UW News

April 7, 2020

Education books: Athletics and higher ed, supervising school principals, activist-oriented teaching — and a conversation with James Banks on his new book of essays

UW News

James Banks, University of Washington professor emeritus of education, has published a new book of pieces culled from his long and storied career. “Diversity, Transformative Knowledge, and Civic Education: Selected Essays” was published this month by Routledge.

James Banks, professor emeritus of education at the UW has a new book of essays out

James BanksQuinn Brown

A reviewer from Stanford University wrote that Banks’ book of essays “illustrates the importance of the current quests by marginalized groups around the world for full citizenship and sheds light on the heated and divisive debates that are taking place around citizenship and civic education.”

Banks has gathered many titles over the years; he is the Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies Emeritus and the founding director of the UW’s Center for Multicultural Education, which is now the Banks Center for Educational Justice.

He is the author of many books and dozens of articles. Often referred to as “the father of multicultural education,” Banks retired from the UW in 2019 but remains active professionally.

UW Notebook caught up with Banks for a few questions about his new book.

What guided your choices as you gathered these essays from across your career? 

James Banks: Because I am an African American who grew up in the Arkansas Delta in the 1950s and 1960s, I was denied many citizenship rights that most White Americans take for granted because of racial segregation. For example, our school’s yearly visit to the zoo in Memphis, Tennessee (which is about 60 miles from Marianna, Arkansas, the town in which my school was located), was a highlight of the school year. However, we could only visit the zoo on the day reserved for Blacks, which was Thursdays. Consequently, the yearly visit to the Memphis zoo is a both a painful and joyous memory.

"Diversity, Transformative Knowledge, and Civic Education: Selected Essays" by James Banks was published in April by Routledge.

“Diversity, Transformative Knowledge, and Civic Education: Selected Essays” by James Banks was published in April by Routledge.

Because of my personal journey in the South and later in Chicago after I migrated there in 1960, how to change schools and social studies teaching so that African Americans and other marginalized groups would attain full citizenship rights became a major goal of my teaching and publishing career. This collection of essays consists of articles that I published from 1983 to 2019 that focus on ways in which the social studies and civics curriculum in schools can be changed so that students of color and other marginalized groups can attain full citizenship rights within the schools and society writ large.

The book explores what you term “the citizenship-education dilemma.” Could you explain that a little? Is it about the disconnect of teaching democratic values in an often unequal and unjust world context? 

J.B.: Yes, the “citizenship education dilemma” is about teaching students about justice and equality when they are being educated in schools and a nation that contradict and violate the values and ideals they are being taught.

I was educated in a racially segregated school in which we walked five miles to and from school, while the White students rode to school in a bus that spilled mud on us as it speedily passed us on the muddy road. That is one of my most powerful and poignant memories of my school days. Yet each day in the school morning exercise we said, “I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our Black teachers knew there was not “liberty and justice for all” in the Arkansas Delta nor in the United States. That is why our teachers required us to sing both the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” every morning in morning exercise. Our teachers wanted us to develop an identity and loyalty to the United States but also an identity with our cultural and ancestral roots.

Throughout the U.S., students are still experiencing a “citizenship education dilemma” because they are learning about democratic ideals and social justice in schools and a nation that are highly stratified by social class inequality and in which racism, sexism and negative attitudes toward LGBTQ people are widespread and institutionalized.

You write that students can learn democratic values by directly experiencing them in transformative classrooms, which you envision in the book. To the non-educator or parent, what might transformative classrooms look like? 

J.B.: In a lengthy, engaging, and informative 2018 history of the United States that I finished reading last night, Jill Lepore writes, “All over the world, populists seeking solace from a troubled past sought refuge in imagined histories.” In the U.S. as well as in most other nations, the social studies curriculum is replete with “imagined histories”: national myths, the denial and marginalization of the struggles of diverse racial, cultural, ethnic and religious groups, and the glorification of triumphalism and the conquering of indigenous groups such as Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians.

