It’s easy to see why if we considered another complex problem like the financial crisis of 2008. It is certainly important to listen to how people suffered, particularly those who lost their homes, but if our goal is to prevent another crisis of this nature, just listening to the stories of suffering isn’t going to help. We need to understand the underlying mechanism of the collapse. For that, we need to engage the bankers in our public debate. If we create an environment where the bankers are afraid to speak, we would be sabotaging our own hope of preventing another crisis. Just because someone suffered something, it does not mean that he is the authority on how it happened and how to prevent it.
Today, we have an environment where white people are afraid of speaking up. If we ask a white person for his opinion on racism, he might say something like, “What do I know? I’m a white man.” While such self-deprecating comment may seem like an appropriate expression of modesty, it also means they are not willing to seriously engage in our public discourse about racism. As members of the dominant group, they can afford to just listen to our complaints, even apologize, and go on with their own lives.
In the book “NurtureShock” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, there is a chapter titled “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race.” It describes how uncomfortable the idea of talking about race is for white parents, so much so that many dropped out of one research study when they realized that they couldn’t bring themselves to talk about race to their children. Their fear is that they might botch it and their kids might start making highly offensive and embarrassing remarks in public. But the book argues that not speaking to children about race simply leads to them forming their own misguided opinions about it. In this way, white people’s fear and discomfort about discussing racism have many negative consequences in our society.
In our racial dynamics, white people have become submissive. Most of them would never dare contradict any black person. Independent and critical thinking about racism does not exist. Today, William F. Buckley Jr. would be labelled racist and white supremacist if he made the same argument he did against James Baldwin at Cambridge University in 1965. White people today are more interested in avoiding trouble than in solving the problem of racism. Expressing any original thought is highly risky because there is no guarantee that it won’t be misinterpreted, so they only share opinions expressed by others that have already received positive reactions. The risk of being called a “racist” is high in expressing untested ideas. Since racism is not their problem, why take the risk? Let the people of color work it out. So, the only white perspective we hear is coming from white supremacists or white nationalists because they are the only white people who dare to think independently. We should be alarmed by this situation.
The people of color created this problem by relentlessly talking about how evil white people are and how much people of color suffer because of them. White people are so scared of the topic of racism that I often receive private messages saying they agree with my view that challenges the conventional view of racism. They are not going to, for instance, publicly “Like” or agree with my criticism. They know better. They are too scared to say anything publicly.
It’s true; people of color, particularly blacks, are treated unjustly and suffer greatly. I’m not here to minimize their suffering, but let’s ask the hard question: What exactly do you want to achieve by talking perpetually about how much you suffer and how evil white people are? Does it solve the problem of racism? True; life is unfair, but saying so doesn’t make it any fairer. Let’s get real and pragmatic. Calling someone “racist” doesn’t solve the problem of racism. There is even some research to prove it.
Before we can make any progress, we need to create an environment where ordinary white people can express themselves honestly without the fear of being called racists. Many white liberals read books and articles written by black people. They watch a lot of documentaries about black history. They even travel far to participate in public demonstrations to fight racism. But these are not true engagement even though they may look engaged in appearance. They are not staking anything of their own. They are just motivated by the sense of belonging. “Did you read that book? Cool. I did too.” “Did you go to that demonstration? Cool. I did too.” And so on... It’s just a way for them to strengthen their social bonds. As soon as we ask them to offer their own unique perspectives on racism, they freeze, especially if we asked them to do so publicly. Many of them don’t have any because they are just passive consumers of other people’s opinions. They are not engaged because they don’t see it as their problems. In contrast, if we asked them for their opinions on parenting or dieting schemes, each of them has a unique perspective, because they are engaged in those topics.
Being engaged is like betting real money on a stock, instead of just researching about it, or having your own child instead of babysitting someone else’s. If you don’t invest your own unique and independent opinions into the public discourse, you have no skin in the game. If you are truly engaged, the problem becomes personal. You are no longer a passive observer. You care about the outcome. We need to encourage white people to be engaged in the problem of racism. We don’t want them hunkering down until the storm passes. If we continue the current state, the storm will never pass because they are a big (or bigger) part of the problem.
Today, most of the mainstream books and articles about racism are monologues coming from the people of color who pretend as though they are engaging their opponents (like Trump supporters) but their opponents are not even paying attention. As an example, take this article, “The First White President” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Who is his audience? On the surface, it sounds like he is talking to Trump-supporting white Americans. After all, it is their behavior Coates ultimately wants to change. But, he can’t possibly think that they would read this and go, “Oh, he is right. We are evil racists. Let’s change our behavior.” So, the purported audience is different from the real audience. Who is the real audience? The white liberals.
Now, why would the white liberals read this? Do they really need to hear that this country is racist? No. They already know. Do they need to hear more stories about how much blacks suffered in history? No, they already know. If they already know, why are they reading it? And, how does their passive consumption of other people’s opinions help in solving the problem of racism?
This type of dynamics between blacks and whites have become so extreme that it looks to me like a sadomasochistic relationship where black writers can feel better by venting their anger, and the white readers can feel better by alleviating their feelings of guilt by being whipped. If both are deriving pleasure from this relationship, why would they want anything to change? Our goal isn’t for white people to feel guilty and apologize; it is to solve the problem of racism by getting everyone involved.
I believe the current rise of white nationalism is a backlash from the years of suppression where every black person’s argument was accepted as true and authoritative, and every white person’s argument was dismissed as false and illegitimate. People who contributed to creating this environment should ask themselves what this ultimately achieves.
Racism is a specific manifestation of prejudice. In order to solve the problem of racism, we need to study how prejudice works, just as we need to study how our financial system works if we want to prevent another crisis. Race then becomes just one of many manifestations of the same problem. This is another reason why blacks, or people of color, shouldn’t be automatically considered the authority on the subject. Race is secondary to the problem of prejudice. Every opinion should stand on its own and we need to evaluate it on its own merits regardless of who said it.
In Japan, there is a group of people called Burakumin and discrimination against them still exists to this day. This YouTube video explains the overall concept pretty well. What is interesting here is that biologically Burakumin are identical to the rest of the Japanese. So, they need to keep written records of them in order to discriminate against them. A similar type of discrimination exists in Africa as described in this article about the slavery in Mali. There too, no obvious biological markers exist. People descended from slaves are deemed properties of their masters.
Now, in combatting these types of problems in Japan and Africa, would it make sense to treat them as entirely different problems from “racism”? No. The underlying mechanism is the same even though there is no “race” involved here. If we were to focus exclusively on race, we would be missing the forest for the trees. Furthermore, focusing on race when there are so many other forms of prejudice would be yet another type of prejudice (i.e. prejudice of prejudice). For instance, the prejudice against albinos receive unfairly little attention in our culture.
At the core, prejudice is a psychological (or phenomenological) problem. Here is an example of prejudice in an elementary form. If we asked people to paint a glass of water, most of them would use blue paint. If water was actually blue, we wouldn’t drink it. Water is clear, which means, if we are to paint water, we need to be painting the objects that we see through its distortion, which in turn means that there are many colors and that they change depending on the context. Interestingly, some kids naturally paint the colors they actually see in the glass in front of them instead of automatically picking up the blue paint. The latter is a learned behavior. They have to be taught that water is blue in order to make the assumption that the color of the water in front of them is blue. Why do we think water is blue? It’s coming from the fact that water often reflects the sky which is blue.
So, part of the problem of prejudice is learning. This has interesting implications. It means learning history can exacerbate or compound the problem of racism. In the US, the racial tension is greatest between blacks and whites. Why? It’s largely because of history. Recently I was debating with a black woman who was quite angry about the fact that white people wouldn’t apologize for slavery. Why should they? The white people who live today never had slaves. Why should they apologize for the crimes committed by others just because the color of their skin is the same as that of the criminals? I asked her, “So, are you willing to apologize for the crimes other black people committed? Isn’t that how racial profiling works?”
Because she does not see the underlying structure of prejudice, when she herself is racially profiling others, she doesn’t recognize her own prejudice. She is blinded by what she learned. The history of slavery makes her see what’s not there, just like the color blue in the glass of water. The long, dark history of slavery in the US prevents blacks and whites from seeing each other for what they are today. Just like the book of Burakumin, they keep all that history in their heads and project them onto each other. If all the Americans suddenly forgot the entire history of slavery, overall, the tension would ease and the problem would lessen because they can then focus only on the problems that exist today. They will see that the glass of water is not blue.
For some of us, this problem might be easier to relate to if we think about our childhood friends. Even though we have all changed dramatically since we were in school, some of us still insist on treating each other in the same way we did in our childhood. The images we have of each other from childhood get in the way of seeing who we are today. The same problem can be observed among siblings and between parents and children. Unconsciously, we try to hold on to the power dynamics we have established in the past. These are different manifestations of the same underlying structure of prejudice. If we are oblivious to how prejudice works at the psychological level, learning history can make our problem worse.
Prejudice is a deeply psychological problem and the solutions can be counter-intuitive. Here is an example from NurtureShock:
“Dr. Walter Stephan, a professor emeritus at New Mexico State University, made it his life’s work to survey students’ racial attitudes after their first year of desegregation. He found that in 16% of the desegregated schools examined, the attitudes of whites toward African Americans became more favorable. In 36% of the schools, there was no difference. In 48% of the schools, white students’ attitudes toward blacks became worse. Stephan is no segregationist—he signed the amicus brief, and he is one of the most respected scholars in the field.”
That is, uncritically placing your kids in a racially diverse school would have negative consequences. I have personally observed this too. Although my daughter received a lot of education about racism in her primary school, now in her middle school, all of her friends have self-segregated. The teachers are trying to break up the racial cliques to no avail.
The problem with educating kids about race and racism is that not much research has been done on it. Despite the enormity of the problem, very few longitudinal studies have been conducted. So, a well-meaning teacher could be creating more problems than solving them. Here is another example from NurtureShock:
“But if [minority] children heard these preparation-for-bias warnings [that the world is full of racists] often (rather than just occasionally), they were significantly less likely to connect their successes to effort, and much more likely to blame their failures on their teachers—whom they saw as biased against them.”
A different research study I found on the web has a similar example in workplace environments:
“Using data from 708 workplaces, Kalev et al. (2006) reveal that programs targeting managerial stereotyping through diversity training and diversity evaluations are not followed by increases in diversity at the workplace. To the contrary, diversity training is followed by a 7% decline in the odds of attaining higher status in the workplace for black women, and an 8% decline in the odds for black men across time, compared to workplaces that did not use diversity training.”
This illustrates how unpredictable and complex the problem of racism is. Most people assume that venting their anger in public demonstrations against white supremacists and teaching kids about the history of racism are all good, but it’s not that simple. Those efforts may even have adverse, unintended consequences. We need to be a lot more critical than that. Each of us needs to think more critically and independently, and contribute our own perspectives, instead of just echoing what everyone else is saying. We need to think more like psychologists than political activists; the latter obviously hasn’t worked in the many decades since Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s time we step back and reassess our strategy. The constant moral accusations have white people pushed into their own quiet library. We need to start listening to them even if their opinions sound offensive or misguided. We need to watch our automatic reflex to be offended. If we do care about actually solving the problem of racism, it is more important to get them involved than to vindicate our righteousness.
Occasionally I email you when I post a new article or if I have a question for my readers.
Social Education 58(6), 1994, pp. 354-358
National Council for the Social Studies
Multicultural Education vs Anti-Racist Education: The Debate in CanadaJohn W. Kehoe
A debate is taking place about the comparative meaning and merits of multicultural education and anti-racist education.
The concept of multicultural education has been accused of being inadequate, naive, and fallacious. It is said to fail to confront minority grievances and aspirations (Banks and McGee-Banks 1989). It has been asserted that multicultural education may prove to be a disservice to minorities because it interferes with the natural process of cultural adaptation to the environment (Ramcharan 1989). Multicultural education, it has also been alleged, ignores the institutional basis of domination and discrimination (Lynch 1987). The intention here is to examine some of the writing on multicultural education and anti-racist education to determine the components of each. An analysis will then be made of at least one clear difference between the two approaches-multicultural teaching versus anti-racist teaching.
Descriptions of multicultural education suggest three goals (Kehoe 1984; Young 1984; Fleras and Leonard-Elliott 1992). The first is equivalency in achievement. The second is more positive intergroup attitudes. The third objective is the development of pride in heritage. The first goal is the most important, although all three make a contribution to equality of opportunity.
