18th annual June Fox Lecture features scholarship presentations and award-winning educator Mariana Souto-Manning’s inspiring call to action
Monday, April 14, 2014
Lesley’s guest speaker delivered a rousing call to action before a rapt audience gathered for the 18th Annual June Fox Lecture in University Hall. The event is held in honor of former Lesley University Dean June Fox and is presented by Lesley’s Graduate School of Education.
“If we don't do the work from very early on, we are ignoring or tolerating events, which means we’re actually reinforcing those stereotypes,” asserted Souto-Manning, an associate professor of early childhood education at Columbia University Teachers College.
During the lecture, she drew on her experiences as an award-winning researcher and educator and recalled case studies from her recent book, “Multicultural Teaching in the Early Childhood Classroom: Approaches, Strategies, and Tools, Preschool-2nd grade.”
She was introduced by Assistant Professor Grace Enriquez, and the audience was welcomed to the lecture by Lesley Graduate School of Education Dean Jack Gillette.
“Even though we have spent many years studying, this event represents the notion that there is never enough to know,” Gillette reflected during his welcome address. “This reminds us of the power that even very young children have.”
Souto-Manning spoke to that power, and launched her message with the same question that inspired her “Multicultural teaching” book.
“What is good teaching?” she posed to the audience. “I really mean it. What is good teaching for all? Not for a few. Not for the wealthy. Not for low income. But what is good teaching, powerful teaching?”
Good teaching starts with the understanding of culture, history and other deep-seated factors that play into educational outcomes. She encourages educators to challenge their assumptions and ask themselves questions such as:
She believes that self-reflection enables educators to “shift the blame away from children and their families.”
Souto-Manning differentiated “equality” versus “equity,” which she illustrated with an analogy in which she told everyone in the audience to imagine switching one shoe with the person seated next to them.
“Everyone would have two shoes, so that’s equality,” she joked. Taking the analogy one step further, she told the audience to imagine walking around for an hour with one wrong shoe. Then, she said, “Walk your whole career, your whole academic life with those mismatched shoes that don’t fit you.”
“Equity requires eliminating the disparity of access and not just offering equality,” she continued. “When I advocate the same for everyone, I’m not actually fostering equal outcomes. … Because equality is different from equity.”
Through her research, Souto-Manning has concluded that education that isn’t culturally competent simply won’t reach all students.
She gave examples that ranged from complex to simple, such as an anxious child in an infant classroom listening to European lullabies at naptime.
“At home, he’s hearing songs like this,” she said as she rhythmically thumped her hand on the lectern, “which is much more common background music in Latin or Afro-centric cultures.”
Souto-Manning, who is from Brazil, challenged traditional diversity initiatives.
“On diversity night, everybody brought in a plate of food from their country and brought a flag and plopped it in. If you’re from the U.S., you brought hamburger, hotdog or apple pie,” she said. “But what do you really get to know about kids’ cultures from doing that? You don’t. That’s cafeteria cross-cultural education and I wasn’t happy with that. “
Souto-Manning views multicultural education as a form of “critical pedagogy” that calls on educators to have a wider lens and transform the classroom and society.
“It’s preventing students from being blamed for failure or finding fault with disenfranchised families,” she said. “It’s really a systemic program. … You support children’s learning journeys.”
The June Fox Lecture program started with the presentation of three scholarship awards to Lesley students:
The lecture was followed by a reception in the University Hall Atrium.
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