Multicultural Teacher
Collaboration Group

Program or activity contact person
Oscar Peñaranda, Logan High School, 1800 H St., Union City, CA 94587 Tel: (510) 471- 2520 E-mail Address: oscar_penaranda@nhusd.k12.ca.us

Summary
The Multicultural Collaboration Group consists of 10 -15 teachers who are committed to developing students' understandings of their own ethnic and cultural heritage and that of others. These teachers have created a large array of elective and required courses that infuse concepts such as culture, ethnicity, race, and nationality in the curriculum, teaching students to recognize the distinctions among these concepts and to question the validity of "race" as a scientific category.

Location(s) of program or activity
Logan High School

What population is served by this program or activity?
Students in grades 10-12. All students are required to take 1 semester of an ethnic studies or multicultural studies course in order to graduate.

When did this program or activity begin?
The Multicultural Collaboration Group began in 1995-96. Ethnic studies courses, however, have been taught at this school since the first Black History course in 1974.

How often and for how long does the program or activity take place?
The Multicultural Collaboration Group meets once a week during the school year (the district provides an hour and a half of paid collaboration time per week to its teachers). Courses initiated by teachers in this group meet daily.

What organizations are involved in the program?
New Haven Unified School District, Logan High School 

Integrating Anthropological Concepts in High School Curriculum:
The Multicultural Collaboration Group, Logan High School

Description

At Logan High School, students have a wide range of opportunities to be exposed to anthropological concepts and scholarly knowledge about race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality. The efforts to establish these opportunities have a long history, beginning in 1974 with the first "African American History" course, and culminating most recently with a new district policy requiring 5 units (1 semester) of multicultural studies in order for a student to graduate (1999). To complete this requirement, students can choose from ethnic studies courses, including African American History; African American Experience; Mexican American Heritage; Contemporary Hispanic America; Asian American Studies; and Filipino American Heritage. They can also satisfy the requirement by taking a new course called "Introduction to Ethnic and Women's Studies" which addresses common issues in the experience of many ethnic groups in the U.S.

These curricular interventions at Logan High School are the result of years of cumulative efforts by various teachers. Many of these teachers, though they are not themselves anthropologists, are skilled at infusing anthropological concepts in the curriculum, which includes sociological, psychological, and historical as well as anthropological content. Students in one course, for example, learn that the division of human beings into distinct "races" is not scientifically valid, in spite of the fact that racial categories appear on the census forms and many other government forms. They learn that "race" is nonetheless an important social construct and that racism exists because people and institutions continue to perceive and act as if there were racially distinct groups. In another course, students learn about "decolonization" in the context of their own experiences as Americans of Filipino, Latino, African, and other descents. All of these courses help students understand that cultural groups are not tightly bounded, uniform, and static. Teachers provide learning activities that communicate contemporary knowledge of culture, such as its constantly changing nature, the variations within any given cultural group, and urban areas as cultural borderlands where many cultural groups interact. While these concepts are infused in the curriculum and instruction, they are not necessarily identified as "anthropology." Thus while students may leave these courses with a beginning understanding of anthropological concepts, they do not necessarily know that what they have been learning is "anthropology."

The curricular offerings at Logan HS are developed in response to two areas of perceived need. First of all, they are based on student demographics and the belief that students who see their own history and lives reflected in curriculum are more likely to be engaged in school, see it as relevant, and develop a positive sense of their ethnic identity. Ethnic studies courses are developed when there is a significant number of students of a particular ethnic group; these students are surveyed prior to the approval of a pilot course to see if there is sufficient interest to warrant the creation of the new course. Secondly, the curricular offerings respond to the need for greater understanding and respect across the diverse groups that make up the school population. At one time, Logan was charactertized as a tough school with a lot of gang influence and fighting. By teaching courses that provide students with deeper understandings of their own and other groups, as well as the dynamics of racism and oppression, teachers hope to develop a student body that is less intolerant and more willing to cross perceived racial, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. The school has in fact developed a reputation as a relatively harmonious environment for diversity, and this may be in part because of the curricular offerings, though certainly they work in concert with other efforts.

Since 1995, the efforts of the teachers at Logan have taken on a much greater degree of institutional power as the district created weekly, paid "collaboration time" for teachers to work on interdisciplinary curriculum and other projects. The 15 or so teachers who had been teaching ethnic studies courses or had an interest in the topic formed a group they called the "Multicultural Collaboration Group" and became the leading change agents in pushing the school and district to establish a graduation requirement in multicultural studies. The graduation requirement was a major milestone because prior to this time, all the ethnci studies courses were electives; only about 20% of the student population took these courses. The requirement ensures that all students have exposure to multicultural studies. The Multicultural Collaboration Group also developed several new courses, and were instrumental in planning a series of teacher in-services focused on diversity and a yearly whole-school event called "Days of Respect." In addition, the creation of the Multicultural Collaboration Group created an institutional structure that actually fostered collaboration among teachers with similar interests, so there was much more sharing of materials and resources than had previously been possible. Teachers in the group felt less isolated in their classrooms and more likely to take initiative because they were part of something larger than each individual. New teachers who joined the group also gained a great deal of mentoring and support from the more experienced teachers.

The curricular offerings described above were documented between 1997-98 as part of a larger, national study --Leading for Diversity - conducted by ARC Associates in Oakland, CA. The study focused on school leadership approaches to improve interethnic relations, and since the curricular efforts at Logan were so prominent, they became a large part of the documentation produced by the study. Interviews with students in these courses revealed that students were: (1) learning about the history of one's own ethnic group; (2) learning about diffferent groups, breaking down stereotypes, and developing respect for differences; (3) seeing common threads among different ethnic groups' experiences; (4) seeing issues from multiple perspectives; and (5) realizing the diversity within ethnic groups.

The multicultural studies courses at Logan are beginning to be tapped as a model for high schools in other districts. While there are other districts that have similar requirements (e.g., Berkeley, Oakland), each district has its own unique history and approach to implementing multicultural studies. Recently, students at Richmond High School proposed that the Board of their district establish a multicultural studies requirement for graduation. Student leaders and teachers in Richmond are now planning to meet with teachers and students from Logan to learn from their experience.


AEC Home
Exemplary Programs Home

horizontal line
About AAA
/ Join AAA / Jobs & Careers / AAA Meetings / AAA Publications
Sections & Interest Groups
/ Staff Directory / Anthro Links / Support AAA

Questions or comments? We want to hear from you!
Contact us  / AAA Privacy Policy

Copyright © 1996-2006, American Anthropological Association
2200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22201; phone 703/528-1902; fax 703/528-3546
horizontal line