Why culturally relevant pedagogy?

Good teaching should be practiced in all classrooms, regardless of the student bodies’ ethnic backgrounds. Good teaching can guide all students to become positive, active members of our communities and society. Therefore it is important as an educator to become aware of the theory of culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP). As discussed in Gloria Ladson-Billings’ articles, “Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy,” and “But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy,” she explains what should be expected in culturally relevant pedagogy. This short essay will bring attention why culturally relevant pedagogy is essential in the classroom.

The theory of culturally relevant pedagogy is to not only include the children’s cultures in the classroom and recognize their history, it should give them room to improve. Ladson-Billings writes, “it…propose[s] to do three things–produce students who can achieve academically, produce students who demonstrate cultural competence, and develop students who can both understand and critique the existing social order.”  Through academic success the students should be capable of responding to the culture in the classroom and use their success academically to become active members of the community. Ladson-Billings studied classrooms of African American students where the teachers were extremely successful at teaching their classes and subsequently learning from their students. One teacher, changed the culture of the classroom through a young man she persuaded to become class president because she noticed many of his peers looked up to him. This teacher was able to take his positive attributes and instill them classwide, regardless of any negative behavior that was mentioned of him from his previous years. She gave this class an opportunity to learn from one another. Like this example, teachers must find ways to take their culture from home and instill it in the classroom. This helps students relate school and home rather than keep them separated. Therefore in a culturally relevant classroom, academics will be the primary goal in helping their students achieve.

Cultural competence in CRP allows students to not be ashamed of their culture. It was an exceptional idea of one of the teachers from Ladson-Billings’ study, to have parents and family members to come in their classrooms to conduct “residencies.” Students who may come from low socioeconomic homes should have the opportunity to appreciate and admire who they come from and what their families may accomplish. Being culturally competent provides a way to maintain strong ties to their cultural identity while succeeding in academics. The residencies made way for many academic projects in the classroom.  Unfortunately, as Ladson-Billings points out there are many negative statements in research about the history and struggle of African American performance in education. CRP is needed to change and prove that African American students and other students who have been deemed “at risk” by the school system in academic success are, indeed capable of academic integrity and accomplishment. CRP is also needed to change the stereotypical phrase, of “acting white” because they pursue academic success. Educating through a culturally relevant lens, allows the teachers to engage all students to become aware of social inequities. Students need to become critically conscious to what they are learning and the dilemmas they may face in order to find just ways to improve society for the better.

Ladson-Billings discusses how teachers who met the cultural critiquing criteria were involved in critical teaching by taking issues in their communities and making them class projects. This was pertinent to help mold the students to not only critique their community but gave them an opportunity of power or even a self-esteem boost because they were helping change their surroundings for the better. Using the community the students live in to base one’s curriculum is a wonderful way to help the students realize where they come from is not as bad as they may believe or the media depicts. Culturally relevant pedagogy aids the students to realize that they do not have to leave their communities to better their lives. They can become academically successful where they are from and help build up their community so it would no longer portrayed as broken in the media’s lens.

In conclusion, culturally relevant pedagogy is most needed because classrooms and communities should not be denied academic success, when they are capable, with the proper guidance. Regardless of the socio-economic make of a community students have the right to be taught through culturally relevant pedagogy and believed in. It creates role models in their own communities, they look to one another for success, and can appreciate that their backgrounds and education are valued.