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MSU’s Paris Co-Edits Book for Sustaining Culture in Classrooms

Django Paris

What is the purpose of schooling in pluralistic societies?

This is the question a new book from Michigan State University’s Django Paris aims to answer. “Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World,” being released at the AERA Annual Meeting this month, was co-edited by Paris, associate professor of language and literacy.

The book embraces and critically examines culturally sustaining pedagogies, a theory and term Paris coined in 2012.

The cover of the book is from artist Favianna Rodriguez, entitled “We’re Building the World We Need.”

“Culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP) seeks to perpetuate and foster—to sustain—linguistic, literate and cultural pluralism as part of schooling for positive social transformation,” says the opening page of the book. Throughout the chapters, authors weave and join CSP with foundational theories, such as culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995), cultural modeling (Lee, 1995), funds of knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff and Gonzalez, 2001) and third space (Gutierrez, 2008) to better evaluate what needs to change in classrooms and schools to center students of color.

“The book covers CSP at the classroom level, the school level and also in teacher education,” Paris said. “It examines ways that culturally sustaining educators can be prepared, ways whole schools and communities can sustain and revitalize education, even down to just a few students and teachers.”

Geared toward both practicing and preservice educators and scholars of education, the book is half “practice leads theory,” that is, covering school and classroom examples of enactments of CSP, and half “theory leads practice,” delving into current and lasting frameworks that shape research and schools today.

“This is both a conceptual and an empirical project,” Paris said. “It seeks to understand and enact at once.”

It is a an especially important read in the current social climate, he continued, noting that the pedagogical movements discussed in the book aren’t separate from other social justice movements that are happening in the U.S.

“We recognize that it’s somewhat of a radical act to say, as communities of color: ‘No, schools are places where we can continue to speak our languages, understand our life ways and be in collaboration with communities in ways we think are right.’ We absolutely believe this book, given the continued intensity of racism in the country, is a needed intervention, now as ever.”

The book is a result of a five-year collaborative project among many of the authors that are featured in the book. Its history includes research articles and meet-ups and presentations at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting. Paris says it is fitting that the book will be published in time for AERA’s 2017 meeting; in fact, Paris and fellow co-editor H. Samy Alim will be at the Teachers College Press booth signing copies on Friday, April 28 from 1:30-2:00 p.m.

“This is but a bookmark in a long movement,” Paris added. “It marks a moment that we’re hoping to say something important about, that we hope will make an impact on, but we also hope that this movement will continue for a long time.”


Read the 2016 spring/summer New Educator cover story, “Showing their Identities & Telling their Stories,” to learn more about Paris’ research and how community and cultural strengths can change the classroom.

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