Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Sara Garcia:

Training Teachers for a Multicultural World

While on a Santa Clara University faculty delegation to El Salvador in 1994, Sara Garcia, director of teacher education in the Counseling Psychology and Education graduate program, visited a group of Salvadoran teachers at a rural school near Suchitoto. From them, she learned a corrido, or ballad, about how they had constructed their school and what they thought was the purpose of education.

[Sara Garcia]
Sara Garcia
Photo by Charles Barry

That ballad and two others formed the basis of "Ravages of War and Hopes of Redemption: An Intertextual Analysis of Three Contemporary Corridos of El Salvador," a paper Garcia presented recently in Wales at a meeting of the International Ballad Commission, an organization of scholars from around the world.

To Garcia, who specializes in Mexican ballads, corridos "represent the oral tradition. For the Mexican community, they have served for about 500 years to document the social, cultural, and, very often, political dimensions of people's lives."

These "cultural constants" are an important part of teacher preparation, Garcia says. "Teachers' knowledge of the communities where they work is important in a multicultural society. I use ballads as an illustration of how communities generate knowledge."

Garcia has written a chapter on teachers' cultural knowledge in the recently published book Meeting the Challenge of Cultural Diversity in Teacher Education (SUNY/Teachers College Press, 1997). She also wrote two entries in a multicultural dictionary forthcoming from Onyx Press in June.

Cultural knowledge, she says, can be transformative, helping teachers understand in a more holistic way the problems their students face. "In preparing teachers, it is important to link their identity as professionals to global concerns about human rights because children are affected by these global problems."

In general, Garcia sees her role as "ensuring that we incorporate ethical and moral concepts and issues of global concern within our courses" so future teachers recognize "their social responsibility to the needs of their communities."