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We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Once again, in this expanded Second Edition, Gary Howard outlines what good teachers know, what they do, and how they embrace culturally responsive teaching. Howard brings his bestselling book completely up to date with today's school reform efforts and includes a new introduction and a new chapter that speak directly to current issues such as closing the achievement gap, ...more
Paperback, 172 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Teachers College Press (first published 1999)
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May 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Ugh. Ugh. Grabbed the book because I thought....I'm "White"....and yup, I teach minority students.....

1. TOO LONG. This could have been an article in a journal, but the book was drawn out, repetitive and boring.

2. NOTHING NEW---if you have gone to grad school in the last ?? years...or if you teach ESL, you know all of this.

3. I did not appreciate being called "White" throughout the book...which the author may claim stresses his point; my reluctance to be labelled that way....but I am NOT "Whi
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: skewl
This was pretty good...would be an interesting reader for someone who is beginning to interrogate their own Whiteness. Some of his metaphors are a little trite...this seems to be a trend in the multicultural literature that I've read so far (see also: Gay's On Being and Becoming...). While some multicultural educators have a real knack for describing racial dynamics and racial identity development with eloquence and clarity, Howard, at times, gets caught up in cheesy, hokey shit like, "Given its ...more
Trevor Gardner
Jul 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Howard offers some basic insights into the history and development of white hegemony in the US and Australia. I found his discussion of the theories of racial identify development to be informative, especially in thinking about working with white educators who are in very different stages of identity development.

However, I feel like his overuse of the metaphor of the "river of diversity" and his focus on the "journey" of identify development paint an excessively rosy image of where we are at in
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great book to stimulate self reflection on multicultural education, and approaching teaching practice with a culturally relevant lens.
Jun 18, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2010-11
I read this book on racism in education immediately after 'A White Teacher Talks About Race' by Julie Landsman, having picked up both from the library at the same time. This time the author is a male teacher (like Landsman with roots in Minnesota) and the topic of his book is similar; how Caucasian teachers need to become anti-racist activists and dismantle white privilege and institutional racism.

This book is on the reading list for many education majors, and is probably better known than Lands
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, pedagogy
At first I was thrown off by this book. It is a combination of personal stories/experiences and of research. The book starts with a personal story and I initially assumed that the entire book was like that, but there aren't actually a lot of these stories.

I thought the research was well organized, well discussed, and useful. I particularly enjoy the focus on Whiteness. I think it is easy for some teachers to see themselves as allies or multicultural simply because they recognize racial disparit
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lot of food for thought. Shows a bit of age in language, but I appreciated how it made my interrogate my own Whiteness.
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
A slow read, I learned a few things about teaching in multicultural classroom and whatnot.
J-Lynn Van Pelt
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All White teachers
I loved this book and think all White educators should read it! The book addresses the tough topic of racism and how White Americans must learn to be transformative teachers that empower their culturally diverse students.

Howard starts by saying, “I have come to the conclusion that there will be no meaningful movement toward social justice and real education reform until there has been a significant transformation in the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of White Americans.” Which introduces his p
Mark Wilkerson
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Gary Howard's We Can't Teach What We Don't Know is a great "how-to," combining first-hand narrative/confessional/memoir with a heavily researched textbook that doesn't read like one. The "how-to" is directed toward White teachers working with students of different races in schools. Howard blends his personal story with the latest research to show how ignorant the current educational system can be when educating students of color. Howard tells of ways schools can fix the system and be more incl ...more
Sep 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
so far so good,this book was an assignment for one of my classes (Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in a Pluralistic Society) Howard argues that White teachers need to accept their white culture and form a strong personal identity so that they can authentically participate in reducing racism.
On page 8, Howard says, “As white educators, we often suffer from the ‘dysconscious racism’ that makes it difficult for us to see the full impact of our own social dominance (J. E. King, 1991).” I like the
Howard does a remarkable job describing, with clarity and complexity, the dynamics of dominance and theories of white identity development. This book is an important read for educators who are committed to social activism and want to further their own awareness of race & white privilege.

For me this book was empowering in that it contextualized the need for white educators in dismantling the paradigm of privilege. It calls for self-reflection and personal growth as a necessary first step in the s
First reading:
I didn't like the book when I first started reading, as I didn't agree with the author's perspective, but I came to understand where he was coming from by the end of the book. While he is very opinionated and fits racial perspectives into organized charts and graphs, I think he makes some good overall points. It was interesting reading this, as I am biracial, and I don't think I am the intended audience (hence the title).

