Edited by James A. Banks
ISBN hardback 978 0 415 96230 8
Even for a writer and academic of such calibre as James Banks, this book is a tour de force. Admittedly, this brief review is inadequate, but I suspect that even the lengthy reviews that will surely appear in learned journals will not be able to do it justice.
The experience and distilled wisdom of its creator irradiates the book, giving us mere commentators and readers a way into the vast and complex arena and holding it all together. All I can do in this journal, which is honoured by having Professor Banks on its Board, is identify the three qualities that make this collection so outstanding: its scope, coherence and vision.
Scope: The ambition of this work seems almost outrageous—yet in its 570 pages it is fully achieved. It opens with a section on theoretical perspectives, including an illuminating chapter by the editor. The chapters in part 2 offer overviews of multicultural education and diversity across diverse nations, including Canada, Australia and Japan. Looking at the line-up of authors I would hazard that all are as insightful and comprehensive as the two I know most about—the UK (by Sally Tomlinson) and South Africa (by Crain Soudien).
The sections on 'Race, intergroup relations and schooling', and on 'Culture, teaching and learning' widen the lens still further and contain chapters by known authoritative academics in the field. There follow three chapters discussing the education of indigenous groups in America, Peru and New Zealand—all of them a heads-up to those of us working in the mainstream in the UK or US.
Students of identity issues will dwell longest on part 6: ‘Citizenship, immigration and education’, and part 7 on ‘Language, culture, identity and education’ and part 8 which looks at the latter three issues in relation to religion. Parts 9 and 10 on the education of ethnic and cultural minority groups round off the book: three chapters on Europe—Germany, Spain and Russia—and, finally, three on Asia and Latin America—China, Brazil and Mexico and a chapter mainly on the unequal societies of Brazil and Chile as compared with Cuba.
Coherence: a work of this magnitude is easiest to use if we dip into the sections that most concern us. The splendid editing has produced assured writing as well as authoritative views and analysis throughout, and this means that however complex the ideas, it is remarkably easy to read. Small wonder then that the book invites reading from cover to cover. It excites the mind—although it may strain the arms—as we are led along a path that yields valuable insights at every turn.
The elegant pattern of ten sections imposes order and logic on a vast, complex and contested field and makes it all manageable for readers. The field of 'multicultural education' (which Banks has never seen as problematic once he defined it in an early work as 'the education of all in multicultural society' and stayed with throughout his distinguished authorial and teaching career) has always, I believe, been mixed-ability teaching, in the best sense that it is a subject for everyone in education and not just a coterie of theorists and practitioners. So the clarity and readability that characterise this huge volume seem to me to be important qualities.
Vision: In his writing over the decades, James Banks never loses sight of the practitioner. His drive to make matters better, however powerfully he develops theoretical understanding, informs all his own writing. And the scholars he has signed up for this book seem to share this ideal. I know that James Banks has personally supported some of them though his own Center at the University of Washington, Seattle and his position in the American Educational Research Association. So although it reports on the situation of multicultural education in each country, the writers' ideology and their depth of analysis means that the book looks forward as well as capturing so much of what brought us to where we are now. And nowhere is this vision more evident than in the editor’s own opening chapter.
Routledge has done the writers proud—this is a beautiful publication. But there is no paperback edition and the hardback costs $172. It’s also available as an ebook (ISBN 978-0-203-8815-4), and this is probably the route by which it will get into university and policy libraries. One must hope that Routledge will make it accessible in some way to scholars, students and practitioners across the vast geographic area covered in the chapters, and beyond.
Race Equality Teaching Trentham Books 2009
Volume 27 number 3 autumn 2009
College of Education, University of Washington
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