 121
New Zealand, ix
Newtonian rationality, 29, 47
No Child Left Behind Initiative, 97
North America, 22
North Carolina, 68
official knowledge, 65
Oklahoma, 23, 47
ontological, 1, 123, 126, 133
ontology, 124, 129, 130, 133
organizational change, 55, 56
Other, 2, 4, 24, 30
epistemologies, 35
particularistic roles, 15
Parting the Waters, 114
pedagogy, 66, 110
culturally responsive pedagogy, 74
personality development, 50
personality traits, 81
pluralistic society, 8
pluralism, 130
polyvocal ventriloquism, 32
Portuguese, 78
postmodernism, 81
postmodern, 120
postructuralism, 81
power, vii, 8, 63, 73, 74, 75, 76, 81, 110,
112, 114
prejudice, 30, 81, 95, 125
The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, 54
problem students, 62
progressive education, 94
psychosocial meaning systems, 59
psychological phenomena, 81
public health, 54
Puerto Rico(Rican), 61, 62, 68, 70, 71,
culture, 128


Quality Bilingual Education, 78

qualitative data, 95
qualitative research, 95
qualitative studies, 95
quantitative data, 95
quantitative methods, 95
quantitative studies, 95
race, vii, 3, 4, 7, 11, 63, 70, 71, 72, 73,
90, 109, 114, 130
racism, 12, 30, 81, 82, 89, 90, 130
racist, 2, 12, 98
society, 82
rapid-cycle restructuring, 57
reward system, 42, 43
scholar identity, 15
school reform, 55, 87, 113
competency-based, 55; outcomebased, 55
self-determination, 22, 36, 37, 38, 39,
41, 12627, 132, 133
Indian, 42
self-transformation, 131
sex, 11
sexism, 12, 82
sexist society, 82
sexual orientation, 70
social advocacy, 59
social class, vii, 61, 70, 71, 75, 109
social justice, 63, 90, 128
social mediation, 78
social practice, 63
social reality, 124
social status, 90
sociocultural foundation of cognition,
sociocultural mediators, 79
sociocultural perspective, 128
sociocultural perspective in language
and literacy, 63
sociocultural theory, 63, 64, 68, 70, 71,
76, 77, 78, 80, 81, 128
sociocultural and sociopolitical
concepts, 82
sociocultural and sociopolitical
perspectives, 64, 76



sociocultural and sociopolitical theory,

64, 67
The Sound of Music, 52
southeast, 23
Spanish, 61, 62, 69, 71, 73, 74, 76
Spanish-American War, 73
standards-based education, 95
state health department, 54
Struggling to be heard: The unmet needs of
Asian Pacific American children, 93
subject-object interview, 56
subject-object project, 56
Supreme Courts Bakke decision
(1978), 96
Sweet Words So Brave: The Story of
African American Literature, 58
systemic institutional oppression, 87
Tatanka Yotanka (Chief Sitting Bull),
Te Kotahitanga, ix
teacher-centered transmission models,
Teachers Choice Award, 59
Teachers College Press, 57
Teacher Education, 89
teacher-proof curriculum, 65
teacher quality, 88, 103
Tenure in the Sacred Groves: Issues and
Strategies for Women and Minority
Faculty, 57
Texas, 96
Thai, 71
theory of self-regulation, 95
third eye, 105, 11012, 11415, 130
traditional theories, 64, 70
trans-historical research, 7
transitional cultures, 57
United States, viii, 47, 60, 61, 70, 71,
73, 76
units of analysis, 22
University of Delaware College of
Education, 52
University of Massachusetts, 63
University of Oklahoma, 55
University of Tennessee, 105
University of Texas, 96

University of Wisconsin at Madison,

Urban Education, 89
U.S. military attacks:
Conestoga, 27; Gnadenhutten, 27;
Muskingum River, 27; Sand Creek,
27; Sappa Creek, 27; Wounded
Knee Creek, 27
Vietnamese, 67, 69, 92
visibility, 11, 121
Vygotskian, 78
Vygotsky, 79
Washington, 96
webs of significance, 111
Western, 2223, 24, 26, 29, 39, 47, 48
colonial research, 23; colonizing
knowledge, 23; construction of
knowledge, 24; discourse, 130; elitism, 40; epistemologies, 24, 26, 30,
31, 33, 35, 4243; epistemological
dominance, 35; knowledge, 24;
knowledge production, 23; notions
of science, 29; paradigms, 26, 29,
35; research strategy, 29; tradition,
35, 120
White, vii, viii, 33, 34, 41, 82, 89, 98
Americans, 47; authors, 9; children,
129; faculty, 27, 28, 31; feminist, 16,
24; men, 11; peers, 103; privilege,
30, 90, 92; research, 23, 31;
researcher, viii, 7, 30, 31; scholars,
31, 34, 40; society, 124; student, 30,
42, 115; university, 16; women, 8,
11, 90; women researchers, 2
White flight, viii
White/Indian comparison, 30
wisdom of practice, 109
Women in Power: Pathways to leadership
in education, 57
Worlds Fair, 1
Yale Law School, 7
Yankee, 74
Zino Press, 58
Zone of proximal development (ZPD),


From Center to Margins

The Importance of Self-Definition in Research

Diane S. Pollard and Olga M. Welch, editors

Foreword by Christine E. Sleeter
In From Center to Margins, women educational researchers of color, trained in
mainstream Euro-American traditions, interpret the experiences of those, including
themselves, who are marginalized by these very traditions. Deliberately looking at
research from within the margins rather than from the center, the contributors detail
how their perspectives influence the way they frame questions for study, develop procedures to investigate them, and devise strategies for answering them. The contributors offer an alternative to the dominant perspective in educational research that
uses its power to determine who shall be centered and who, marginalized. This book
presents the margins, where women and other people of color reside intellectually,
not as deficient areas from which we need to escape, but as legitimate sites where
knowledge, useful to wider audiences, has been and will continue to be generated.
The contributors speak to the ways in which women researchers of color and
their research questions and approaches are so often marginalized in the academy.
Their experiences are important for the field to understand and learn from in order
to enrich our approaches to educational research.
Lee Anne Bell, coeditor of
Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook
With the rising global entrance of significant others into the academy, this is a
book that will find a home and resonate with a significant number of young and
emerging scholars.
LaRuth Gray, New York University
DIANE S. POLLARD is Professor Emerita of Educational Psychology at the
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. She is the coeditor (with Cheryl S. Ajirotutu)
of African-Centered Schooling in Theory and Practice. OLGA M. WELCH is
Professor and Dean of the School of Education at Duquesne University and the
coauthor (with Carolyn R. Hodges) of Standing Outside on the Inside: Black Adolescents and the Construction of Academic Identity, also published by SUNY Press.
State University of New York Press