In the fall of 2016, the Harvard Educational Review (HER) published “Cross-Pollinating Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy and Universal Design for Learning: Toward an Inclusive Pedagogy that Accounts for Dis/Ability” by Federico R. Waitoller, assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Kathleen A. King Thorius, associate professor of special education at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. In that article, the authors call for scholars of culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP) to join with dis/abilities scholars in their work. Through a “loving critique” of both CSP and universal design for learning (UDL), Waitoller and Thorius aim to show how these two pedagogical approaches go far, each in its own way, in their attempts at creating meaningful learning opportunities for different kinds of learners, but that each could benefit from cross-pollination. They contend scholars and practitioners must focus on intersecting forms of oppression, including those that tacitly or explicitly condone either racism or ableism.
Waitoller and Thorius’s article was not the starting point for many of these ideas, nor, luckily, will it be the end. In their article, the authors explicitly refer to the spring 2014 HER symposium on culturally sustaining pedagogy (Editors, 2014; Ladson-Billings, 2014; McCarty & Lee, 2014; Paris & Alim, 2014). Since HER has long sought to be a forum for important topics in education, particularly those that challenge the field to promote greater justice in schools, the editors saw an opportunity to continue the conversation by inviting not only several of the authors from the 2014 symposium on CSP but also additional scholars at the vanguard of work on UDL to offer their reflections on Waitoller and Thorius’s main provocation: “recognition and value of all student differences” (p. 384).
As such, HER
convened six scholars for a moderated virtual discussion to respond to Waitoller and Thorius’s article. Participants included H. Samy Alim, professor of education and, by courtesy, anthropology and linguistics at Stanford University; Susan Baglieri, associate professor of special education at Montclair State University; Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the School of Education of the University of Wisconsin–Madison; Django Paris, associate professor of language and literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University; David H. Rose, chief education officer at CAST and a lecturer on education in the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Joseph Michael Valente, assistant professor of early childhood education at Pennsylvania State University. HER
editor Lauren Yoshizawa prepared guiding questions for participants to review in advance of this forum, and editors E. B. O’Donnell and Stuti Shukla facilitated the discussion. The ninety-minute forum was digitally recorded and later transcribed; the edited transcript is presented here.
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