26 SES 13 B, Diversity, Citizenship and Gender
This paper examines leadership practices in an academically successful high school within a high-poverty neighborhood with a growing Hispanic population. While the principal and teachers were committed to building social and cultural capital among students, participants also expressed a cultural blindness that could diminish the success of the school, ultimately reproducing the status quo.
Beyond the traditional leadership literature (Leithwood & Riehl, 2005) that framed a larger International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP), for this case we considered ways in which educators used or ignored students’ cultural capital. Further, we analyzed data in light of culturally responsive pedagogy and leadership. The theoretical framework for this paper lies at the intersection of cultural capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986; 1977), cultural blindness (Cochran-Smith, 1995), and culturally responsive leadership (Johnson, 2007).
Cultural capital theory. Bourdieu (1986) used cultural capital to understand how the reproduction of inequality occurred in educational institutions. Bourdieu (1977) defines cultural capital as knowledge, skills, dispositions, and cultural background of individuals that are valued by society. From this perspective, students must learn the dominant norms (i.e., language, vocabulary, dress, mannerisms, and behaviors) in order to be successful in schools. These learned dominant norms contribute to one’s habitus (Bourdieu, 1977) – the internalization of relationships and expectations, formed over time, and based on social context. Individuals use their habitus to navigate the education process. According to Bourdieu (1986), there are three forms of cultural capital. First, the embodied state is part of the individual’s mind and body and it is inherited by socialization through time (usually by the family). In the objectified state, cultural capital is cultural goods such as art, books, dictionaries, or machines. In the institutionalized state, cultural capital is possessed by an individual and institutionally recognized as valuable such as an academic credential. For the purposes of this paper, we will focus on the embodied form of cultural capital since it deals with culturally learned norms that students negotiate in educational institutions and the broader society.
Cultural blindness. Cochran-Smith (1995) argued that educators must go beyond “color blindness” as a response to cultural diversity. Cochran-Smith (1995) described five perspectives that are important to teachers: (1) reconsidering personal knowledge and experience, (2) locating teaching within the culture of the school and the community, (3) analyzing children’s learning opportunities, (4) understanding children’s learning, and (5) constructing reconstructionist pedagogy. Cochran-Smith (1995) argued that understanding these perspectives is necessary to move beyond color blindness toward critical pedagogy and culturally responsive leadership. In light of the border / cultural issues that influence the ways in which race and ethnicity are thought about and constructed in the Southwest, we used the term ‘cultural blindness’ to encompass blindness related to ethnic culture and language as well as race / ethnicity.
Similarly, Malott, Waukau, and Waukau-Villagomez (2009) advocated for educators, particularly white educators, to try to understand the sociocultural contexts and historical backgrounds of marginalized students. Malott et al. (2009) argue that white educators must “become self-conscious” (p. 3) of white privilege and act against social injustice using processes such as culturally responsive pedagogy.
Culturally responsive leadership. Johnson (2007) applied the notion of culturally responsive pedagogy to leadership, defining culturally responsive leaders as those who support high academic achievement, value and affirm the home cultures of their students, empower parents from all economically and culturally diverse settings, and actively seek societal change in an effort to make the surrounding communities better places for all. However, the high stakes policy environment focused solely on closing the achievement gap impacted even these leaders (Johnson, 2007).
Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice (tr. Richard Nice). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J.G. Richardson. (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp.241-258). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Cochran-Smith, M. (1995). Color blindness and basket making are not the answers: Confronting the dilemmas of race, culture, and language diversity in teacher education. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 493-522. Glaser, B., & Strauss, A.(1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine Johnson, L. (2007). Rethinking successful school leadership in challenging U.S. schools: Culturally responsive practices in school-community relationships. International Studies in Educational Administration, 35, 749-758. Leithwood, K. & Riehl, C. (2005). Leithwood, K., & Riehl, C. (2005). What we know about successful school leadership. National College for School Leadership. Philadelphia: PA: Laboratory for Student Success, Temple University. Merriam, S. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc. Patton, M.Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd edition). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE. Richardson, V. (2001). Handbook of research on teaching. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.
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