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Teaching and Cultural Competence

By Gloria Ladson-Billings

One of the current concerns plaguing the nation's schools is how to find teachers who are capable of teaching successfully in diverse classrooms. Although teacher education programs throughout the nation purport to offer preparation for meeting the needs of racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse students, scholars have documented the fact that these efforts are uneven and unproved.

Several factors interfere with the ability of teacher education programs to prepare teachers for diverse classroom settings. One factor that is rarely discussed in the literature is that most of the teacher education faculty are white. As I said earlier, there are approximately 35,000 faculty in the United States; 88 percent of the full-time education faculty are white; 81 percent are between the ages of 45 and 60 (or older). These numbers alone do not prove anything about the ability of the teacher education faculty. However, they may cause us to wonder about the incentive of teacher education programs to ensure that all of its graduates are prepared to teach all students.

One of my former graduate students decided to pursue a teaching credential after completing his master's degree. He chose a credentialing program close to his home, which was in one of the nation's most diverse sites. A month after he began his program, I received a letter from him: