1st Edition

The Great Speckled Bird Multicultural Politics and Education Policymaking

By Catherine Cornbleth, Dexter Waugh Copyright 1999
    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    This unique volume takes readers behind the scenes for an "insider/outsider" view of education policymaking in action. Two state-level case studies of social studies curriculum reform and textbook policy (California and New York) illustrate how curriculum decision making becomes an arena in which battles are fought over national values and priorities. Written by a New York education professor and a California journalist, the text offers a rare blend of academic and journalistic voices. The "great speckled bird" is the authors' counter-symbol to the bald eagle--a metaphor representing the racial-ethnic-cultural diversity that has characterized the U.S. since its beginnings and the multicultural reality of American society today.

    The text breaks new ground by focusing on the intersections of national debates and education policymaking. It situates the case studies within historical and contemporary cultural contexts--with particular attention to questions of power and knowledge control and how influence is exercised. By juxtaposing the contrasting cases of California and New York, the authors illustrate commonalities and differences in education policymaking goals and processes. By sharing stories of participants at and behind the scenes, policymaking comes alive rather than appearing to result from impersonal "forces" or "factors."

    Contents: Preface. Part I: Vistas. Vantage Points. Lights and Shadows. Part II: Cases. California: Containing America. New York: Extending America. New York: Muting Multiculturalism? California: Making the Grade. Part III: Possibilities. America Not Yet.


    Catherine Cornbleth, Dexter Waugh

    "The Great Speckled Bird may well ensure a deeper understanding of American diversity in the future."
    San Francisco Chronicle

    "The authors provide keen insights into the issues, values, and politics that guided the development and implementation of controversial multicultural social studies curriculums in California and New York....I highly recommend this book for teachers, administrators, curriculum specialists, supervisors, textbook committees, state education departments, legislators, preprofessional students, and citizens concerned about race and education in America. Don't miss this opportunity!"
    Educational Leadership

    "...provides a deeply-textured discussion of the curriculum and textbook wars in large states with highly diverse populations....Cornbleth and Waugh present a clear insider's view of the political struggles involved in multicultural curriculum reform in California and New York. This book is an important contribution to the debates on multicultural curriculum and should lead to further discussion about the ramifications of imposing national teaching and curriculum standards. I would recommend this book as important reading for all conscientious citizens. It is of particular importance to teachers and teacher educators and would be important reading for all students preparing to teach in the K-12 schools."
    Multicultural Education

    "...deals with important issues in an informed manner, and should be read by anyone involved in or interested in social studies education."
    Social Education

    "The overall issues of race in America and the use of power in defining knowledge are important ones that Cornbleth and Waugh argue very well....As this book compellingly shows, the stands taken in California and New York, and the debates surrounding the construction of social studies curricula, go to the heart of the very different lived experiences, subsequent viewpoints, and political power of Americans on either side of the color line..."
    Christine Sleeter
    University of Wisconsin, Parkside

    "I like the approach taken by these authors. The comparison of cases backed by contextualizing data and consequences is very effective in illustrating alternative routes to policy making."
    Ursula Casanova
    Arizona State University

    "A bold step in exposing the politics of curriculum....The Great Speckled Bird will give educational policy, leadership, and curriculum students and scholars an opportunity to grapple with the complexities of curriculum change and reform in schools."
    Gloria Ladson-Billings
    University of Wisconsin-Madison

    "Opens a range of new perspectives on the meanings of multiculturalism in American schools today, and on the relation between what is understood to be multiculturalism and the conception of a national identity."
    Maxine Greene
    Teachers College, New York City

    "A very important book about a very controversial topic. It provides a reasoned, theoretical basis for the discussion of multicultural curriculum and the politics of educational policymaking..."
    Alan Singer
    Hofstra University