While schools have too often reproduced inequalities in society, Django Paris believes in their potential to create a more equal and pluralist society.
This January, Paris will join the University of Washington College of Education as the inaugural holder of the James A. and Cherry A. Banks Professorship in Multicultural Education and incoming director of the Banks Center for Educational Justice, which will formally launch in fall 2018.
A former English language arts teacher, Paris’ research and teaching focus on understanding and sustaining languages, literacies and lifeways among youth of color in the context of demographic and social change.
He is author of “Language across Difference: Ethnicity, Communication, and Youth Identities in Changing Urban Schools” (2011) and co-editor of both “Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities” (2014) and “Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World” (2017).
Paris will join College of Education’s teaching, learning and curriculum core faculty and comes to the UW from the Michigan State University College of Education. He received his PhD in education from Stanford University and a BA in English from the University of California, Berkeley.
Paris recently answered questions about his work on culturally sustaining pedagogies, what brought him to the UW and why his work is more than a job.
What drew you to education?
Often people think that because we choose education as a field we are automatically working for social justice in society. The fact is that schools have been a central location for reproducing inequalities, particularly for communities of color. At the same time, schools have been and can be a central site for creating a more equal and pluralist society. I choose education because of this potential and the centuries of work to create an education that sustains us.
Describe your research agenda … what makes this work meaningful to you?
My teaching and research focus on understanding and sustaining languages, literacies and lifeways among Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander youth and communities in the context of demographic and social change. This focus has most recently centered on my collaborative culturally sustaining pedagogies work with teachers and researchers across the U.S. and globally. In this broader project, we seek to perpetuate and foster—to sustain—the valued lifeways of communities of color as an outcome of equitable schooling. My own identity and public schooling experiences as a Black biracial student with a Black Jamaican father and a White American mother importantly anchor my work, as do my experiences as a classroom teacher in California, the Dominican Republic and Arizona. I seek to join with communities in creating classrooms and schools that honor and center our languages, histories and ongoing contributions in a society and schooling system that often does the opposite.
What attracted you to UW College of Education?
I had long known of the UW College of Education as a crucial location for work in educational equity. The opportunity to join the legacy and ongoing work of James Banks and the 25 years of extraordinary work in the Center for Multicultural Education (CME) as incoming director was so exciting. I am looking forward to learning with Professor Banks and the work of the CME this year as we prepare to build with this legacy in launching the next era of the Center in Fall 2018: The Banks Center for Educational Justice. We will be sharing much more about this next era as we join and build with the ongoing work of faculty and students in the College, across UW and, crucially, with our school and community partners.
What current/future courses are you most excited about teaching?
I will be teaching a graduate course this spring called, “Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World.” The title of the course comes from the title of our new book, which is a collective, intergenerational effort of teachers, scholars and school leaders seeking to sustain communities of color through education. I can't wait to see the ways this work on strength-based approaches to teaching and learning can be useful to graduate students in their important projects.
Tell us about an education-related book or movie that has influenced you.
Gloria Ladson-Billings’ (MA ‘72) book “The Dreamkeepers,” which documents and theorizes the practices of successful teachers of African American children, remains one of the most important models for work I believe in and aspire to.
What's something that students and colleagues should know about you?
I seek to live the educational justice work I join and contribute to: This is not simply a job for me, it’s about joining communities and educators in creating a world we want to live in, one classroom, one school, one district, one community at a time.
Besides your work, what's something that you're passionate about?
I love to garden, I love basketball (sadly, watching more than playing these days), I love liberatory art, I love Jamaica: But I don't experience any of these things as separate from my work as they are also vital to my membership and solidarity with the communities of my work.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications