at the top of my gmail, i am daily treated to random bits of news and the occasional "word of the day" from dictionary.com. today's word, heterogeneous, is particularly poignant as i think about the recent After Words episode i watched in which congressman tom tancredo (r-co) was being interviewed by anne mulkern of the denver post. you can watch the whole interview here, so i won't summarize the whole thing. however, i will share one small tidbit that has got me thinking (again) about teacher education...

tancredo was on the show to talk about (read: promote) his new book in mortal danger: the battle for america's border and security. at one point, mulkern asks him to expound on his decision to include in his book the story of a public school teacher who was expressed frustration at having to celebrate black history month - apparently, such a comment was made in the context of having to diverge from necessary curricula... tancredo, smiling and almost a little eager, responded with the even tone he'd been using the entire time and explained that he felt that the teacher's story was indicative of a larger trend where there are celebrations of all kinds happening, while "american" holidays go unrecognized. he cited veteran's day as one example of one such forgotten holiday.

i exhaled slowly as i listened to this, and watched as he tancredo shook his head in disbelief that such adultering of the "american" curriculum was going on. earlier, mulkern had asked the congressman what "american" meant to him. he gives a litany of checklist-like qualities, but it is the second that stood out to me: [paraphrasing] speaking english, or expressing a desire to and being on the path to being a proficient english speaker.

so now i think of that school teacher who expressed her woes about having to indulge the district requirement to recognize black history month. and i wonder to what extent the tenets of plurality and, yes, heterogeneity are being engaged at the moments when not-yet-teachers are developing their understandings of not only pedagogy, but the historical context in which they are purporting to participate in the act of teaching and learning. we talked a good deal in the graduate classes i took about multiculturalism, critical multiculturalism, diversity, and occasionally, race and racism. but perhaps we need to talk more explicitly about the fact that history and sociocultural context matters not only in harlem or the delta, but, in fact, everywhere. could we ignore the heterogeneous history on which all of social life was founded and is based?

but what good is any of this musing to the teacher who feels burdened by what she considers extra to the curriculum? and, more to the point of teacher ed, how do we use the very short time that teacher ed programs have with pre-service teachers (as they strive to stay competitive with the rapidly growing numbers of alternative certification programs) to move from dialogue to action around principles of plurality (which undergirds so many connected discourses - e.g., literacies, positionalities, anti-racist pedagogies...)?

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