After reading an overview of the biographies and professional careers of Carter G. Woodson and Allison Davis, I am in agreement with James A. Banks (1996), that both individuals made significant contributions to multicultural education. Their published works, provided in a time that presented many professional hurdles for African Americans, supplied research and evidence based analysis that should still be utilized by educators today. As quoted by Woodson himself, “What is the use in knowing things if they cannot be published to the world?” (p. 92). Research published by individuals such as Woodson and Davis can better assist educators in an ever-increasing multicultural society, transforming American education when necessary.
Woodson’s work to convey a “complete and accurate history … [to] help African Americans think more positively about themselves, reduce prejudice in Whites, and broaden the perspectives of both groups” is very inspiring (Banks, 1996). His ability to reach the “scholarly community” as well as the “general public, teachers, and students…” is admirable, as I agree with Banks (1996), that this is something that “…still confronts historians today” (p. 92). This is also a challenge that I have seen many educators face, especially when trying to convey knowledge to a young audience. If teachers can effectively present knowledge about the cultures of our world and our local communities, perhaps minorities within the classroom, especially those struggling academically, can also think more positively about themselves and others. The cultural majority in the classroom can also better understand and appreciate the diversity around them.
Banks is clearly an advocate of Allison Davis and I also agree that Davis’s contributions to education are important. One contribution that I found very notable is Davis’s research in regard to the bias in testing, something that is commonly discussed across America today. It is strongly debatable whether tests written by middle-class psychologists “…can accurately measure the cognitive ability of students” in a multicultural classroom (p. 123). I agree with Banks, that “because culture affects the way people process information and gives people different sets of experiences, it would appear that it would be nearly impossible to devise tests that do not reflect a particular culture” (p. 124). I consistently witness curriculum design that is focused toward standardized testing in order for educators to avoid liability for the results of these exams. As I work more in public schools, I’m finding this to be a disadvantage to students, as curriculum should be more flexible and designed by the educator based on the student population each school year and each student’s individual educational needs.
Transformative education is something that should be ever-present in schools, and multicultural education should never be static. Woodson, Davis, and other scholars that have the time to perform research, gather evidence, and publish their accounts, provide information that can increasingly help educators to address the challenges to teaching in a multicultural society. I strongly agree with Woodson, that reaching the academic minority and the public majority will further communicate the necessity of embracing the differences that are increasingly becoming more visible in communities across America. Perhaps scholars can continue to address the challenges of presenting published material to the majority?
Banks, J. A. (1996). Multicultural education: Transformative knowledge & action. New York and London: Teachers College, Columbia University.