The advocates of multicultural education suggest achieving the first goal by (a) teaching English as a second language; (b) changing assessment and placement procedures; (c) removing ethnocentric bias from the curriculum; (d) teaching students in a manner consistent with their cultural background and sensitive to psycholinguistics, cognitive style, source of motivation, and social organization (Tharp 1989); (e) making contact with and encouraging participation by the student's community; (f) changing how we respond to racist incidents; and (g) ensuring that teacher expectations do not deny achievement.
It is suggested that the second goal can be achieved by (a) enhancing certain cognitive abilities such as recognizing the differences within groups of people, judging people on the basis of internal rather than external attributes, and accepting different ways of living as being equally valid (Aboud 1988); (b) developing empathy; (c) teaching consistency in the application of principles; (d) teaching critical thinking skills such as the ability to recognize fallacious arguments; (e) facilitating carefully structured personal contact (Amir 1976); and (f) providing information about other cultures that teaches the similarities between other cultures and one's own, the nature of everyday life, and positive achievements (Kehoe 1984).
The advocates of multicultural education suggest achieving the third goal by (a) institutionalizing in-school celebrations besides Anglo-Celtic Christian celebrations; (b) encouraging retention of heritage languages; (c) including cultural contributions to humankind and to one's own country as part of the curriculum; (d) encouraging individuals to retain their original cultural background; and (e) acquainting all students with their own and other cultures through exchange of folk rhymes, literature, art, dance, food, clothing, religion, ethics, and subjective aspects of culture, such as pause length, eye contact, social distance, and methods of greeting.
Tator and Henry (1991, 122) argue that multicultural education "... ignores the fact that racial differences, and the racial discrimination which flows from [those visible differences] must be challenged by changing the total organizational structures of the institutions."
Although it is not fully clear what "the total organizational structure" means, Tator and Henry (1991) list some of the major issues that anti-racist training addresses. These include the following:
1. Examining the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of racial prejudice and discrimination in Canada.
2. Exploring the influence of race and culture on one's own personal and professional attitudes and behavior.
3. Identifying and counteracting bias and stereotyping in learning materials.
4. Dealing with racial tensions and conflicts.
5. Identifying appropriate anti-racist resources to incorporate into the curriculum in different subject areas.
6. Developing new approaches to teaching children using varying cognitive approaches to diverse learning styles.
7. Identifying appropriate assessment and placement procedures and practices.
8. Assessing the hidden curriculum and making it more inclusive and reflective of all students' experiences.
9. Ensuring that personnel policies and practices are consistent with equity goals and that they provide managers with the knowledge and skills to implement equity programs.
A comparison of the components of anti-racist education with the components of multicultural education suggests many similarities. But at least one significant difference between anti-racist educators and multicultural educators lies in the content and activities of the curriculum. The components and objectives of multicultural teaching have already been described. Its activities and content are intended to develop more positive intergroup attitudes and develop pride in heritage. The goals of anti-racist teaching include causing individuals and institutions not to be racist or at least to be less racist. What follows is a sampling of definitions of anti-racist teaching and an attempt to operationalize the definitions for purposes of schooling.
Anti-racist teaching addresses racism directly and focuses on the cognitive aspects. Anti-racist teaching confronts prejudice through the discussion of past and present racism, stereotyping and discrimination in society. It teaches the economic, structural and historical roots of inequality (McGregor 1993, 2).
The objectives of anti-racist education are to confront the institutional racism within the very structure of the educational system (Tator and Henry 1991, 145).
... this means creating a climate in the classroom where... the historical and current reasons for the continued unequal social status of different groups can be explored (Thomas 1984, 22).
Anti-racist education is firmly rooted in the notion of race and racial discrimination as systemic and embedded within the policies and practices of institutional structures. It is premised on the idea that unless students understand the nature and characteristics of these discriminatory barriers, the prevailing distribution of resources and rewards will remain intact-both within the school and outside (Fleras and Leonard-Elliott 1992, 195).
As long as people are insulated from the realities of racism, they will have little reason to change their behaviors, let alone their attitudes. Anti-racist and multicultural education strategies directed at changing individual attitudes and behavior, however praiseworthy in other respects, are doomed to failure unless they bring the human consequences of racism home to those who are racist.
The social structures that exist in a society are frequently based on race. It is believed by many that these social structures are unequal because they reflect the differing abilities of the component groups of society. That belief can make the logic of racism unassailable. This suggests that efforts need to be directed at the changing racist attitudes by changing the social realities that racism appears to explain, rather than simply trying to change the explanations themselves (Stanley 1992, 8).
