Frameworks, Curriculum & Cultural Equity

Mr. Mc Neal teaches at John Muir Elementary 1990

Charles Chip Mc Neal Commenting on:
Fowler, C. (1994). Strong Arts, Strong Schools. Educational Leadership, November 1994, 52(3), 4-9.

I love this article by Charles Fowler. It expresses so eloquently what I have known and believed for my entire professional life. The arts are essential to a complete well-rounded education, and that to deprive students of quality experiences in arts education to not teach the whole child, the whole person. The arts are our humanity. The teach us who we are, who we’ve been, and show us who we have yet to become. The arts an essential part of knowing and learning about any people. And, most certainly about we we are as individuals. I like that Fowler goes on to describe why the arts marry with the sciences so well. It explains why science and dance activities resonate with me so often. When the arts and sciences are taught in an integrated manner, they enhance one another. The concrete becomes the ethereal. Scientific knowledge becomes the expression of the depth of human experience. Critical thoughts transcend into abstract concepts. He infers that eventually, the mot creative scientists will be those who have an arts background. He notes that involvement in the arts develops both creative and independent thinking. So schools that include the arts in a sincere way, develop the capacity to help to evolve in their thinking. I also like that he mentions the arts include frustration and failure. Too often we must see the prettiest picture, or the best most cohesive dance. When in fact, the point might be to the process of creating, not the finished work, as Goldberg also alludes to. Those with experience in the arts know first hand that students who otherwise would not be engaged in the learning process in school, thrive because of and through the arts. But at the core of his article is that the arts are a window to our humanity. The arts make us more civilized, more empathetic and more understanding of our differences. The arts give meaning to life for many of us. They can literally make life worthwhile. And, they allow us to communicate the most personal of stories and information to the world. Fowler says that the best schools don’t cut the arts at the first opportunity, but instead value them on par with all other subject matter. What I know from reading Fowler is that I want to create or work in a school environment that respects the arts as a discipline and way of knowing.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy addresses culturally and linguistically diverse students by delineating and promoting the achievement of all students. Effective teaching and learning take place “in a culturally supported, learner-centered context, whereby the strengths students bring to school are identified, nurtured, and utilized to promote student achievement” (Richards, Brown, & Forde, 2004).

Once teachers have successfully rid themselves of their biases, they will be able to create a welcoming and safe environment for their students and their families.

Reflection an self-exploration allows teachers the opportunity to “explore their personal histories and experiences, as well as the history and current experiences of their students and families” (Richards, et al). Teachers who have knowledge and understanding about themselves and others are better able to appreciate differences and deliver unbiased instruction, which ultimately will prepare them to address the needs of all their students. Teachers interested in becoming culturally responsive are encouraged to conduct the following eight activities (engage in reflective thinking and writing, explore their personal and family history, acknowledge membership in different groups, learn about the history and experiences of diverse groups, visit students’ families and communities, visit or read about successful teachers in diverse settings, develop an appreciation of diversity and participate in reforming the institution.

An Animated Version of the Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights


Culturally Responsive Instructional Guidelines

(Adapted from Klump, J., McNeir, G. 2005, and Artiles and Ortiz (2002).

  1. A climate of caring, respect, and the valuing of student’s cultures is fostered in the school and classroom.
  2. Bridges are built between academic learning and student’s prior understanding, knowledge, native language and values through thematic teaching.
  3. Educators learn from and about their students’ culture, language, and learning styles to make instruction more meaningful and relevant to their student’s lives.
  4. Local knowledge, language, and culture are fully integrated into the curriculum, not added on to it. Instruction is delivered in the native language and in English.
  5. Staff members hold students to high standards and have high expectations for all students.
  6. Effective classroom practices are challenging, cooperative, and hands-on, with less emphasis on rote memorization and lecture formats.
  7. School staff builds trust and partnerships with families, especially with families marginalized by schools in the past.
  8. Meaningful language use across the curriculum.
  9. Pair auditory with visuals to reinforce concepts and vocabulary.
  10. Organize content into themes that acknowledge students’ life experiences and background knowledge.
  11. Promote active learning.
  12. Provide information in context.
  13. Pre-teach vocabulary.
  14. Continuous review.
  15. Engage in more opportunities for practice during the day.
  16. Cooperative learning, collaborative learning and/or peer tutoring – changing groups frequently.
  17. Presenting instruction interactively and make frequent comprehension checks.
  18. Reinforce meaning through the use of gestures, concrete materials, etc.
    Encourage effort through sensitive correction of errors.
  19. Create the learning climate by reviewing expectations and students responsibilities.
  20. Promote the maintenance and development of a common language.
  21. Linguistic demands should be adapted to reflect the level of second language acquisition, i.e. allow code mixing.
  22. Allow time for individual guidance and support
  23. Scaffolding


