Teaching Guides

Rethinking Multicultural Education: Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice

Teaching Guide. Edited by Wayne Au. Rethinking Schools. 2014 (2nd edition). 418 pages.
A Rethinking Schools collection of articles and lessons for multicultural, anti-racist, social justice education in K-12.
Themes: Education, Racism & Racial Identity

rethinkingmulticulturaed9780942961539Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice
Second Edition, New and Expanded

Rethinking Multicultural Education moves beyond a simplistic focus on heroes and holidays to demonstrate a powerful vision of anti-racist, social justice education.

Practical, rich in story, and analytically sharp, Rethinking Multicultural Education reclaims multicultural education as part of a larger struggle for justice and against racism, colonization, and cultural oppression — in schools and society.

Description of Book Sections from the Introduction by Editor Wayne Au

The chapters included in the section entitled “Anti-Racist Orientations” examine the importance of recognizing the role of race and culture in education in our schools today. Here, chapters focus on general anti-racist orientations that are important for teachers to carry into the classroom, on dispositions that take justice seriously and examine privileges as they exist in practice. This exploration includes understanding the relationships between teaching, culture, and privilege, as well as recognizing the more historical and institutional inequalities that we see today.

Language is central to culture, and how we understand and treat language in our classrooms speaks to issues of power both inside and outside of education. The chapters in the section entitled “Language, Culture, and Power” look at the relationship between language and culture, finding connections between the cultural politics of Black English, bilingual education, and the cultural norms for communication, as well as address the ways in which we deal with culture and language in the classroom speak specifically to student identities.

“Transnational Identities, Multicultural Classrooms,” includes chapters that look at what it means to be an anti-racist, social justice educator within the context of immigration, globalization, and colonization where our students’ identities are transnational, both rooted in the United States and not rooted in the United States. This section attempts to stretch our normal categories for students, many of whom are immigrants, and many of whom, while not immigrants themselves, hail from immigrant communities. The transnational, even globalized, identities of our students sometimes make issues of cultural identity relative to the U.S. and “home” countries mixed up and even contradictory, forcing educators to recognize the dynamic nature of cultures and communities.

The final section, “Confronting Race in the Classroom,” provides concrete examples of anti-racist teaching at the elementary and secondary levels, in multiple grades and across multiple subject areas. Even though other chapters in other sections are clearly grounded in classroom practice, here the focus is on how elementary and secondary teachers have critically considered issues of race and culture into their curriculum often times experiencing both success and difficulty in raising such important and complex issues. In these times of high-stakes testing, the standards movement, shrinking budgets, and increased workloads, teachers are continuously being pushed to leave justice and equality behind. Instead they find themselves having to focus on test scores, pacing guides, and scripted instruction. But, as W.E.B. DuBois once said, “Education must keep broad ideals before it, and never forget that it is dealing with Souls and not with Dollars.” Teaching for racial and cultural justice is one of those “broad ideals” that we can’t lose sight of if we are to live up to our commitments to teach all children. Rethinking Multicultural Education is a tool for educators to address these ideals in their classrooms, to take a stand against the dollar-ization of education and for the souls of our students, communities, and world.

ISBN: 9780942961423 | Rethinking Schools


“This important book redefines the meaning of multicultural education. You will read about the struggles and successes of teachers and students engaged in bilingual and multicultural education; the power and potential of language use; strategies to confront racial issues in the classroom, and ways to include critical literacy practices in the curriculum. This book will leave you with new questions and insights about issues of equity, access, diversity, special education, ELL learners, and anti-racist education. Most of all, it will provide you with a broader, more inclusive perspective that can lead to meaningful professional conversations about social justice and systemic change in our schools.” —Voices From the Middle: Volume 17: Issue 2

Rethinking Multicultural Education powerfully reminds us that any attempt at ‘multicultural education’ that fails to raise critical questions among students, teachers, and administrators about racial justice is inadequate to the needs of this time. It’s an indispensable resource and a bracing call to action.” —Jeff Chang, author Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

“The discourse about education and school reform has been dominated for decades by market metaphors and notions of schooling as a commodity. The urgency of now — this era of ‘Yes, we can’ — is to upend that discourse, and to focus on the unique qualities that define education in a robust democracy: access and equity, of course, but also the full recognition and incalculable value of every human being. Rethinking Multicultural Education is an essential text as we name the schools we deserve, and struggle to bring them to life in classrooms across the land.” —William Ayers, teacher, activist, award-winning education writer, and professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago