Preparing teachers to teach a diverse population is a task gaining increasing attention in educational literature, conferences and courses. Anthropology can play a role in teacher preparation by 'freeing' teachers from 'the tyranny of their cultures'. In this paper I focus on possible roles anthropology can and has played in the USA in teacher preparation, particularly in regard to two issues that are particularly controversial at the moment: issues of 'home-school disarticulation' and 'orientations to diversity'. In doing so, I consider the question of the 'anthropologically influenced teacher' and the impact and lessons that experiences in the USA may have and signal for teacher preparation in Australia.
In the realm of schooling, ethnography, anthro-ethnography and micro-ethnography are all styles of investigation currently employed to investigate culture (see Jacob & Jordan, 1993). Interestingly, despite anthropology's history in eroticising and making exotic cultures from beyond a researcher's familiarity, much of the work in anthropology and education in the USA addresses understandings of cultural differences and schooling within the country.
One focal point of anthropology in education has been the issue of home-school disarticulation. Home-school disarticulation is frequently indicted as the major cause of 'minority student failure' in the academic tasks of schooling (Vogt et al., 1993). Home-school disarticulation theories suggest that, if there was no difference between a student's home values, styles of learning and language and those of the school, then all students would have an equal opportunity to succeed academically. In the case of minority students, home-school disarticulation is invoked to explain the over-representation of 'students of color' in vocationally oriented curricula streams, or, an absence from schooling altogether (Mehan et al., 1994; Ogbu, 1993; Villegas, 1993; Zeichner, 1993). The clash of cultures leading to misunderstandings and misjudgments between predominantly anglo, monolingual, middle class teachers and minority students is thought to be at the root of differential school success along race, ethnicity and class lines and ultimately is implicated in the perpetuation of fewer post-schooling options for minority students in the college and employment markets (Erickson, 1993; Ogbu, 1993).
Home-school disarticulation theory was generated by educational anthropologists during the 1960's as the well-meaning alternative to theories of genetic determinism regarding the intelligence and morality of minority students (Erickson, 1993). Despite some of the problems with the way it has been argued and appropriated in teacher education coursework since then, it provided a crucial pathway out of a tight religio-scientific nexus of race theories that were at worst hostile and predatory and at best paternalistic and pitying. In this context, home-school disarticulation theory was posited as a step forward and as such, could be seen to hold some possibilities for enabling prospective teachers to understand the constructed nature of school success. In that sense, it became articulated to the issue of orientation to diversity and entered teacher preparation coursework in regards to discussions of how our views of others and the home and community lives of other people intersected with what went on in classrooms and education more broadly. It is around this point of the way in which the discourses available for explaining phenomena constitute 'culture' (and hence schooling) that I wish to discuss the role of anthropology in teacher preparation.
One response to this acknowledgement of the different cultures that exist within a nation and hence a classroom has been an effort to diversify the teaching workforce. In institutions such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a large public university, for instance, a teaching qualification at the Masters level called Teach For Diversity was instituted which determined entrance to the program based not just on high school results but on previous life experiences and essays written by prospective future teachers regarding their visions and philosophies of education. The point of the new entrance criteria was to actively recruit a diverse, mature age teaching workforce who had seen more of the world than their own home town and who had previously pursued intercultural experiences through employment, volunteer work and/or study.
Anthropological findings have also been used in framing teacher education coursework in different ways. When differences between home and school cultures are noted they have frequently in the past been portrayed as a deficit on the part of minority students' home life. As Sleeter's (1993) study of teaching candidates found, many white teachers associated African-American and Latina/Latino pupils with dysfunctional families and communities, and a lack of motivation and ability. Anthropological discourse in education, almost in spite of its history, can make available, then, an understanding of our descriptions/depictions of children as partial, culturally-loaded preferences rather than as statements of incontestable 'fact'.
In Australia, the concept of 'deficit views of children' is not a new one in teacher education but it has been arrived at primarily through neo-Marxist theories rather than through the discipline of anthropology. It seems to have most frequently played out, then, in regards to class factors and in relation to indigenous Australian's education which, until recently was framed within a neo-Marxist based welfare discourse of equal access to post-schooling employment opportunities and income. The many State and Federal reports of the last few decades, such as the 1970's Karmel report into poverty and education indicates the extent to which a 'deficit' or 'pathological' view of some groups of students have been unintentionally inscribed in efforts to help. Anthropology presently offers a different lens and hence different explanations for the dynamics of schooling and its outcomes than the deficit views that are currently available.
Anthropology is one possible tool, then, for generating both an understanding of the pervasiveness of deficit beliefs and for developing some strategies to counter them. The strategies for generating this counter-knowledge in the USA currently vary from coursework reading, to 'field trips' to 'other' cultures (frequently implicitly meant as the inner city), to fully fledged immersion programs where student teachers actually live in the communities in which they teach (Carter & Larke, 1994; Gomez, 1994; Grant, 1993, Zeichner, 1993). While such strategies appear to hold differing potentials for making the point, they are, at least, on the agenda for the requirements student teachers must meet in order to be certified as a teacher in many USA states.
In Australia, such concepts are relatively new and the concept of fully-fledged immersion has not been attempted in any longitudinal way. Teacher education courses are starting to consider the inclusion of a 'community' component where students are required to experience the different ways in which others live. The idea that teacher training should extend beyond the city or town in which the university is located may seem more difficult to organise and imagine in Australia in a time of fiscal stricture, however. Given also the enormous geographical distances that may require coverage in immersion programs in Australia the logistics seem awkward. Still, when distance has been a similar barrier in some USA settings, efforts to expose students to an array of different lifestyles through semi-immersions, cross-cultural experience requirements within the same town/city, and 'ethnicity' subject requirements in undergraduate coursework have been substituted. Strategies are available regardless of the local institutional constraints that are being faced.
These questions in Queensland are presently controversial, especially given the recent change in school expulsion policies and concern over the behaviour of boys in high schools. Many teachers feel unfairly burdened by disrespectful students, some of whom threaten the physical safety of the teacher. This can sometimes result in the enforcement of stricter 'one rule fits all' laws in the classroom or school.
Experiences in the USA suggest that such a resort, while temporarily comforting for teachers who are directly involved, does not work for long because the rules themselves are perceived as a source of inequity and discrimination designed to vilify students from particular cultural backgrounds (Ladson-Billings, 1994). The result has been to 'pass the problem' on to some other school or member of the education workforce, but not to resolve the source of the conflict, whatever that may be.
These experiences in the USA need to be understood in the context of behaviour management strategies and policies which seem to have, if not a racial encoding, then a racialising effect. Expulsion, suspension, and 'time out rooms' are disproportionately directed at 'minority' students, as are categories of deficit like 'emotionally disturbed' (Grant, 1993).
My own work in teacher education in the USA supports this conclusion, that anthropological discourse makes available a new lens through which to read classroom interactions and schooling dynamics. I have taught student teachers who have cried at the realisation they will have to student teach five and six year old African-American children and others who have protested at being allocated a school attended by minority students. I have consistently sat in classrooms where two students act outside the teacher's rules and only the black child gets punished. I have seen the labelling of students as 'emotionally disturbed' because they prefer not to write with both feet flat on the ground or sit completely still with legs crossed and listen to a story about a pig that they heard the day before. An anthropological lens can highlight how clashing cultures may produce tense 'classroom interactions' that result in different outcomes for children of different race and ethnicity.
Anthropological discourse makes available a different kind of realisation regarding 'behaviour management', one that cannot disassociate the immediacy of acts from the cultural clashes which underwrite them. It also opens for teacher educators a more humbling understanding that, as for students and student teachers, teacher educators may assume certain cultural premises that will favour certain orientations. The 'clash of cultures' that can ensue in tertiary classrooms from discussing the 'clash of cultures' in public schooling is itself an active and fruitful site where tensions play out with no easy solution.
In Australia, although the dynamics of racial politics differs and cannot be reduced to what occurs in the USA, similar tensions arise, to the extent that in some Brisbane high schools now, consultants from the South Pacific have been employed to mediate and suggest strategies for behaviour management to teaching staff and to work with students who feel marginalised and discriminated against by 'white teachers'. Anthropology, then, can contribute to a broader understanding of how teachers are being 'read' in different cultural contexts and in ascertaining the meaning and expectations that those outside of the profession (e.g., students) attach to the role.
Similarly, a more historically-inflected, culturally-nuanced understanding of the relationships between different groups in USA society has been important to understanding the meanings that student and teacher behaviours take on within the context of the classroom. Because much of this behaviour is symbolic and because much of the debate surrounding issues of schooling is over symbolic issues (e.g., contestation over the use of 'Indian warrior' mascots rather than over the broader history of imperialism), some grasp of the sensitivities and different world views involved seems crucial. Ogbu's (1993) work on autonomous, voluntary and involuntary minorities, problematic though it is, does at least point to the necessity of knowing the history of different interactions and how these have been contoured by host culture reactions and/or undermined by non-dominant groups' reactions to schooling.
In Queensland, the knowledge of different kinds of forced 'immigration' (e.g., indentured labour) and historical interactions that Ogbu speaks of have gained greater noticeability in the literature from the 1970's onwards. This occurs especially now since the acknowledgment of the impact of history on families of the 'stolen generation'. The publication of Race Relations in Colonial Queensland by Raymond Evans and Kay Saunders provided the first 'academic' text which drew on multiple primary sources depicting interracial 'interactions'. The text has been used as an educative tool in teacher preparation at The University of Queensland. The stolen generation report is another text that holds possibilities for understanding how past 'interactions' can affect the way in which students' and teachers' orientations to history and the present may differ. Both 'texts' constitute starting points at least for raising issues in teacher education that have not previously been central to preparing someone for 'public' school teaching.
At the level of both observable behaviours and their location within a broader, more dynamic cultural context, then, what anthropology as a discipline raises seems to have much to offer prospective teachers in a diverse society. This is especially the case in societies where that diversity is seen predominantly as a 'problem' in or a 'challenge' to a system of power relations that tends to contain, homogenise and stigmatise more than respect the expression of difference. Through pointing to the ways in which schools can unintentionally and intentionally disengage students who do not carry the 'cultural capital' (Bourdieu, 1993) necessary to follow narrow paths of academic success in school and through pointing to the reasons why students may not wish to follow these paths (e.g., McDermott, 1987), anthropology can assist in broadening notions of what is acceptable, what a school is for, how it should look, what a teacher should do and be, and how multifaceted education is as a process of both overt and incidental learning.
Melnick and Zeichner (1994) argue that when discussing issues of preparing students for teaching diverse populations that the three foci of selection, socialisation and institutional context need to be considered. In focusing on selection and socialisation, these and other teacher educators like Haberman (1987) are pointing to what educational anthropologists refer to as the ethos and eidos of orientation. Some research has indicated that teacher preparation is a weak intervention in the orientations that student teachers have, whatever the direction (Zeichner & Gore, 1990). This seems especially problematic given that many prospective teachers come from culturally encapsulated backgrounds, even when living in a diversely populated state like California, and when many express fear and reluctance to teach minority students, or, believe in some cases that minority students are not capable of learning (Gomez, 1994; Grant, 1993; Haberman, 1987; Sleeter, 1993; Zeichner, 1993). Given that so little time is available to overcome such orientations towards ethnic, poor and language minority students which have developed over a lifetime (Nieto, 1992), it seems prudent to question the effectiveness of an anthropologically-oriented course as a singular measure in changing prospective teachers' orientations in cases where they need changing.
As a result of trying anthropologically-based methods to address issues like home-school disarticulation theory and orientations to diversity, researchers in the USA have tried several new strategies. Haberman (1987) notes, for example, that selection procedures rather than additive courses, immersion, or a semester's experience in urban schools here and there are more crucial in undergraduate teaching programs. Haberman suggests that if the concern is to address the invalidation that the cultures and languages of many minority students receive through current institutional practices then what has to be focused on is the quality of candidates accepted into a course that is going to certify 'public' school teachers. Several noted teacher educators, based on their experiences, have suggested that test scores and grade point averages are not the criteria that count when it comes to positive orientations towards minority students and the valuing of a diverse society (Haberman, 1987; Grant, 1993; Ladson-Billings, 1996; Mellnick & Zeichner, 1994). Sleeter (1993, p. 168) argues, for instance, that change needs to go beyond interaction patterns in classrooms, role models or linking home and school cultures and that, '... the teaching workforce needs to be populated with 'people who bring diverse worldviews and discursive fields of reference, including those that expose, challenge, and deconstruct racism rather than tacitly accepting it'. More often than not, Sleeter suggests, such worldviews are found in people who have had life experiences of discrimination and want to change that for future generations.
Haberman (1987) suggests that often, but not always, this will play out along certain lines. It seem s that just as men are noticeably absent from feminisms in the academy, so it is that efforts to understand the politics of whiteness are not going to come as frequently or as strongly from 'white' teaching candidates. Haberman (1987), working in a large, public, urban university suggests that the debates surrounding teacher education and orientations to cultural diversity should be focusing on 'picking the right people rather than on changing the wrong ones' because the previous strategies, anthropological or otherwise, have failed to make a significant impact.
There are many controversies surrounding Haberman's efforts to identify 'better' teachers at the point of entrance into training courses. It is a strategy that has arisen from frustration and the resistance experienced by Haberman in working with white student teachers, often in classrooms where children are primarily African-American or Latino/Latina and in observing the discrimination that plays out. Other strategies, such as in-service, have been attempted to counter the frustration and weak intervention that preservice teacher education seems to be. In several cases, however, the organisers of inservices such as lecturers at of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have refused to continue the process because the general experience has been that one or two sessions with white teachers will not resolve negative orientations to students who are 'not white' and hence the inservice is perceived as a waste of time.
Such a consideration of problems in regard to orientation seems crucial given that some experiences and knowledge based on anthropological frameworks and methods seem to have reinforced student teachers' and teachers' pre-existing views about minority students (Carter & Larke, 1994; NCRTE, 1991). One study in Chicago, for instance, found that despite field trips to inner city schools, coursework focusing on the valuing of diversity and the practice teaching of urban pupils by student teachers, only 9 out of 45 class members actually wanted to teach in inner city schools at the end of their course. The rest maintained that they still would prefer to teach in the suburbs as they had preferred at the start of the program (Carter & Larke, 1994). Clearly, then, while an anthropologically influenced teacher may be crucial to more respectful and equitable relations in schooling and beyond, experiences in the USA have indicated that anthropological strategies may also generate a perpetuation of pictures of minority students as 'problems'.
A second constraint in attempting to assess the effects an anthropologically influenced teacher may have lies in the complexities surrounding links between orientation and teaching behaviour. Teaching and learning behaviours, by virtue of their interactional and dynamic nature are difficult, in less blatant cases at least, to use in judging what a teacher's orientation may be. Two different teachers may display the same behaviours but for very different reasons (Holt-Reynolds, 1994). Students can react differently to these same behaviours depending on how the context gives meaning to them and the perception they have of the teacher's intentions. Conversely, teachers can hold very similar perceptions and orientations but display behaviours that are quite divergent. That behaviour and intent often have a great divide between them in classrooms is not to lay blame at the feet of teachers but to note the history and strength of the institutional contexts in which schooling occurs and to point to one of the uses to which anthro-ethnographies in schooling have been put (that is, noting the divide). It is also to point to dangers which I think lie in simplistic prescriptions of teaching behaviours that have proliferated surrounding the 'treatment' (in a pathologising way) and teaching of minority students. The most cogent example of the latter is the construction of 'recipes' (e.g., 'how to teach African American children') in ways intended to overcome home-school disarticulation but through a caricature of what African American children are (supposedly) 'really' like.
The potential for such homogenisation and recipe-making already exists in Australia because it has often been in place for 'white' students who have been the subject of theories of 'development' that have arisen in Europe and the USA. Teaching teachers how to teach as though all students in a class are units or variables to which developmental theories can be applied is a form of recipe-construction that is currently under critique by, surprisingly, developmental psychologists and others (see Baker, 1997; Burman, 1994; Morrs, 1996).
Further, with the advent of multicultural education in the 1970's in Australia, a move toward 'Greek' and 'Italian' education as recipe-like became discernible. The lesson would seem to be that presumptions of unity within and between 'groups' do not seem to have worked as a basis for 'white' or 'minority' student education both within Australia and elsewhere because neither 'group' is a group per se where an array of common characteristics can be universally identified.
One of the main dangers in the socialisation of prospective teachers is thus in regards to the development of recipes on how to teach different groups of minority students. The recipe-building in the USA has tended to homogenise groups as 'Hispanic', 'Asian' or 'African' American despite great diversity between cultures subsumed by the labels and to base teaching strategies on a combination of stereotypes and decontextualised elements of cultural difference (Eisenhart & Graue, 1993; Hanna, 1994). A call for and creation of recipes does not suggest why ingredients are stacked in a particular way and why it is a strategy directed toward a 'problem' in a particular way as well. It may lend security and certainty to action if there are general orientations, sensitivities and questions to ask that are valuable across contexts, but my point is that recipe-construction does not usually target broader question asking. Instead, 'appropriate teaching styles' for minority students (sometimes barely differentiated) are constructed and are usually directed at the level of observable teaching behaviours rather than any understanding of the historical, social and cultural factors which give such actions meaning and which have historically posited certain 'groups' as problems to be 'dealt with'.
Further, recipes frequently have implicit within their logic an intention of changing minority students' orientations, language, parents, home and community more than the characteristics of schools or prospective teachers (Levin, 1992). 'Cultural compatibility' or 'cultural congruence' between home and school, then, can become an unintentional mask for acculturating minority students or trying to 'bleach' a student's cultural heritage (Jacob & Jordan, 1993), something which students at the high school level especially are more than capable of recognising as the latest con (Patthey-Chavez, 1993).
This leads to a final constraint in using anthropology in the preparation of teachers. Changing recruitment criteria, changing courses, and changing experiences to resemble something like the intensive immersion experiences that are currently being implemented in some teacher education programs are important new directions in American efforts to generate more respectful schooling. However, such changes require an accompanying re-orientation of the nature of universities, the role of schooling, the role of the teacher and the role of assessment in ways that acknowledge how all are tied to 'minority' students' life chances and relationships with dominant groups beyond schooling. There are a variety of interrelated problems such as university settings which devalue diversity and which are frequently homogeneous in staff and student populations; the job ceiling; limited college entrance to limited professions; and embedded histories of disrespect and persecution sometimes where 'minorities' constitute the majority in a school's catchment area. These are not simply add ressed by articulating the home environment more closely to school environments or by ensuring that teachers have the right attitude with the right behaviours at the right time (Erickson, 1993; Gillmore et al., 1993; Ogbu, 1993; McCarthy, 1993; Zeichner, 1993).
It seems that in Australia, such tensions have already been realised in regards to feminist and critical pedagogies (see Luke & Gore, 1991). What has been left, until recently, as more unspoken in the teacher preparation literature in Australia, are the dynamics of race and ethnicity amidst the moves toward feminist and critical kinds of social justice. The experiences from using anthropology in the USA suggest the even greater complexities that arise when 'culture', rather than a particular strand of culture like gender or class, becomes the frame for understanding schooling and interpersonal interactions. Most importantly, the experiences speak to the problems with assuming we all the see the world in the same way and that, therefore, whatever 'strategy' is deployed will produce the same effect or have the same meaning.
Even the most well-intentioned and genuine efforts to make practical changes can result in outcomes that neither students nor their teachers want (Popkewitz, 1984). Spindler (1987, p. 244) acknowledges this: 'A year's field work in a foreign community where one's assumptions, values, and perceptions are profoundly shocked by raw experience would make a significant difference, but not always in the direction that would be useful in the classroom'. Increasing or broadening knowledge through the discipline of anthropology may be an important first step toward helping prospective teachers see all students as a resource rather than a challenge in the classroom. It is not simply anthropology alone, though, that can overcome some of the broader institutional constraints, like those outlined above, which lie beyond the control of teachers.
Anthropology has the potential to open up many possibilities in the preparation of a more sensitive and respecting teaching workforce. By raising questions about the assumptions underlying much educational practice, especially assumptions about students and communities with which we may not be familiar personally, anthropology has much to offer. What needs to be noted, though, is that this potential exists within the current institutional framework of teacher education and schooling. In terms of issues of home-school disarticulation and orientations to diversity, the potential is double-edged. As such, whether knowledge generated through anthropological perspectives is used or misused is not so much dependent on the commitments and technical proficiency of people who practice it, but on the rules of reasoning which guide anthropology's use and interpretation and which establish the limits on what is considered possible, imaginable or worthwhile to pursue in schooling and beyond.
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|Author details: Bernadette Baker has worked as a teacher educator in the United States of America and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Graduate School of Education, The University of Queensland. Her interests lie in the history and philosophy of education, poststructuralisms, and social theory.
Please cite as: Baker, B. (1997). Anthropology and teacher preparation: Some possibilities and precautions. Queensland Journal of Educational Research, 13(2), 41-58. http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qjer13/baker.html