On Reconciling Divergent Ideas: A Life-long Quest

Sonia Nieto


As an educator whose work has focused on equity and social justice, I have long struggled with a conundrum: how to reconcile meritocracy – an idea at the very heart of U.S. thinking – with the reality of inequality and injustice. I’ve spent my professional life – whether teaching, mentoring, researching, or writing – trying to make sense of these conflicting beliefs. I’ve been on a quest to learn how to teach and write about them with some sense of integrity, with neither an unrealistic Pollyanna-ish optimism nor a doomsday negativism. 

In this essay, I address what this quest has meant for my teaching, research, and writing. I present two major lessons I’ve learned: one, being humble about what we know and do is essential if we want to collaborate with, and learn from, those who are most impacted by injustice in education, that is, students, their families, and teachers; and two, education is a political endeavor. 

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Nieto, S. (1992, 1st ed). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (New York: Longman). Subsequent editions were published by Allyn & Bacon and, later, Pearson. The 5th to 7th editions (2008, 2012, and forthcoming, 2018) have been co-authored with Patty Bode.

Nieto, S. (1999). The light in their eyes: Creating multicultural learning communities. New York: Teachers College Press (10th anniversary edition, 2010).

Nieto, S. (2002). Language, culture, and teaching. New York: Teachers College Press. Subsequent editions, 2010 and 2018.

Nieto, S. (2013). Finding joy in teaching students of diverse backgrounds: Culturally responsive and socially just practices in U.S. classrooms. Portland, ME: Heinemann.

Nieto, S. (2015). Brooklyn dreams: My life in public education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press).

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/er.v24.2285

Education Review / Reseñas Educativas

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