Second reading (several years later):
I enjoyed the book a b
Erin Reilly-Sanders
Jan 29, 2011 rated it liked it
First off, this book is highly readable- it keeps the discussion on a level which someone without more than a rudimentary introduction to multicultural teaching can understand. While I enjoyed the first chapter or two, I found that a lot of the rest of the book felt too vague and too repetitive to be as useful. It certainly contains good and interesting information with wonderful personal stories but is inconsistent in its application of studies and research- some areas are rich with appropriate ...more
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-justice
A great book! It's so cool that all the teachers in this school district have to read it, not so cool that some complain and don't Get it. Although many great descriptions of understanding white privilege and creating alternatives for white teachers to feel good about themselves and not weighed down with guilt,......even though Great, makes me wonder how someone could read it and not understand the profundity of white privilege. It's got to be something that happens outside of books, huh?
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
"Deference to the physical superlative, a preference for the scent of our own clan: a thousand anachronisms dance down the strands of our DA from a hidebound tribal past, guiding us toward the glories of survival, and some vainglories as welll. If we resent being bound by these ropes, the best hope is to seize them out like snakes by the throat, look them in the eye, and own up to the venom." --Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tuscon (Howard 1999, p. 25).
Lydia Crowe
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great and readable, but I agree with the other reviewer that I don't feel like I'm walking away with a lot of practical suggestions for my classroom, besides "own up to your whiteness," "know yourself and your students," and basically don't be a jerk. Maybe that's because knowing what actions to take depends so largely on your own school community and its specific problems. Looking forward to discussing this book with the rest of my colleagues.
Elizabeth Mirr Wysocki
May 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
I hated this book. Gary Howard told us how terrible white people of privilege are, but he is a white person of privilege. Hey Kettle it's me pot and I hate your book. I am not bad because I believe in God. I have diverse classes, guess what, we all get along. I try to inspire all of my students regardless of race, gender, or religion. I believe every-single-one of them will succeed and I love them. Kindness and love bring us all together; this book tears us apart.
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, I really enjoyed this book, and then I saw Howard present a workshop at a conference on education I went to over the weekend. I enjoyed that too, until I talked to him afterwards and he was kinda skeezy. He's got some great things to say about anti-racist white identity, but the dude's gotta work on his gender privilege.
Jul 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-ed
Howard truly immersed himself in the African American culture. I expected that this would be his perspective for the entire book – someone who has rejected their culture and become part of another culture. However, the story took a surprise turn when he realized that he would be most effective by returning to his culture and helping others understand the African American culture
Sep 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: teachers
Some hard truths and some challenges for personal growth as a white person and educator. Liked this one much better than "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria" because it's much less militant, is a white person giving advice to white people, and offers many more positive solutions.
Oct 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Racism 101 for educators. Not a lot of new material in this book if you have read other books in the field. But, I do like the concise way that Howard summarizes material and brings it into one place. I am also attracted to his ability to lay change out in terms of processes and stages. Recommended for all teachers.
Cheryl Meibos
Feb 17, 2009 added it
Shelves: grown-up
I tried to read this book, but it was so down on "whiteness".
Wow, I never microanalyzed my "whiteness" before--and I guess I don't
want to start now. Way too many stereotypes regarding "whites"--I couldn't read this book. I just want to be an encouraging force for
reading--I'm glad I feel accepted by most of the students I see in
the library regardless of our racial background.
Jan 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent guide for *any* educator interested in issues of social justice, race, and multicultural education. Aimed specifically at white educators, it is an excellent primer on what we need to know to work in increasingly diverse school environments while exploring and understanding our white identities and how they impact the students of color with whom we work.
Sarah A
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book did tell me a lot of things I already knew. However, they were all said from a different perspective than I had ever heard before. Howard's explanations of White identity development rang true for me in many ways. This book definitely helped guide me in my search to be a culturally competent, anti-racist educator.
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
I would like to start by saying this book does not fall into my typical reading material, but it was assigned reading for my graduate class. I am glad I read this book, it is eye-opening and thought provoking. I learned a lot from it and recommend it for teachers, whether they teach in diverse schools or not.
Kevin Stumpf
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Nothing new introduced in this book. Yes, white teachers, make up a disproportionate percentage. Student population is becoming more diverse EVERYWHERE. Get on with it Mr. Howard. You say the same thing over and over again for 144 pages. This book could be condensed into a 25 pages bookLET. But nobody will learn anything from it because you give no insight, ideas, or potential solutions.
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had some good information, but was not written with a particular reader-friendly flow and was very wordy. It did broaden my perspective and heighten my awareness, but I can't say that I am walking away with any practical classroom advice. I still need to review my notes and highlights, so maybe there are more practical components that I will catch upon review.
May 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Excellent contribution to multicultural education on what it means to be a member of the White race and how that affects teaching students of different races. Offered are levels of consciousness of white identity and quantitative analysis of how to effectively teach beyond one's race.
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