Nieto, Sonia. Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education (4th ed). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2004.
This book is intended for educators who today are teaching within the context of a multicultural society. Nieto aims to support educators in their quest to challenge “flawed ideas about intelligence and difference” (p. xxii) that govern most school policies and practices. Specifically, the objective of this book is to provide educators with ideas on how to create an affirming classroom in which “racism, sexism, social class discrimination, and other biases are no longer acceptable” (p. xxii). While the book is meant for educators worldwide, the research that she draws from has been conducted in the United States.
In this fourth edition Nieto has made some significant changes. First, the title page of each chapter includes artwork produced by children who participated in her study. The aim of this change is to highlight children’s creativity as central to understanding how to develop multicultural education in the present context. Second, while she has maintained the same case studies throughout every edition, in this edition she chose to include a case study focusing on a lesbian student’s experiences as she entered her final year of high school. Previously she had only devoted one page to thinking about issues of gay and lesbian students in thinking about multicultural education. In this edition, written and published after the events of September 11, 2001, Nieto also chose to include a case study focusing on the experiences of a young Muslim student and her family. Third, the new epilogue updates readers on the lives of four of the initial case study students now in their twenties and thirties. Fourth, this edition also includes a section called “snapshots” which are brief portraits of students written by the students who chose to write about their experiences attending school in a multicultural society. Importantly, these snapshots include issues not covered in the case studies such as adoption and “hybrid identities.” Finally, this edition also has updated references to reflect the newest research in multicultural education as well as updated demographic information.
The book is divided into three parts, excluding the Introduction which serves to set the stage for the rest of the book. Here Nieto makes a case for multicultural education and explains the structure of the book. Part one, which includes chapters one and two, presents an argument for using the case study approach and a definition of the case study methodology as well as explains certain terminology used in our multicultural society such as the distinction between Hispanic and Latino/a.
In part two Nieto focuses on understanding issues that inform one’s conceptual framework of multicultural education such as racism, discrimination, expectations of students’ achievement, structural and organizational issues in schools, identity and learning, linguistic diversity, and theories of “school achievement.” In this part, chapters three to seven each conclude with case studies that speak to the issue specific to that chapter, and chapters three and six also include a “snapshot.”
Part three addresses the implications for teaching the issues addressed in the previous section. Here, the foci of chapters eight to eleven are learning from students, school reform, the “affirming classroom,” and how to practice multicultural education. Chapter eight is the only chapter that draws from a case study and both chapters eight and ten include a “snapshot.” Importantly, chapter eleven presents educators with practical ideas on how to make changes to their curriculum so as to create an “affirming classroom.”