Operationalizing these definitions into terms that can be translated into curriculum needs, it can be suggested that students will become less racist if they do the following:
1. Discuss past and present racism, stereotyping, and discrimination in society.
2. Learn the economic structural and historical roots of inequality.
3. Find examples of institutional racism in the school and confront them (confronting might include informing the administration or protesting).
4. Analyze unequal social and power relations.
5. Know the realities of racism and know the human consequences of racism.
6. Try to change the unequal social realities that are justified by racist ideology but which can be changed by legislative or other action.
There should be no difficulty in providing students with curricular activities to achieve all but one of these outcomes. The last outcome would be difficult to implement directly. Examples could, however, be given: as the legal realities for Chinese in Canada changed, for instance, their social and economic circumstances improved.
It is important to determine what should be accepted as evidence of less racism. Most of the anti-racist teaching studies reviewed accepted a positive change in attitude as measured by social distance, semantic differential, and Likert scales. Others include a decrease in ethnocentrism, a decrease in authoritarian beliefs, a decrease in the belief that the world is just, and an increase in expressions of empathy for victims of discrimination. In view of the nature of the goals of anti-racist teaching, however, consideration should be given to indications of a willingness to remove institutional barriers and indications of a willingness to reduce inequality in the social and power relations among groups. In addition, a greater willingness to attribute lack of achievement to societal attitudes and policies rather than group characteristics would be an indication of less racism.
Much of the writing on anti-racist teaching suggests research questions that need to be answered. Most of it does not report on intervention studies that determine if the operationalizing and implementing of the definitions lead to less racism.
This section describes a number of individual studies, some scientific and some not, that have investigated the effects of anti-racist teaching. It also reports the results of two meta-analyses (reviews of the literature that convert the results of all studies to standard scores, making comparisons more valid). All of the results urge caution and a need for more research.
The first study is an unscientific one (Stewart 1993). The class was unusual in that it had a high proportion of Asian students who were recent immigrants. They were transitional students moving from the English as a Second Language class but were not quite ready to be mainstreamed. The intent was to have the students appreciate the complexity and diversity of First Nations cultures and to shift their dispositions to more empathy for land claims issues and self-determination. Topics included the following: North America's First Inhabitants, Geography and Culture, Impact of Federal Laws on Cultural Practice, Legends, Buffalo Hunt, Genocidal Practices and Policies of the Government, Contemporary Living Conditions, and Land Claims. The unit concluded with an opinion paper. The knowledge levels of First Nations issues and culture increased substantially. "What comes out as a big surprise is the strong undercurrent of prejudice towards native people... The stereotypical drunken, lazy, wild, welfare driven and stupid native people were to blame for their own fall from grace and it is time they entered the capitalist realities of twentieth century society" (Stewart 1993). This was clearly an unanticipated outcome. Stewart's teaching was sympathetic toward First Nations culture and contemporary issues of self-government and land claims. He was surprised and dismayed at the responses on the opinion papers.
Black (1973) compared anti-prejudice lessons with general semantics lessons. The anti-prejudice lessons included the following:
1. What is prejudice?
2. Prejudice in the world today.
3. How we get our prejudices.
4. What prejudice does for us.
5. What can we do about it?
The anti-prejudice lessons had a negative and unexpected effect. Subjects who were exposed to them increased significantly in social distance, ethnocentrism, and authoritarianism. The general semantic subjects decreased significantly on all three variables.
Kehoe and Echols (1983) had students examine and discuss written cases of discrimination against Indo-Canadians. The students did not feel bad, shocked, angry, concerned, or sorry for the victims. They did, however, conclude that such events were frequent in Canadian history, and rather than trying to stop such incidents, it would be better not to accept immigrants who provoke them. It should be noted that at the time of the study, newspaper reports suggested that negative feelings toward Indo-Canadians were quite high.
The studies reported thus far are individual studies that may have alternative explanations for the effects. Gibson (1984) concluded that various pretest/posttest evaluations of multicultural education and human relations programs that emphasize attitudinal change and cultural understanding show that they have not been very successful in reducing prejudice. Gage (1978) argues that we should not be surprised at mixed and not very significant outcomes when we are attempting to change attitudes in schools. Schools are not the powerful agents of change many perceive them to be. Gage suggests looking at clusters of studies to determine principles to guide curriculum development.
