Review of Culture in School Learning: Revealing the Deep Meaning, 3rd edition, by Etta Hollins.
Review of Culture in School Learning: Revealing the Deep Meaning, 3rd edition, by Etta Hollins. New York: Routledge. 2015, paper, 252 pages.
Hollins provides a good introduction to some of the cultural realities important for pre-service teachers to consider. The author discusses many types of cultures, including those that are actually race or ethnicity, those that have to do with the classroom building and community, and those that have to do with differences in socioeconomic status.
This book is about the “bigger picture” of cultures and as such is an essential book for new teachers to read. This is my opinion, and I feel this way because the work I have done as a presenter, visitor, evaluator, consultant, grant writer, and community builder. There are many types of cultures and many sorts of cultural “differences.” Hollins does a fantastic job of covering the majority (sadly not all) of them.
Each individual teacher education program director will have to decide where this book fits into the preservice curriculum. One particular area here of benefit is the discussion of standards and assessment. The author does talk about the Common Core Standards, how they are supposed to work, and how they are supposed to help you dovetail your units and teaching into a national framework—something some people said teachers would never have to do.
The realities out there—cultural differences included—provide stress onto the teacher in the classroom. Acknowledging that stress early on, and formulating strategies to meet that stress, will be crucial activities for new teachers. Helping them by providing resources such as this book can be one way to contribute to their problem-solving.
There are not many professions where everyone has a solution and an opinion. Teaching is one of those professions, however. Accepting the challenge of dealing with so many types of cultures and differences is part of the deal.
I recommend the book also for new teachers in their first five years or so in the classroom. This will be a good resource for informed conversations in professional development (PD) sessions—especially for those teachers who have not had the advantage of a more formal teacher education program or who have never dealt with cultural issues in education.
The book is meant for preservice programs, and it will be up to the individual professor or institution to decide whether this book fits their course or seminar. They may also decide to make use of this book as required or recommended reading in PD sessions they offer to teachers.
The emphasis on cross-cultural privilege is a special strength of this book. Learning to adapt to—or adopt—other cultural traditions, beliefs, and understandings is crucial for teachers who serve communities where there are people “different from” the teacher. Understanding of some cultures not included here (e.g., homeless students, LGBTQ communities, families in poverty, bullied and bullying persons) will also need to taught to new teachers, and there are resources available for these and other cultures that were ignored in this book by Hollins.
Thomas Hansen, Ph.D., is an Independent Consultant with a variety of roles in Advocacy, Education, and Social Justice. He is involved in Grant Writing, teaching others to Write Grants, and serving as a Grant Reviewer in federal programs. He has written well over 100 articles, book reviews, and essays. He often teaches as an adjunct in nearby colleges and universities.