In the transformative curriculum, students develop the knowledge and skills that are needed to question “imagined histories,” to construct versions of history that reflect the struggles and experiences of diverse groups within the nation, and to conceptualize ways in which they can take civic action to make their local communities, the nation, and the world more humane and just.

They examine case studies of transformative citizen actors, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, who took actions that violated local laws but which actualized human and civil rights. In transformative classrooms, students learn to know, to care, and to act to make their communities and nation more just and humane.

Do you remain hopeful for the future in such a time as this? 

J.B.: Mary McLeod Bethune, the great African American educator and founder of Bethune-Cookman University said, “Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.” My African Americans teachers in Arkansas were greatly influenced by the teachings and example of Mrs. Bethune. Consequently, I have internalized her ideas about faith and hope.

As educators we must be hopeful, and we must have faith that our work will make a difference. Faith and hope enable us to wake up every morning and to keep going — believing that we can make a difference. Without faith and hope we are immobilized.


Other education book notes:

Jennifer Hoffman book studies connection between higher education and sports

Jennifer Hoffman

A new book by UW College of Education faculty member Jennifer Hoffman, “College Sports and Institutional Values in Competition,” delves into the intersection of athletics and higher education, exploring how college athletics departments reflect many characteristics of their institutions and are susceptible to many of the same challenges in delivering on their mission.

One of the book’s key messages is that all who work in higher education must view sports not merely as a spectator, but also be mindful of ways sports can be more educational and purposeful on college campuses.

The book also explores the level of control athletes have over their name, image and likeness. Hoffman is a faculty affiliate of the UW’s Center for Leadership in Athletics.

Learn more and listen to a podcast with Hoffman on the College of Education website.


Meredith Honig, co-author of an upcoming book on how school district leaders can more effectively support principals as instructional leaders.

Meredith Honig

Education faculty Meredith Honig, Lydia Rainey to publish book on supervising school principals

An upcoming book by College of Education faculty members Meredith Honig and Lydia Rainey will explore how school district leaders can more effectively support principals as instructional leaders. “Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach” will be published in May by Harvard Education Press.

Lydia Rainey, co-author of an upcoming book on how school district leaders can more effectively support principals as instructional leaders.

Lydia Rainey

Based on extensive research of school district central offices, the authors argue for a shift in the focus from an orientation of compliance and evaluation to one where administrators are learning partners for the principals.

Honig is a professor in the Education, Policy, Organizations & Leadership program and an adjunct professor in the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance. Rainey is a research scientist and director of research for the College of Education’s District Leadership Design Lab. The college plans a podcast on the topic in coming months.


Three UW researchers among editors for ‘Education in Movement Spaces’

Django Paris is co-editor of a new book, "Education in Movement Spaces: Standing Rock to Chicago Freedom Square"

Django Paris

Education in Movement Spaces: Standing Rock to Chicago Freedom Square” is a new book edited by

Rae Paris is co-editor of a new book, "Education in Movement Spaces: Standing Rock to Chicago Freedom Square"

Rae Paris

Alayna Eagle Shield, Django Paris and Rae Paris of the UW and Timothy San Pedro from The Ohio State University.

Studying recent social movements in the U.S. — from Standing Rock to Black Lives Matter — the book shows the vital connections among Native American and Black communities in education.

Alayna Eagle Shield is co-editor of a new book, "Education in Movement Spaces: Standing Rock to Chicago Freedom Square"

Alayna Eagle Shield

Contributors to the book — scholars, educators and organizers — highlight the importance of activist-oriented teaching and learning “in community encampments and other movement spaces for the preservation and expansion of resistance education.”

Django Paris is the James A. & Cherry A. Banks Professor of Multicultural Education and directs the Banks Center for Educational Justice. Rae Paris is an assistant professor of English and affiliate of the center and Alayna Eagle Shield a research assistant. The book was published in April by Routledge.