Three studies (Ungerleider and McGregor 1992; McGregor 1993; McGregor and Ungerleider 1993) used meta-analyses to compare anti-racist teaching and multicultural teaching. McGregor (1993) conducted a meta-analysis of research on the effects of role playing and anti-racist teaching on student racial prejudice. The average study of role-playing techniques showed that they were associated with a significant improvement in racial attitudes. For anti-racist teaching the average study showed an effect that was slightly more pronounced. Both approaches showed modest gains with secondary and postsecondary students in the United States.
Ungerleider and McGregor (1992) used meta-analysis to compare the effects of race relations training and intercultural training on the attitudes of police and military personnel. The mean effect size for studies using a treatment focusing on race or racism was small. For studies using an intercultural treatment, the mean effect size was much larger. An analysis of variance showed the difference between the treatments to be statistically significant. The authors concluded that police and military personnel may be more receptive to programs that are positive in orientation than they are to programs that challenge or criticize their treatment of minorities.
McGregor and Ungerleider (1993) also conducted a meta-analysis of the research on programs of multicultural and racism awareness for teachers. The mean effect size for studies using a treatment focusing on race or racism was moderately strong. For studies using a cultural information approach or a social-psychological approach, the mean effect size was weaker. Although a multicultural approach is likely to be more effective with groups like police officers, it seems that an anti-racist approach may be more effective with groups like teachers.
There have been a number of recent pilot and exploratory efforts to compare anti-racist and multicultural teaching. The authors of these studies recognize the importance of anti-racist teaching, but are concerned about its negative effects and the possibility of anti-racist teaching having different effects on different populations. For example, it is possible that students who believe the world is just may feel less empathy for and be more likely to blame victims than will those who believe the world is less just. Lerner (1980) suggested the just world theory to explain the fact that people sometimes blame socially disadvantaged people for their suffering. The belief in a just world refers to an individual's need to see the world as a just place where people get what they deserve. The just world theory suggests that just world believers attempt to avoid the idea that people have suffered unjustly because such an idea may imply that they could also suffer unjustly. Those who believe in a just world will persuade themselves that victims deserve to suffer misfortunes because of something they have done, and will consequently derogate victims.
Kehoe (1993) pretested grade 10 students with the Belief in a Just World Scale (Rubin and Peplau 1975) and then investigated the effects of three different curricula on the beliefs of these students about Native Indians. The control group studied the textbook presentations of the Red River and North West Rebellions and the treaties. The two rebellions were led by the Metis Leader, Louis Reil. They can be characterized as violent opposition to the Canadian Government's mishandling of Metis and Native Indian concerns such as language, culture, and land policies (Bowers and Garrod 1986). The anti-racist group studied excerpts from The Dispossessed: Life and Death in Native Canada (1990) by Geoffrey York and Reservations Are for Indians (1970) by Heather Robertson. They studied housing, unemployment, violence, alcoholism, prostitution, infant mortality, imprisonment, and government policy and decision-making procedures that ensure dependency. The multicultural group studied successful Native businesses (e.g., Peace Hills Trust, Northern Resources Trucking), and successful Native individuals (e.g., a lawyer, a classical conductor, a power plant manager). They viewed a video tape, Ready for Take Off (Department of Industry, Services and Technology 1985), which provided examples of successful, attractive, well-dressed, articulate Native people. There was no significant relationship between the scores on the Belief in a Just World Scale, the treatments, and the outcome measures. The multicultural group evaluated Native Indians significantly more positively on a semantic differential. There were no significant differences among the three groups on a measure of empathy and a measure of attribution of blame to either government policies or Native Indians.
Two other quasi-experimental studies attempted to reduce scores representing Belief in a Just World by teaching anti-racist units. Segawa (1993) pretested subjects with the Belief in a Just World Scale and a measure of empathy toward Canadians of Japanese ancestry who were interned during World War II. The grade 11 students then studied a unit on the internment of the Canadians of Japanese Ancestry during World War II (Beardsley et al. 1992). The unit was taught for approximately nine hours of class time. The students were posttested, and the results showed a significant positive change in empathy for the Canadians of Japanese ancestry who had been interned during World War II. There was no significant change in the measure of Belief in a Just World. In an essay written at the end of the unit, the overwhelming majority of students argued that Canadians of Japanese ancestry were treated unfairly. In a post hoc discussion of the results with the students, most seemed to suggest that the world is essentially fair, but there are instances when unfairness will take place.