Ten Additional Guidelines for Culturally Responsive Instruction:
1. Acknowledge students’ differences as well as their commonalities.
2. Validate students’ cultural identity in classroom practices and instructional materials.
3. Educate students about the diversity of the world around them.
4. Promote equity and mutual respect among students.
5. Assess students’ ability and achievement validly.
6. Foster a positive interrelationship among students, their families, the community and school.
7. Motivate students to become active participants in their learning.
8. Encourage students to think critically.
9. Challenge students to strive for excellence as defined by their potential.
10. Assist students in becoming socially and politically conscious.

Retrieved on 2/12/11 from Guidelines and Resources for the Oregon Department of Education – 2007 Revisions


San Francisco Ballet Dance in Schools and Communities Highlights Video (2009)



“Critical pedagogy considers how education can provide individuals with the tools to better themselves and strengthen democracy, to create a more egalitarian and just society, and thus to deploy education in a process of progressive social change. Media literacy involves teaching the skills that will empower citizens and students to become sensitive to the politics of representations of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and other cultural differences in order to foster critical thinking and enhance democratization. Critical media literacy aims to make viewers and readers more critical and discriminating readers and producers of texts.

“Critical media pedagogy provides students and citizens with the tools to analyze critically how texts are constructed and in turn construct and position viewers and readers. It provides tools so that individuals can dissect the instruments of cultural domination, transform themselves from objects to subjects, from passive to active. Thus critical media literacy is empowering, enabling students to become critical producers of meanings and texts, able to resist manipulation and domination.”

(from Douglas Kellner, “Multiple Literacies and Critical Pedagogies” in Revolutionary Pedagogies – Cultural Politics, Instituting Education, and the Discourse of Theory, Peter Pericles Trifonas, Editor, Routledge, 2000).

[Critical] pedagogy . . . signals how questions of audience, voice, power, and evaluation actively work to construct particular relations between teachers and students, institutions and society, and classrooms and communities. . . . Pedagogy in the critical sense illuminates the relationship among knowledge, authority, and power. Giroux, 1994: 30

“The fundamental commitment of critical educators is to empower the powerless and transform those conditions which perpetuate human injustice and inequity (McLaren, 1988). This purpose is inextricably linked to the fulfillment of what Paulo Freire (1970) defines as our “vocation” – to be truly humanized social agents in the world. Hence, a major function of critical pedagogy is to critique, expose, and challenge the manner in which schools impact upon the political and cultural life of students. Teachers must recognize how schools unite knowledge and power and how through this function they can work to influence or thwart the formation of critically thinking and socially active individuals.

“Unlike traditional perspectives of education that claim to be neutral and apolitical, critical pedagogy views all education theory as intimately linked to ideologies shaped by power, politics, history and culture. Given this view, schooling functions as a terrain of ongoing struggle over what will be accepted as legitimate knowledge and culture. In accordance with this notion, a critical pedagogy must seriously address the concept of cultural politics y both legitimizing and challenging cultural experiences that comprise the histories and social realities that in turn comprise the forms and boundaries that give meaning to student lives. (Darder 1991, p. 77)” Antonia Darder, 1995

References Cited here
Darder, Antonia. (1995) “Buscando America: The Contributions of Critical Latino Educators to the Academic Development and Empowerment of Latino Students in the U.S.” in Multicultural Education, Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Difference edited by Christine E. Sleeter and Peter L. McLaren, New York: Suny Press.

Retrieved on 2/12/2011 from

“The best schools have the best arts programs. Excellence in education and excellence in the arts
seem to go hand in hand.”

-Charles Fowler

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