Alexander (1993) pretested grade 10 students with the Belief in a Just World Scale and then taught them From Wooden Ploughs to Welfare by Helen Buckley (1992). Buckley describes the situation of Native Indians, explains how Canadian attitudes and government policies are responsible, and provides examples of successes when Native Indians are given opportunities. The students were posttested with the Belief in a Just World Scale and a measure of their willingness to attribute blame to government policies or to Native Indians. Two other grade 10 classes in the school were given the blame measure. There was no significant difference from pretest to posttest on the Belief in a Just World measure. The results of the blame measure must be treated with some caution, but the students who studied From Wooden Ploughs to Welfare were significantly more likely to attribute blame to Canadian attitudes and government policies than to Native Indians.
Some attention needs to be given to the lack of relationship between the Belief in a Just World Scale and the treatments and the outcomes in the Kehoe study, and the inability of the treatments in the Segawa and Alexander studies to reduce student belief in a just world. Furnham and Gunter (1989) have suggested that the Belief in a Just World Scale is multidimensional. They provide evidence to indicate that the scale taps unjust world, just world, and random world beliefs. They also suggest that it taps spheres of control including the personal, interpersonal, and political. It may be necessary to determine if the treatments interact with one or more of nine possible just world beliefs. The results of the Segawa and Alexander studies tentatively suggest that students should be presented with multiple examples of injustice in the contemporary world. The improvement in empathy in the Segawa study and the attribution of blame to Canadian attitudes and government policies in the Alexander study are results that suggest that beliefs can be changed with the correct approach.
Research shows that anti-racist teaching and multicultural teaching have not had the effects anticipated by their advocates. Both have had mixed effects, and where positive effects do occur, the relationships are often weak. Gage (1978) argues that the low effect sizes in some studies are useful because when clusters of studies are combined, research on the effects of teaching has yielded results that are not due to chance. He compares this research with medical research, where small effect sizes have still led to significant changes in treatment. He suggests that the effect sizes do not need to be large to be important. The implications of research for practice depend not on the size of effects but on the costs and benefits of any change in practice.
The arguments for anti-racist teaching are compelling. It does not seem right to omit or play down the Komogata Maru incident, the Chinese head tax, and the internment of Canadians of Japanese ancestry. The exclusionary treatment of the Chinese in Canada and the racist treatment of Native Indians cannot be ignored. When students examine these issues, the result should be less racism, as indicated by more positive evaluations by students, more empathy, and a greater willingness not to blame the victims of discrimination.
The treatments in the Kehoe, Alexander, and Segawa studies are detailed and explicit. They were taught by sympathetic teachers aiming at a specific outcome. Much more research, however, is needed on anti-racist teaching. Different treatments with different populations and variables such as willingness to blame victims need to be investigated. We should and must teach about racism to increase empathy for victims, increase the ability to recognize injustice and change it, and correctly identify causation. The achievement of these outcomes should be on the research agenda for the next decade.
Aboud, F. Children and Prejudice. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988.
Alexander, H. "The Effects of From Wooden Ploughs to Welfare on Belief in a Just World and Attribution of Blame." 1993.
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Banks, J. A., and C. A. McGee-Banks, eds. Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives. Toronto: Allyn & Bacon, 1989.
Beardsley, R., R. Foster, B. Inouye, J. Kamemura, and C. Sakata. The Internment of Japanese Canadians in World War II. Vancouver: National Association of Japanese Canadians, 1992.
Black, J. "The Effects of Instruction in General Semantics on Ethnic Prejudice." Research in the Teaching of English 7 (1973): 98-108.
Bowers, V., and S. Garrod. Our Land: Building the West. Toronto: Gage, 1986.
Buckley, H. From Wooden Ploughs to Welfare. Why Indian Policy Failed in the Prairie Provinces. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992.
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John W. Kehoe is Professor of Curriculum Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He has carried out extensive research into the effects of multicultural and anti-racist teaching.